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The Sermon on the Mount
Storing Treasures in Heaven
November 14, 2004
DEVOTIONAL READING: Philippians 4:4–9 (KJV). BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6 (KJV). PRINTED TEXT: Matthew 6:19–34 (KJV). GOLDEN TEXT: Matthew 6:33 (KJV), 34 (KJV).
Daily Bible Readings
Monday, Nov. 12—Treasure of a Good Foundation (1 Timothy 6:11–17) Tuesday, Nov. 13—Gold and Silver Don’t Last (James 5:1–6) Wednesday, Nov. 14—Be Patient (James 5:7–12) Thursday, Nov. 15—Full Barns, Empty Soul (Luke 12:13–21) Friday, Nov. 16—Life Is More Than Food (Luke 12:22–28) Saturday, Nov. 17—Strive for the Kingdom (Luke 12:29–34) Sunday, Nov. 18—“Where Your Treasure Is … ” (Matthew 6:19–21, 25–34)
Use this to encourage your students to put the Lord’s kingdom first on their priority list.
After this lesson students should be able to: 1. Tell what Jesus said in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount about our treasures and our priorities. 2. Contrast Jesus’ teaching about these matters with the world’s perspective on material wealth. 3. Pinpoint an area of their lives where trust in God needs to replace worry, and commit that area to Him.
Why Teach This Lesson?
Are you living in a “transition home”? It’s not the house you really want to live in for the rest of your life, it’s just what you’re settling for right now until you are finally able to afford what you really want. We see this attitude all around us today, not only as it concerns the homes we live in, but also with regard to the cars we drive, the furnishings we surround ourselves with, and
the vacations we take. Those who “don’t have” want to “have,” while those who “have” want to “have more.” Rich Mullins’s song “My One Thing” describes the condition well: “Everybody I know says they need just one thing. And what they really mean is they need just one thing more.” If you are living in a transition home or driving a transition car—if you “need just one thing more”—Jesus has something important to say to you today!
One of the most memorable events of my childhood was our rural community’s bank failure. In the language of the townspeople, the bank “went broke.” Most of the farmers had recently deposited their returns from the wheat and barley harvests, and now they couldn’t get a cent of their money. They had to survive the rest of the summer on the produce of their own farms. They all had chickens for eggs and cows for milk, and most had some fruits and vegetables as well. Ultimately the farmers were able to get back most of what they had deposited in the bank. Until then there was considerable discussion of what to do with one’s money if and when it became available. Put it in the other bank? That one might go broke, too. Keep it at home? You couldn’t sit there all day with a shotgun to guard it. Some of the farmers devised hiding places under floors or in walls where thieves would never find their savings. But what if the house burned down? A. Many Money Problems Money problems have been around as long as money has. If you have no money, your problem is how to get some. If you have more than you can use immediately, your problem is how to keep it safe. A servant in one of Jesus’ parables buried his money in the ground, but his master called him wicked and lazy [“slothful”] (Matthew 25:25, 26). Other servants put their money to work and managed to double it. That was great, but the prospect of such a return must have involved a certain amount of risk. Today’s investment counselors all warn us that there is no investment without risk, and that a big return requires a big risk. This week’s lesson brings us an exception to that rule. Just invest your treasures in Heaven. There is no risk involved, and the return is far greater than you can ever imagine. B. Lesson Background Today’s study is the third of four lessons drawn from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching His disciples on a hill in Galilee, and a large crowd was listening (Matthew 5:1, 2).
I. Choose the Best (Matthew 6:19–24)
Jesus’ disciples must have been aware of the financial risk involved in choosing to follow Him. We are told that some of them left their jobs to become disciples of someone who had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). We are also told of certain individuals who “ministered unto him of their substance” (Luke 8:1–3, KJV) or “were helping to support them out of their own means” (NIV). Apparently they provided material assistance to Jesus and the Twelve. In the portion of the Sermon on the Mount studied today, Jesus confirms that those who have chosen to follow Him have made the best choice. A. The Best Treasure (vv. 19–21) 19. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:19. → KJV; Jesus’ words are not a prohibition against one’s efforts to provide the necessities of life for himself or his loved ones. Such work is commended in Scripture (2 Thessalonians
3:12). Jesus is warning us not to consider material wealth (the things of this earth) our treasures. Material wealth is subject to decay and corrosion. And (like the farmers who were mentioned in the Introduction to this lesson) anyone with material wealth must guard against thieves who are more than eager for him to “share” his wealth. It was not very hard to break through the walls of most houses in Jesus’ day, which were made of mud bricks. [See question #1.] 20. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:20. → KJV; It is hard to argue with the fact that treasures in Heaven are eternally secure, but how can you store up your treasures there? One way is to help Jesus’ brothers who are in need, thereby identifying with Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:31–40). With that thought in mind, you can probably think of specific treasures that are suited to your particular circumstances. For example, the money you send to a missionary who is holding forth the Word of life on the other side of the world or is planting a new church on the other side of your hometown—don’t you know it is credited to your account beyond the skies? The sacrificial gift you give to a college that is preparing preachers of the gospel—aren’t you certain that it has been deposited in your Heavenly treasure with interest beyond your imagining? And don’t think that your treasure is all in money. Each precious hour you spend in unpaid Christian service will be waiting with interest when you “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). There are so many ways to lay up treasures in Heaven! So choose the way that is best for you and most suited to your abilities and opportunities. Just be sure that you don’t leave all your treasures on earth and end up a pauper where Heavenly treasures are concerned. 21. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:21. → KJV; Often we notice that one’s treasure follows his heart. For instance, if you visit an orphans’ home and really fall in love with it, some of your money will go there. But Jesus reminds us of the other side of the picture. One’s heart follows his treasure. If you really aren’t interested at all in what your church’s favorite missionary is doing, try doubling your contribution to that mission. Of course, you won’t want your money to be wasted, so you will learn all you can about the work of the mission—and you will soon find that your heart is in that mission. Perhaps you will then double your contribution again. Or, if you have not been very interested in the local work of your church, try putting twice as much time into it. You’ll be surprised to see how dear to your heart that work becomes. [See question #2.] B. The Best Light (vv. 22, 23) 22. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:22. → KJV; It is through our eyes that we become conscious of light, and with light comes a vast amount of information, understanding, and guidance. It is with our eyes that we find our way. Thus does Paul pray for the enlightenment of “the eyes of your understanding [or heart]” (Ephesians 1:18) to express his desire that the Ephesian Christians grow in their knowledge of the Lord. If your eyes (your attention and thinking) are focused only on treasure in Heaven and what produces it, then your whole body will be full of light: you will be thoroughly enlightened with truth and goodness. Your motives, your thinking, your talking, and your doing will be guided in ways pleasing to the Lord. You will be laying up treasure in Heaven. 23. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:23. → KJV;
On the other hand, if your attention and thinking are focused on earthly treasure without any regard for what God says is right and wrong, then you shut out the light of truth and goodness. Instead you become filled with the darkness of selfishness and greed. The eye is the only way you have of receiving light. If it brings you darkness instead, how great is that darkness! C. The Best Master (v. 24) 24. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:24. → KJV; It is true that a man can have two jobs with two different employers—especially if they are part-time jobs. But he cannot serve both employers with equal devotion. If both want his service at the same time, he has to make a choice. One job will be his principal one; the other will receive whatever leftover time is available. Mammon is a word that is used in the King James Version to describe treasure on earth—money and all that money can buy. (The New International Version simply uses the term Money, but we should see it as broader than mere money.) And it is true that most of us who serve God work for money as well. But serving God is a full-time job. Even when we are working at the job that provides our living, God’s directions are to guide every area of life. If Mammon wants us to do something contrary to God’s teaching, we have to make a choice. It is better to serve God and starve than to serve Mammon and disobey God. [See question #3.]
II. Trust the Best (Matthew 6:25–30)
When we choose the best Master, God, that choice relieves us of the responsibility of making some other choices that might be difficult. When God tells us plainly to do something, we do it and trust Him for the outcome. When He tells us not to do something, we refuse to do it, no matter how enticing mammon makes it seem. Either way, we trust God, and we don’t worry. A. Do Not Worry (v. 25) 25. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:25. → KJV; The phrase take no thought for your life in the King James Bible does not mean that we should do no planning for tomorrow’s meals or fail to go to the grocery store for supplies. It simply means, as we read in the New International Version, “do not worry.” God, the Master you have chosen, has given you your life. That is a greater gift than the food you eat. Don’t you know that He who gives the greater gift will also give the lesser one? You know God has given you your body, and it is of far greater significance and value than the raiment (clothes) you wear. Don’t you know that He who gives the body will also supply the clothing for the body? So trust God and don’t worry. This does not mean that you need not work for pay, shop for food, or cook your dinner. It means you work, shop, and cook without being anxious, without worrying. The point here is not to be overly concerned about physical necessities; excessive fretting about such things would reveal that our treasure is in the wrong place, our eyes are focused on the wrong things, and that we serve the wrong master. “Do not worry,” is not, of course, an excuse for laziness (2 Thessalonians 3:10). B. Consider the Birds (v. 26) 26. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:26. → KJV; Perhaps some birds (“fowls” in the King James Version) could be seen near the hillside where Jesus and His audience were. These birds are not idle, but neither are they anxious about their daily food. They do the work they are created to do, and the heavenly
Father provides for them. Any human being is worth much more than many such birds. How can anyone doubt that God will feed him if he does the work the Creator has designed him to do? C. Worry Is Worthless (v. 27) 27. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:27. → KJV; The basic meaning of the word translated “stature” in the King James Version here is “age” or “time of life.” Thus, some translators think that this question refers to the length of a man’s life instead of his height. The New International Version says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” This word does sometimes refer to stature, however, both in secular Greek and elsewhere in the New Testament. And the word cubit is clearly a measure of distance or height, equal to about half a meter, or eighteen inches. The American Standard Version keeps some of the ambiguity of the original: “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?” However we translate it, the question has the same answer. In fact, the dual understanding may be deliberate, for both illustrate the point Jesus is making: worry is worthless. It can neither make a man taller nor make him live longer; in fact, worry can cause stress and ulcers. Rather than adding hours to life, worry can result in quite the opposite! So why worry? D. Consider the Flowers (vv. 28–30) 28. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:28. → KJV; In today’s English we might paraphrase Jesus’ words this way: “Why worry about clothing? Look at the wildflowers that bloom every spring. They do not labor long hours, as people do, to spin wool into yarn, weave yarn into fabric, and sew fabric into garments.” 29. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:29. → KJV; Solomon was king of Israel at the peak of that nation’s power and glory. Surely he wore the very best clothing that could be made at that time. Yet even he was not arrayed (or dressed) as beautifully as one of those common wildflowers on the hillside. 30. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:30. → KJV; Don’t you know that you are worth more than the wildflowers? They may be prettier than you are, but not for long. Quickly they wither, and soon they and other sun-dried plants are raked up and used as fuel to bake the bread in someone’s backyard oven. You can see how God clothes them beautifully in spite of their short life; don’t you know He will clothe you adequately if you faithfully do the work He designed you to do? How can you be so lacking in faith and trust that you worry about where your next set of clothes will come from? [See question #4.]
III. Summary (Matthew 6:31–34)
Many people have been amused by the way one preacher described his method of constructing a sermon: “First I tell them what I’m going to tell them. Then I tell them. Then I tell them what I’ve told them.” Jesus did not exactly follow that procedure in the text we have before us, but He did make two points emphatic by repeating them: “Trust God” and “Don’t worry.” A. Trust God (vv. 31, 32) 31. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:31. → KJV;
As already noted, the phrase “take no thought” (KJV) is better expressed by “don’t worry” or “don’t be anxious.” Jesus’ counsel not to worry is especially appropriate today when so many worry about what to eat and drink and what to wear. 32. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:32. → KJV; The word Gentiles refers to pagan peoples, idol worshipers. When they run after all these things, they demonstrate that they know nothing of a heavenly Father who rules the universe and who cares for His people. They become desperate and stingy when they are hungry or when they experience hard times. Children of God, on the other hand, do know their Father—or they ought to. They know that He lives, He rules, He knows, and He cares. B. Put God First (v. 33) 33. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:33. → KJV; To seek first God’s kingdom is to seek above everything else to be ruled by Him. It means desiring to know His will and do it. When you live by God’s priorities, you can be assured that He will not leave you without the food and clothing about which so many fret and worry. [See question #5.]
FORSAKING ALL FOR THE KINGDOM
H. L. Mencken called it “the greatest news story since the Resurrection.” He was talking about King Edward VIII’s abdication (resignation) of the British throne. Edward announced that he was stepping down for the sake of “the woman he loved.” The woman was Wallis Simpson, a commoner and an American, once divorced and involved in an affair with the king (although still married to her second husband). Her divorce was a major problem, since in those days it was thought scandalous for the head of the Church of England (the king) to marry such a woman. British papers kept the matter quiet as long as they could. Edward’s abdication avoided what could have been a major constitutional crisis in England. But he was willing to lose his claim to a kingdom for the sake of “the woman he loved.” In contrast, Jesus calls us to seek first the kingdom of God. He challenges us to give up all other allegiances for the sake of “the God we love.” While this appears to be a foolish risk in the eyes of many, we who know and serve our Heavenly Father realize that we are always in His care. The real risk—one with eternal consequences—is taken by the individual who tries to live as if he himself were king. —C. R. B. C. Don’t Worry (v. 34) 34. LINK TO MATTHEW 6:34. → KJV; → NIV Three times in our text we have seen an admonition against worry. Like every good teacher, Jesus knew the value of repeating. He capped this section of His teaching by saying once again, “Don’t worry.” Don’t spoil today by worrying about the morrow. Tomorrow will bring its own problems. Spend today dealing with today’s problems, not worrying about what has not yet happened. Live one day at a time—and live it acknowledging God as the Giver of that day and of all that He allows you to enjoy that day.
BORROWING FROM TOMORROW’S TROUBLES
There was once a time when business executives could leave all their cares at the office. But now, thanks to all of our “labor-saving” devices, it is getting harder
and harder to do that. Cell phones, laptop computers, and e-mail make it increasingly difficult to “disconnect.” A recent survey of five thousand executives revealed that 82 percent of them worked during their vacations. More than a fourth of them called the office on their days off, and 13 percent checked their e-mail when away from work. Cutting a vacation short because of work was admitted to by 13 percent of the executives. “If you don’t stay in touch,” the surveyers concluded, “you’ll fall behind.” Of course, people in many occupations seldom have “days off.” Farmers whose livestock need daily feeding and/or milking and stay-at-home mothers of small children are two groups of people who would love to get a day off, even if they had to “stay in touch.” Whatever our occupation, excessive involvement in our work can lead to mental burnout, poor health, disrupted family life, and decreased involvement in spirit-nurturing activities such as church attendance. Trying to get ahead of tomorrow’s troubles can actually increase the trials tomorrow may bring. Our experience should tell us that Jesus was right when He said, “Take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” —C. R. B.
A. When to “Take Some Thought” We have noted that “take no thought” in the King James Version means “don’t worry.” It would be easy (but wrong) to interpret either phrase to mean that we are to be totally oblivious to all that is around us. Sometimes without thinking we slip into the mistake of worrying about material concerns such as food and clothing and other treasures on earth. We ought not to worry about treasure in Heaven either, but we ought to “take some thought,” as the word thought is more commonly used. Even the King James Version uses the word think in the way we usually do today. It urges us to do some thinking about matters that are quite in harmony with laying up treasures in Heaven. Here are a few examples. Think about good things. Fill your mind with them (Philippians 4:8). Shut out evil thoughts (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5). Think about Jesus. Think of what a glorious Savior He is (Hebrews 3:1–3). Think how much He endured for you (Hebrews 12:3, 4). Think about yourself. Don’t be conceited, but make a fair estimate (Romans 12:3). Watch yourself lest you be tempted (Galatians 6:1). Think about your fellow Christians. Consider ways to stir them up to love one another and to do good (Hebrews 10:24). Think about your Christian leaders. Think about the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7). B. Make Up Your Mind Worry flourishes in a divided mind. Perhaps you have chosen the best Master and the best treasure; yet there is something you really need, like a new car or an extended vacation or an addition to the house. So just this once you decide to take orders from Mammon. You overcharge a customer, or misrepresent your merchandise, or cheat on your income tax. It’s just this once, but next year you may “really need” something else, and that will be “just this once,” too. Soon Mammon has you in its grip, and your worries begin to increase. So make up your mind. Give first place to God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Refuse to do anything dishonest, mean, or greedy—no matter what Mammon offers.
Make the old car last another year, or maybe two or three. Go camping in the nearest state park instead of taking a cruise. Put a cheaper partition in that basement bedroom instead of building an addition to the house. See if a cheaper detergent will work as well as the highly advertised one. God will bless your full allegiance, and you will stop lying awake at night with worry. Make up your mind. God is your Master; seek to please Him day by day. Treasure in Heaven is your objective; store it up hour by hour. God’s peace is a by-product of your commitment; enjoy it moment by moment (Philippians 4:7). C. Prayer Dear Father, gracious Father, loving Father, we do want to please You in all our thinking and talking and doing. Help us, we pray, in our efforts to do so. In Jesus’ name, amen. D. Thought to Remember My mind is made up.
Learning Activities for Users of the King James Version
This article contains an alternate lesson plan emphasizing learning activities. Classes desiring such student involvement will find these suggestions helpful.
After this lesson students will be able to: 1. Tell what Jesus said in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount about our treasures and our priorities. 2. Contrast Jesus’ teaching about these matters with the world’s perspective on material wealth. 3. Pinpoint an area of their lives where trust in God needs to replace worry, and commit that area to Him.
INTO THE LESSON
Begin by asking the class to move into groups of three. Give each group paper and pencils. Say: “This morning I’m going to ask you a question, and I’d like you to generate a list of answers. You will have about three minutes. Here is the question: ‘What do people use to keep their valuables and possessions safe and secure?’” (Possible answers: locks, security systems, alarms, computer passwords, safety deposit boxes, and safes.) After sufficient time has been given, ask the group with the most answers to read them. Then ask if the other groups have additional answers. State: “People use many different ways to protect their valuables and possessions. Yet, security of our valuables is never guaranteed. Even very complex security systems have not always prevented the theft of valuable merchandise.” Observe that today’s lesson focuses on Jesus’ words about treasures and priorities. Then ask the learners to turn to Matthew 6:19–34.
INTO THE WORD
Ask a class member to read Matthew 6:19–23 aloud to the class. Then ask these questions:
1. What happens to treasures stored on the earth? (Moths eat the fabric; rust destroys metal; and thieves steal the treasures, v. 19.) 2. What is the connection between a person’s treasure and a person’s heart? (Your heart follows, or is directed toward, what you value, v. 21.) State: “Jesus stated that treasures stored in Heaven are secure: they will not be eaten, will not rust, and will not be stolen by thieves.” 3. What does Jesus mean by “laying up treasures in Heaven”? (He is talking about what we value, about our priorities. Jesus illustrates this in verses 22 and 23. If we are focused upon the light of truth and that is what we value, then our whole body will be characterized by that light of truth.) Ask another class member to read aloud Matthew 6:24–34. Then ask these questions: 4. What contrast does Jesus make in this passage of Scripture? (Between two life ambitions: secular and godly. The secular focus is on accumulating possessions, gaining more and more wealth. The godly focus is on serving God, seeking His kingdom, and trusting Him to provide the basics of food and clothing.) 5. What is the point of Jesus’ illustrations about birds (v. 26) and flowers (v. 28)? (God will provide our needs, so we have no cause for worry.) 6. What does Jesus say should be the first priority of every person? (Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, v. 33.)
Jesus addresses a common characteristic of people: worry. Prior to class, prepare a handout and an overhead transparency entitled, “The World of Worry.” Have two columns on this handout, one column for “Non-Christians” and the other for “Christians.” Ask the class to move back into the groups of three, and give this assignment: “In each of your groups, have someone write down for the respective headings the worries that concern the non-Christian and the areas of life that concern the Christian.” Give several minutes for the groups to generate answers. Then ask for the answers to be reported to the class. As answers are given, write them on an overhead transparency so the class can see the answers. (Possible answers: money, clothes, paying bills, possessions, safety, personal appearance, health, travel safety, and broken relationships.) Say: “As you can see, Christians and non-Christians often worry about many of the same things. But what does Jesus teach about worry?” (Worry does not change anything, v. 27; worry indicates little faith, v. 30; worry is unnecessary, v. 32.) Summarize: “If worry is something that Jesus does not want us to do, what does He teach we should do? We must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and trust Him to provide those things that we need.” Note that some of us worry about many of these same items in our own lives. Tell the students, “Select one item wherein trust in God needs to replace worry. After you select it, write a prayer to God committing yourself to trust Him to take care of you.”
The World of Worry
First, identify the subjects of worry that plague people today. Then place a check mark () in the non-Christians’ column if this item is something non-Christians worry about. Place a check mark () in the Christians’ column if they also worry about that element of life. SUBJECTS OF WORRY NON-CHRISTIANS CHRISTIANS
What differences do you see? What differences should you see?
Prayer of Release and Commitment
Dear Father, I am spending too much time worrying about ___________________________________. Today’s lesson helps me to see how important I am to you. You already know what I need, and you want me to seek your kingdom and your righteousness first. You want me to trust you in this element of life. So, Father, I release this worry to you. Help me trust you to provide what I need. And I will give you all the glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, ___________________________ (Sign your name here) Date __________________________
Jesus’ Ministry The Sermon on the Mount Storing Treasures in Heaven November 14, 2004 A. Many Money Problems
Choose the Best (Matthew 6:19–24)
A. The Best Treasure (vv. 19–21) B. Consider the Birds (v. 26) C. Worry Is Worthless (v. 27)
A. When to “Take Some Thought” Think about good things. Fill your mind with them (Philippians 4:8). Shut out evil thoughts (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5). Think about Jesus. Think of what a glorious Savior He is (Hebrews 3:1–3). Think how much He endured for you (Hebrews 12:3, 4). Think about yourself. Don’t be conceited, but make a fair estimate (Romans 12:3). Watch yourself lest you be tempted (Galatians 6:1). Think about your fellow Christians. Consider ways to stir them up to love one another and to do good (Hebrews 10:24). Think about your Christian leaders. Think about the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7). B. Make Up Your Mind C. Prayer D. Thought to Remember
INTO THE WORD
Read Matthew 6:19–23 1. What happens to treasures stored on the earth? (Moths eat the fabric; rust destroys metal; and thieves steal the treasures, v. 19.) 2. What is the connection between a person’s treasure and a person’s heart? (Your heart follows, or is directed toward, what you value, v. 21.) State: “Jesus stated that treasures stored in Heaven are secure: they will not be eaten, will not rust, and will not be stolen by thieves.” 3. What does Jesus mean by “laying up treasures in Heaven”? (He is talking about what we value, about our priorities. Jesus illustrates this in verses 22 and 23. If we are focused upon the light of truth and that is what we value, then our whole body will be characterized by that light of truth.) Ask another class member to read aloud Matthew 6:24–34. Then ask these questions: 4. What contrast does Jesus make in this passage of Scripture? (Between two life ambitions: secular and godly. The secular focus is on accumulating possessions, gaining more and more wealth. The godly focus is on serving God, seeking His kingdom, and trusting Him to provide the basics of food and clothing.) 5. What is the point of Jesus’ illustrations about birds (v. 26) and flowers (v. 28)? (God will provide our needs, so we have no cause for worry.) 6. What does Jesus say should be the first priority of every person? (Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, v. 33.)
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