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Whole-hearted towards God

Published: 8 months ago- 13 August 2023
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SERMON MANUSCRIPT

INTRODUCTION

Living in a culture which normalises wealth and materialism has got to be, I think, one of the hardest things about being a follower of Jesus. It’s hard! Isn’t it?

In many ways, our lives can feel like we’re born into an iron cage1-the cage of excess. We are trapped and surrounded by the pursuit of money and assets. Where a person’s worth and happiness are linked to material things. Where a person’s self-their status and identity-is symbolised through their luxurious items and brand-name products. Where a person’s success is measured by what they have or are worth financially. We live in a cage where the pursuit of material wealth is, for the most part, widely accepted and celebrated. Materialism has become like a ‘Lord’ or ‘power’.2 We put our faith in money. Advertisements, logos, and brands are its symbols. Shopping its ritual. Shopping malls its cathedral.3 For each one of us, we are surrounded, participants even, of a culture which normalises wealth and excess. It feels like we’re in a cage.

And sadly, the cage is hurting us. The normalisation of wealth and materialism is leading to all sorts of horrors: marginalisation, environmental decay, emotional and mental health problems, gambling addictions, and shallow relationships. This year, McCrindle Research found that “80 per cent of working-age Australians are stressed about money and finances”.4 And that the second highest cause of worry amongst high-school students is “what they’ll do in the future”.5 Behind all the smoke and mirrors, the pursuit of wealth is deeply hollow and destructive.

But what’s even worse is that it’s also killing the church. Wealth and materialism is so normal to the church that we are blinded by its impact. It’s shaped our prayer lives, our generosity, our view of suffering and trials, our careers and vocations, our ministry strategies, and even what we believe to be the very content and blessings of the gospel itself. As the world looks on, they are struggling to see a visible difference between us and them when it comes to possessions. The cage is hurting you and I as well.

So, how do we live for Christ in a culture of excess? What does the beautiful life in Christ look like in the era of materialism? When materialism is just so common and normal, how do we live as people of the kingdom of heaven?

Well, that’s the focus of Matthew 6:19-24.

When it comes to material wealth, the Lord Jesus calls us to be wholehearted toward God. The beautiful life in Christ is one of undivided devotion to our heavenly Father instead of earthly treasures. It’s a life of generosity toward others.

As we hear from Jesus’ this morning/evening, we’re going to be reminded of two, simple but challenging, truths as to why we should live wholeheartedly for God in a culture of materialism: treasure perishes and treasure talks.

1. TREASURE PERISHES (V19-20)

In verses 19-20, the Lord Jesus calls his disciples to reorient their lives when it comes to material wealth because earthly treasure perishes.

Now, I’m on our local Facebook community page “Everton Park and Surrounds”-would definitely recommend. Alongside the community news, job advertisements, and petty squabbles-it’s a constant reminder that nothing is safe in Everton Park. There are stolen cars, stolen dogs, stolen scooters, stolen parcels, and stolen bonsai bougainvillea owned by grandmothers. In Everton Park, nothing is safe.

1a. It doesn’t pay to store up earthly treasure (v19).

In the first century, nothing was safe either. Moths would get into people’s clothes, rats and mice into the stored grain, worms take whatever is in the ground, and thieves could dig through the mud-walls of your home and steal whatever was kept there.6 You see, material wealth was susceptible to decay, loss, deterioration, and theft. So, in verses 19, Jesus tells his disciples about what to do with their treasure.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

Jesus is appealing to wisdom. Stop storing up earthly treasure because it won’t last! Your wealth and my wealth-it’s perishable. No amount of protection, pesticides, insurance cover, security cameras, succession planning, cyber-security, or double-authentication will change that. It’s not a matter of if our material wealth will perish, but a matter of when.7

Now, at this point, it’s important to understand what Jesus is and isn’t forbidding here. Jesus isn’t forbidding possessions, private property, the enjoyment of earthly goods, or the wise storing of materials for the future. No, Jesus is forbidding greed and materialism. In his book Christian Counter-Culture, John Stott says this:

What then? What Jesus forbids his followers is the selfish accumulation of goods; extravagant and luxurious living; the hardheartedness which does not feel the colossal need of the world’s underprivileged people; the foolish fantasy that a person’s life consists in the abundance of his possessions; and the materialism which tethers our hearts to this earth”.8

Jesus is forbidding greed and materialism. So, as his disciples, we need to quit it. We need to stop storing up earthly treasure because it doesn’t pay. Nothing’s safe!

1b. It does pay to store up heavenly treasure (v20).

So, in verse 20, the Lord Jesus then calls his disciples to store up treasure in a more dependable place-a safer place.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

At this point, Jesus’ appeal now goes beyond wisdom. Jesus’ speaks of another life, another reality, another world which is safer than this one-on earth. His disciples are to start storing up treasure in heaven. Unlike earth, treasure in heaven is not susceptible to decay, loss, deterioration, and theft. Treasure in heaven is indestructible and secure-so store it up there!9

Now, unfortunately, Jesus doesn’t tell us what this heavenly treasure actually is. But, if verse 19 is connected to the greedy accumulation and hoarding of material wealth, then verse 20 is probably an allusion to giving to the needy.10 In other words, to store up treasure in heaven is to be someone who is generous to the needy. We store up treasure in heaven when we pursue the kingdom virtue of generosity.11
Later in Matthew’s gospel, this point is made in a conversation between Jesus and a rich man. In Matthew 19:16-21, we hear that “treasure in heaven” is the compensation or reward for selling earthly possessions and giving it to the poor.

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”… 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

The point is that there is a way of life which is wiser, better, or more secure than the accumulation and hoarding of material wealth. There is a life of generosity which pays off eternally. It doesn’t pay to store up earthly treasure, but it does pay to store up heavenly treasure by a life of generosity.

1c. Now is the time!

Brothers and sisters, now is the time for kingdom generosity. In Christ, our heavenly Father has brought us into his kingdom. By living in his way of generosity, the Father is accumulating, protecting, stockpiling, and securing for us an unimaginable wealth which is far, far greater than what we have here and now. Now is the time for generosity, even as we live in a culture bent on materialism and wealth. So, what might that look like?

Well, I came across these words this week from C. S. Lewis on Christian giving. It seems like a good rule of thumb. He writes:

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they [our expenditures] are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them”.12

To put it simply: be so generous that your life looks different to your neighbour’s. I mean this is hard, isn’t it!?
“Sam, be so generous that you can’t always get Uber Eats.” “Be so generous that you can’t go to every Reds Game.” “Be so generous that you ignore the next iPhone upgrade.”

Of course, this will all look different for each one of us, at different times and different ways. But, all of us, are called to re-orient our lives when it comes to material wealth because when we do so, we lay up treasure in heaven. In our true home, purchased for us by Christ in his life, death, and resurrection.
Earthly treasure perishes, so lay it up in heaven.

2. TREASURE TALKS (V21-24)

But beyond the obvious fact that material wealth perishes, why is it so important that we store our treasure in heaven? Beyond the fact that it’s good, why should we pursue this kind of generosity? Well, it’s also because treasure talks.

I’m getting a little excited at the moment. In nine days it’s Ava’s first birthday. But in 27 days, the National Football League (NFL) kicks off. I’m a Kansas City Chiefs fan. And let me tell you, it’s been a rough off-season. Arguably our second best player, Chris Jones (Defensive Tackle), has been in contract disputes with upper management. Jones wants to be the highest paid defensive tackle in the league, a whopping salary of $30 million dollars per annum. You see, for Chris Jones-money talks. Jones’ salary-is meant to say something to the rest of the NFL community-that he is the most successful defensive tackle; he’s the best; he’s a success. And he won’t step on the field until he gets it. Money/Treasure talks.

This is the Lord Jesus’ fundamental point in verses 21-24. Jesus teaches his disciples that what a person does with their material wealth is crucial… because it communicates something about that person’s heart-their inner-self… . And our treasure talks in three ways!

2a. Your treasure locates your heart (v21)

In verse 21, the Lord Jesus makes the point that your treasure locates your heart.

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In our activity with material wealth, our heart is being located. How we use our material wealth determines what we most fundamentally value. If we accumulate material wealth on earth, our hearts value what is earthly, corruptible, and transient. But if we are generous with our material wealth, our hearts value what is heavenly, incorruptible, and eternal. You see, treasure talks-what we do with it communicates what we’ve set our hearts on.

2b. Your eye shines inwardly (v22-23)

In verses 22-23, the Lord Jesus then makes the point that your eye shines inwardly.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

When Jesus’ mentions the condition of the eye, you need to understand that it’s a metaphor for what a person does with their material wealth. The word for a “healthy eye” can be better translated as “single” or “whole”.13 So, in a conversation about material wealth, this communicates a sense of “generosity” “kindness” and “integrity”.14 In contrast, the word for an “unhealthy eye” can be better translated as “evil” or “wicked”.15 So, in a conversation about material wealth, this communicates the idea of being “stingy” “greedy” and “envious”.16 Through mentioning the condition of the eye, Jesus is contrasting people’s relationship with wealth-we either have a good eye of kindness and generosity or we have an evil eye of greed and stinginess.

But here’s the thing: your eye shines inwardly. In this parable, Jesus says that the quality of the “eye” is decisive for the “whole body”.17 In other words, what you do with material wealth reflects and even affects your whole person. If we selfishly accumulate material wealth on earth, we are living in darkness and even growing in darkness. But if we are generous with our material wealth, we are living in light and growing in light. The darkness or light within is manifested by how we approach the issue of wealth. Treasure talks-what we do with it communicates something about the inner self.

2c. Your service is total (v24)

In verse 24, the Lord Jesus then gives his final parable-your service is total. [Slide]

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

In this parable, Jesus’ speaks about the horrible experience of a slave who has two lords.

It’s kinda like that moment when you’re a university student who works two jobs-it’s miserable and impossible.
The slave experiences serious conflict in their life-one lord is hated, the other loved; one lord is the object of devotion, the other despised. The point is that your service is total. You cannot serve material wealth and serve God. It is an impossible thing to live greedy lives focused on material wealth and also be truly dedicated to God. It’s an either-or reality.

Now, I know that’s hard to accept. Deep down, I think we probably wish we could love both God and money. In fact, often we think we can! But this is an either-or reality. And this reality echoes through so much of Matthew’s gospel and beyond, here’s a few sound bites:

  • Listen then to what the parable of the sower means… The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:18, 22)

  • The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)

  • Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:36-37)

  • Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (1 John 2:15)

The point throughout Matthew’s gospel and beyond is that your service is total. You can’t have both. You must choose. Treasure talks-what we do with it communicates something about who or what is our Lord and the strength of our allegiance.

2d. Treasure Talks (v24)

Brothers and sisters, I hope you can see that our relationship with material wealth is not merely a neutral or external matter-it actually affects and reflects what’s going on inside of us.

I don’t know about you but often I can spend, I can purchase, and I can shop without any real thought. I just acquire more. And often I can withhold, I can retain, and I can be stingy. I can just ignore the needs of others. In these moments, it just seems neutral, it just seems like a physical and external matter, like it has no bearing on my heart or inside me…

But, our Lord Jesus teaches us, that ultimately these moments are a matter of the heart. What we do with our wealth says something about our orientation in life, the moral quality of our inner-being, and the very commitment we have to our Lord and God.

So brothers and sisters, where’s your heart?

How’s your eye?

Whose your lord?

CONCLUSION

Living for Christ in a culture which normalises wealth and materialism is hard. It’s always going to be hard. But the Lord Jesus is calling each one of us to be wholehearted toward God-to have a pure heart. The beautiful life in Christ is one of undivided devotion to our heavenly Father instead of material wealth. And we should live this life because treasure perishes and treasure talks. It is a life of generosity that ends not in corruption and loss, but in immortality and reward.

If you’re sitting there, like me all this week, thinking: “This is an impossibility!” “This is too hard!”. Well, just see the choice for what it is-it’s really a choice between wisdom and folly, generosity and greed, heaven and earth, light and darkness, the Lord God and all other lords. It’s an obvious choice.

And if that’s not enough, then look at your Lord and God. We don’t need material wealth to be our lord because we’ve got a Lord already. A generous Lord. A gracious Lord. A Lord who provides daily bread. A Lord who knows our need. A Lord of Heaven and Earth. A Lord who was rich, but impoverished himself and was delivered over to the cross for just thirty pieces of silver, in order to enrich us and bring us into his heavenly kingdom. We have a Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So by his immense grace, and by the aid of his Spirit, let’s pursue the beautiful life of wholeheartedness to God and generosity to others.

As the song goes:

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art”.18


1 Idea borrowed from Miroslav Volf in “In the Cage of Vanities: Christian Faith and the Dynamics of Economic Progress”.

2 Rosner, Beyond Greed, 49.

3 Rosner, Beyond Greed, 49.

6 Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 155.

7 Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 464.

8 Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 155.

9 Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 156.

10 Pennington, Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 465.

12 Lewis, Mere Christianity, 87.

13 Lou and Nida, 268.

14 Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 265.

15 BDAG, 851.

16 Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 265.

17 Hermeneia, Matthew, 334.

18 Song by Audrey Assad: Be Thou My Vision.