“Treasuring Life over Riches”
Series: Money Matters (2 of 2)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
- Take God’s Word and open to Matthew, chapter 19.
Next week, Lord willing, we’ll return to our study on the Book of Acts, and today we are studying the second part of a two-part series entitled, “Money Matters,” beginning the first couple Sundays of the New Year focusing on financial stewardship. We noted last time that 15% of everything Jesus Christ said in the New Testament relates to the topic of money and possessions, more than what Jesus said on heaven and hell combined. It must have been an important topic to Jesus so it should be an important topic to us.
Last week we were in Matthew’s Gospel and we read those critical verses in chapter 6 about laying up for ourselves not treasures on earth, but treasures in heaven. The study ended with our Lord saying, “No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and riches.”
Today’s study in Matthew 19 reveals a young wealthy man who illustrates what Jesus was talking about. He was a man who had laid up treasures on earth, a man who wanted to serve two masters, but learned the impossibility of it. Let’s read about it as I invite you to stand in honor of the reading of the Word.
One of the reasons we stand in honor of the reading of Scripture is because we really believe God speaks to us in His Word. We are standing, reading, listening as God reveals Himself to us through Scripture. If we really believe God reveals Himself, makes Himself known to us in the Bible, then we’ll take time to listen to what He says.
16 Now behold, one came and said to Him (to Jesus), “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Arguably the greatest challenge of preaching to the American congregation is the challenge of leading a people to understand the importance of treasuring life over riches. We are a very wealthy people. Compared to underdeveloped countries across the globe, Americans—including the majority of those classified as “poor”—are extremely wealthy.
Some of you may have received this email from a friend reminding us of some of the many blessings we enjoy in this country:
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on
your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and
spare change in a dish someplace … you are among
the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than
illness … you are more blessed than the million
who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle,
the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of
torture, or the pangs of starvation… you are
ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a church meeting without fear of
harassment, arrest, torture, or death … you are
more blessed than three billion people in the world.
Do you see how wealthy you are? So on the one hand preaching to a prosperous people can be a great challenge and yet, we must preach clearly the biblical message because with our prosperity comes a great danger: the danger of trying to serve two masters because rather than treasuring life over riches, we really treasure riches over life.
The man in this story treasured riches over life. One of the reasons the story has been preserved in Scripture for 2,000 years is because some of us in this congregation can identify with him. So Jesus teaches us the importance of treasuring life over riches.
If you’re taking notes, I want to help us consider a few things about life in Christ particularly as it relates to the topic of money and possessions. I want to help us consider some truths about treasuring life over riches. Number one:
I. Consider How Life in Christ is Pleasurable (16-22)
The key word here is “pleasure.” What gives you pleasure? What makes your heart flutter and skip a beat? When we’re in love, our heart flutters and beats fast for our lover. There are those first emotional connections when we remember laying eyes upon our girlfriend, our boyfriend, our future spouse. We looked at them and melted. Our heart skipped a beat. And couples who are growing in love continue to experience this feeling of light-heartedness from time to time. Our hearts flutter and beat fast for the one who gives us pleasure, the one in whom we delight.
Now, the closest expression of true faith in Christ is the marital relationship. Marriage comes closest to mirroring our relationship with Christ. For the Christian, nothing gives us greater pleasure than falling in love with the Lord Jesus. A growing relationship in Christ means that when we think of Christ our heart flutters and skips a beat. Does that sound foreign to some of us? Does that sound strange? Does it sound as though I am bringing some kind of radical, cultic, message?
These verses we read a moment ago teach this very point. These verses reveal a man whose heart beats more for riches than life itself. He asks what good thing he must do to have eternal life. Jesus points the man to God and then tells the man to keep the commandments, specifically the second half of the 10 commandments, the ones dealing with relationships, dealing with others. Of course, Jesus was not teaching that one could earn his way into heaven by keeping the commandments. Jesus had made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, that no one could keep the commandments perfectly. But Jesus is using the man’s question to help him see what was getting in the way of his having eternal life.
The man said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Now he thought that he really had and I believe he was sincere. But notice how Jesus comes back to the last command mentioned, the one that sums up much of the Old Testament law, there in verse 19, the one that says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus picks up on that and tells the man in verse 21, “If you want to be perfect,” and that word means “complete,” so as to lack nothing. Perhaps a paraphrase would be, “If you want to take care of the thing that is keeping you from following Me, then do this” and Jesus puts His finger on the very problem, the very thing that is keeping this man from following Christ. Jesus says, “Sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures (where?) in heaven.” Jesus reveals the man’s problem: he treasures riches over life. Verse 22 tells us that “when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful,” why? “for he had great possessions.”
See, there’s an implication there. He went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. But that’s not the problem is it? Having great possessions is not the problem. Job had great possessions. Abraham had great possessions. Solomon had great possessions. He went away sorrowful because his possessions were his greatest pleasure. It was the chiming sounds of gold coins clinking upon one another that made his heart flutter and skip a beat. And so he demonstrates the very truth Paul would write about later in 1 Timothy 6:10. It is not money that is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of money. Why? Because God wants our love. God wants to capture the love of our hearts. He doesn’t want us to give our hearts to money. God has given us rich life in Christ. We must not settle for money.
What gives you pleasure? I was listening to a conference recently where John Piper was speaking and I heard him say these words, “When God is our deepest pleasure we display Him as our highest treasure.” By the way, visit our website, fbchenderson.org and click on links. You’ll see a link there to Desiring God Ministries, where you can read and listen to John Piper, all for free. But that quote again: “When God is our deepest pleasure we display Him as our highest treasure.”
God created us to glorify Him, to display Him as our highest treasure. We display God as our highest treasure only when He is our deepest pleasure. The problem of the young man in this story is that he found his deepest pleasure in riches so he knows nothing about true life. He knows nothing of the pleasure, the joy, the happiness, the exuberance that a life in Christ brings. Do you? You say, “Well, I don’t really feel all that stuff you’re talking about.” Why not? Could it be because you are trying to serve two masters? Could it be that you say “Jesus is Lord,” but the truth is revealed in the way your money moves you. Your heart beats for gold and cash and power and position. God wants your heart to beat for Him. Life in Christ is Pleasurable. Here’s the second thing for us to consider:
II. Consider How Life in Christ is Possible (23-26)
The young man walks away. Why? Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and the rich young man follows the beating of his heart home to his treasures. So as the man pitifully walks away, Jesus teaches his disciples:
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
With God all things are possible. Jesus says those words in the context of describing how a person is granted life in Christ. Without God life in Christ is impossible. God gives us the twin gifts of grace and faith. He penetrates the darkness of our hearts so that we say “yes” to the Gospel, “yes” to His offer of salvation.
Without God’s intervening action, our hearts remain chained to the world. And Jesus notes that this is particularly the case with those who are very wealthy. It is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are synonymous, both describing heaven.
Those of you who have been told by someone that the “eye of a needle” is a reference to a literal gate in the wall of Jerusalem, know that there is no such gate. There is no biblical or archaeological support for that speculation. Jesus is clearly using hyperbole here to stress the near impossibility of a rich person’s entering into heaven and his disciples knew it. That’s why they are so shocked. Most Jews in Jesus’ day believed that money was a sign of God’s blessing so in verse 25 they’re like, “Man, if rich people can’t get into heaven, who can?!” And so Jesus tells us how life in Christ is possible: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The encouragement that comes this verse is twofold. First, if you are here without Christ and you have never been saved, know that God can intervene and give you a new heart. He can grant you life in Christ. He can save you today. If you are sensing that God is drawing your heart to His precious side, you need only give your heart to Him and allow Him to change it, bringing salvation to your soul.
The other encouragement here is for the believer. Because God has given you a new heart, you have life in Christ. He has made possible what was impossible. He has saved your soul and forgiven your sin. He has given you life in Christ and he wants to remind you not to settle for money. He wants you to find your joy exclusively in Him. He wants your heart to beat for Him and not for riches.
This all takes us to our final consideration. We have considered how life in Christ is pleasurable, how life in Christ is possible. So now:
III. Consider How Life in Christ is Profitable (27-30)
The disciples have just heard Jesus say how difficult it is for the rich to enter into heaven. Now the spokesperson for the group speaks up. Who’s the spokesperson? Peter:
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
That’s kind of a selfish thing to ask, isn’t it?! We have “left all and followed You, therefore what shall we have?” What do we get out of this thing? How do you suppose Jesus felt when Peter asked that? They’re like, “We left everything to follow—you! We left our nice homes, our families, our land, our possessions, to follow you.”
Jesus does not scold Peter for his apparent selfishness, but rather teaches that a life lived for Christ is a profitable investment:
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Jesus is talking here about the reward of following Christ. Verse 28 is a reference to the end of the age. The word “regeneration” refers to Christ’s return and the renewal of all things. Believers in Christ will be rewarded for their faith, receiving blessings such as taking part in Christ’s reign upon earth, assisting Him in the judging of the peoples of the earth.
And Jesus says in verse 29, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”
Jesus says a life lived for Him will be richly rewarded. The return of a hundredfold is not to be taken literally as though we would receive a hundred houses, a hundred brothers, a hundred mothers, and so forth. The point is that when Christ is our deepest pleasure we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth. Whatever we sacrifice here will be rewarded there.
Then Jesus concludes in verse 30 with, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” I think context is important here. That verse introduces the parable of the workers in the vineyard, a parable that demonstrates that those considered “first” in this world, persons like the rich young ruler, will be considered “last” in the kingdom of heaven. And just before the story of the rich young ruler we have the short account in verses 13-15 about little children being brought to Jesus that He might put His hands on them and pray. The disciples were like, “Get these little kids out of here” and Jesus says, “Do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The little children would certainly be considered last and rich people considered first. But Jesus demonstrates that the hearts of the little children beat for the Lord, while the heart of this rich man beat for riches. So many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Consider how life in Christ is profitable. You see, what God offers is not the so-called, “Health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel.” This is not, “Receive Christ and God will bless you with health, wealth, and prosperity.” Arguably, that is blasphemy. The Gospel is not, “Receive Christ and God will give you health, wealth, and prosperity,” the Gospel is, “Receive Christ, receive life in Him, find the fullness of your joy in Him, set your affections upon Him, treasure Him above all things—and you won’t need health, wealth, and prosperity.” You will be willing to give up health, wealth, and prosperity if called to do so because your life, your purpose, your joy, rests solely in the Son of God. Your heart beats, flutters, and pounds for Christ alone.
- Stand for prayer.
This message is part of a series on financial stewardship. I hope you see the application here. Good stewardship—including tithing—demonstrates that you really have life in Christ. Tithing, returning back to God at least 10% of what God has given you, is a way of demonstrating that your heart does not beat for riches, but your heart beats for God. Only you know what causes your heart to flutter and skip a beat. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also and only you know where that is.
So here’s the application. Heads bowed and eyes closed. Nobody looking around. If you say this morning, “I want to be more generous in my Christian giving, I want to at least begin to tithe,” or, “I want to remain faithful in my tithing,” and, “I want my heart to be in the right place, I want to treasure life over riches,” will you raise your hand with mine?
If you are not saved this morning and God is warming your heart, come to Christ this morning. With God all things are possible. God made possible what was impossible without Him. Christ died on the cross for your sins, taking your punishment upon Himself…
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