Tag: eternal treasure

Your Treasure: Temporal and Eternal, Part 1

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

If your attitude about money is not right, even being rich will not satisfy you. Some rich people never feel like they have enough money. Some poor people don’t realize they are poor.

What you treasure in life will be evident in the way you live. Worldly riches are uncertain. They can be lost. Those that “fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches” are often very disappointed.

The Riches of the Believer – You Never Lose

The good news is that spiritual, eternal riches cannot be lost. No one can take them from you. In fact, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus.

Read Romans 8:38-39

Spiritual riches start with two things you have total control over: your thoughts and your heart. The Bible combines the two. “For as a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). This often quoted proverb is in the context of a person’s attitude about money.

Read Proverbs 23:4-5

Read the following passages and write down what each one says about your attitude toward money:

  • Proverbs 16:16
  • Proverbs 23
  • Proverbs 24:7
  • Ecclesiastes 5:10
  • Ecclesiastes 5:13-15
  • Ecclesiastes 7:14
  • Hebrews 13:5

Your attitude and your perspective determine how you handle any given circumstance. Your state of mind is directly related to your character, to who you are as a person. The Bible addresses that part of you as your “heart.” One person who loses his financial resources might throw himself out of the window – seemingly no hope in sight. Another in the same circumstance might trust God, ask Him for direction, pick himself up and go on to the next part of his life, knowing this life is so short that it should not be spent in doubt and worry.

Erroneous Teaching About Riches

Unfortunately, there are some preachers who would have you believe if you don’t have worldly riches, it is because you don’t have enough faith. They make their own fortunes by talking people into sending them money as “seed faith,” making those who do so feel that the only way God is going to bless them financially is to support the preacher’s ministry. That is not what the Bible teaches about riches.

Priorities

When possessions become more important than God or people, your perspective on life is backwards. It is God who gives us all things to enjoy. Without Him, we would have nothing. He puts such a value on us as people that He sent His Son to die in our place. That’s why, I think, that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-39). Obeying this commandment enables us to view life the way God intended. Giving Him first place in your life does not rid you of anything. Instead, it enriches you. Those who are truly rich are those who can love – they can receive love and they can give love.

Two Parables About Money

One of Jesus’ most well known stories about money is the story of the prodigal son. A young man who so wanted to live on his own and spend money any way he wanted coaxed his inheritance out of his father. What an insult this would be to a father. The son could not wait until after he died to get his portion of his goods. His father consented to this request. The son leaves home and squanders his money in wild living. After it is all gone, he returns home, truly repentant, intending only to ask to be a servant to his father. The father, having been looking for the return of his son since the day he left, saw him from a distance and lovingly took him back in – not as a servant – but as a beloved son.

Jesus clearly intended to communicate to the religious leaders, as well as His disciples, that God the Father is a loving, forgiving God longing for repentance on the part of those who have misused the gifts He has given.

In the very next parable, the meaning is not so easy to discern. Jesus deliberately addresses His disciples before He begins this story although the Pharisees and lawyers are still present. Read Luke 16:1-13.

Wise theologians throughout the ages have disagreed on the meaning of this parable. At first glance, it appears that the dishonest dealings of the manager are being commended, which Jesus would never do. Some commentators even believe that this actually happened and that Jesus was using a real event to teach his disciples an important lesson. Just as Jesus made an important point when he was confronted with the rich young ruler, He used actual events and real encounters to teach His disciples. This encounter with this young man revealed the love that Jesus had for him, but ended with an astonishing statement, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23). Since this was counter to everything man had imagined (riches are evidence of God’s blessing), His disciples responded with, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (Mark 10:26). Whether or not this parable is taken from a real event or one of the very creative stories that Jesus used to make His point is not clear.

I can see the possibility that it was real. I write an article for my blog every week. My blog is purpose driven. Called One Focus, I usually relate an actual event to make my point although occasionally I may create a story. Whatever the topic is, at the end of the story, I purposely relate it to something in scripture.

Either way, Jesus chose to tell this story. He directed it to His disciples but certainly was aware of the presence of those who did not believe in Him. Since Jesus intentionally included this story, the application is important.

At no point in the story, does he commend the actions of the dishonest manager. In fact, it is after he lost his job and had acted only in his own self-interest to try to protect his future that he is called dishonest by his manager. What led to his firing in the first place could have been ineptness or simple mismanagement of his master’s funds and not an intentional act of thievery. Before handing over his account books, however, his dishonest nature took over to preserve his future. His master admired his shrewdness, not his actions. The lesson that Jesus was trying to give to His disciples may have been similar to the one in His parable about the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The man who was reprimanded by Jesus in the parable of the talents did not steal the money. He simply hid it. He did not do anything with it. In Luke 16:8-13, Jesus gives the moral of the story.

People who are not believers (people of this world) are many times smarter in their dealing with money than Christians (sons of the light). A Christian’s standards should be different than the world’s. The end result should be to glorify God. However, God is not glorified if His gifts are buried or wealth is used only for living in the present.

His gifts are given for our enjoyment now, but also to bear fruit for Him. Money, just like anything else, can be used for evil. A person’s attitude toward it is an indicator of his spiritual state. God intends His children to use it for good and to help people. There will be a day when every one of us will have to give an account to God for how we used His gifts to us, whether they are talents or money. In that way, Christians should be as clever as everyone else.

In the Old Testament, Joseph was a steward of Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:1-6). He managed that household with integrity. Even though he was unjustly accused of betraying Potiphar, in the end, his faithful stewardship resulted in the salvation of the people of promise. When Joseph entered his eternal dwellings, he was able to give a good account of his dealings with the resources God had given him. The money was gone when he died, but the fruit of what he did with it followed him. That’s the wealth that will follow us into Heaven.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Billy Graham in The Secret of Happiness says (recalling the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus, but who, when he was told to sell all and give to the poor, went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions) “that Jesus knew that one of the real tests of our yieldedness to God is our willingness to share with others. If we have no mercy toward others, that is one proof that we have never experienced God’s mercy.”

© Stephanie B. Blake

* This Bible study is excerpted from a chapter of “Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”

Download Your Treasure Temporal and Eternal Part One

 

Your Treasure Temporal and Eternal Part 2

 Betrayed by Greed

For thirty pieces of silver, Judas betrayed Jesus. He had already revealed his love for money. “‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:5-6). Judas had an advantage few people had. He walked with God in the flesh. He observed the Son of God as He performed miracles and loved the unlovable. All the while, Judas did not get it. Even the observance of all that Jesus was and did was not enough to rid Judas of his own love for money.

Just as he was preparing to betray Jesus, Satan entered into him. Satan can only go where he finds a willing vessel. The entrance into the life of Judas was through his greed. When he finally realized what he had done, he tried to return the blood money to the chief priests and elders. They refused it. Judas threw what he thought he wanted (the coins) on the ground and realized it was too late for him. He killed himself. The treasure he so desired bought a burial place for strangers. The name of Judas is now synonymous with greed and betrayal.

Beginning of the Christian Church

After Jesus’ resurrection, the church learned an important lesson about possessions. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, believers were so united they stayed together for the teaching of the apostles, for meals, and for worship. As their hearts were changed by the transforming power of the Spirit of the resurrected Lord, they sold their possessions and shared with one another. This was a time like never before nor has there been a time exactly like this since. Others were observing their unity, listening to their testimony. Thousands were being saved. Men who had walked and talked with Jesus in the flesh could share His teachings from memory. They had been with Him. Their love for Jesus overshadowed everything else – even their possessions.

The Church Tested by Greed

A husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, wanted to be a part of this remarkable experience, but their hearts were not right. They also sold a possession and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution. Unlike the other followers, though, they decided to keep back a portion for themselves, pretending to contribute the entire proceeds to the cause. The Holy Spirit revealed their deception to Peter who immediately confronted them with their lie. Ananias and Sapphira died on the spot. Peter made it clear that the sin was the lie – not the keeping of a portion of the proceeds. “While it remained was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). The lie was the sin, but the sin originated in their love of their possessions. Like Judas, that was their downfall.

Paul: A Man Rich in Faith

Saul was a man with many advantages in his life. Not only did he have financial resources and the best education available, he was accepted both in Roman and Jewish circles. Saul’s dedication to his faith caused him to lead an effort to eliminate followers of Christ. However, when he finally met Jesus and recognized Him as God, his life was forever transformed. Upon accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation and His call on his life, he had a new name, a new life and a new goal. Paul, the apostle, made an about face and never looked back. Everything was new – even his attitude about his standing in society and his possessions. Paul gave up the advantages of status and worldly riches when he became a disciple of Christ. What he gained was greater than what he lost.  Read Philippians 3:7-8.

Paul’s heart and mind, given to God, enabled him to be content no matter what his circumstances. See Philippians 4:12-13. Paul, the great apostle, made a tremendous impact upon the world. Christians through the ages have grown as disciples because of his example. His life (as recorded in Acts) and his letters (that comprise much of the New Testament) have become guidelines for Christian living. Incredibly, he was able to honestly encourage others to imitate him just as he also imitated Christ. Who among us could make such a statement?

Unlike Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, Paul made his choice for eternal riches. To him, the choice was clear. God deserves love and loyalty.

Poverty and Riches

Poverty is a harsh reality. It does not discriminate. It touches old and young, male and female and people of every nationality. God’s word never says, nor even insinuates, that people are poor because of a lack of faith. In fact, some such as the widow who gave her all (Luke 21:2-3) are strongly commended. The poor are never degraded as a lesser part of society. Jesus said the poor would always be with us. The Bible gives many guidelines about helping the poor.

In times of economic downturn, many who used to help those in poverty find themselves in dire circumstances and in need of help themselves. Periods like the Great Depression and the Great Recession are times for a severe reality check. The health and wealth philosophy so prominent in churches and media has missed a vital point. Monetary riches are not guaranteed to anyone. God does provide for HIs own. Sometimes the provision is the ability to watch Him work in hard times. Sometimes He wants us to be the means of provision for someone else.

Having riches is not proof that God has blessed you. Read the following passages and list some of the ways God blesses His own.

  • Psalms 2:12b
  • Psalms 28:6
  • Matthew 6:24

God does not forbid riches. He created all things for us to enjoy. Some biblical men of faith, such as Abraham, Hezekiah, Job, David, and Joseph of Arimathea had great riches. Some blessed by God with riches have been given the spiritual gift of generosity serving Him through their stewardship of what He has given them.

One biblical character’s attitude toward money was radically transformed when he met Jesus. Having obtained his wealth as a tax collector, Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus made him pledge to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he had cheated by returning four times the amount. What Zaccheus decided to do with his money was proof that his conversion was real.  Read Jesus’ commendation of him in Luke 19:9.

Other great people of faith, such as John the Baptist, many of the Lord’s disciples and the widow who gave her mite did not have the benefit of great material resources. Jesus, rather than condemning the poor or accusing them of little faith, joined them.

 Stewardship

“How we handle money is an outside indicator of an inside spiritual condition.” – Larry Burkett

In the parable of the talents, Jesus said that the man who buried his talent was unfaithful. He was immobilized because of his inappropriate fear of the master who gave him the talent to invest. He should at least have gained interest on the money that his master had entrusted to him. That is a principle of spiritual stewardship. God does own everything. He does entrust some of what He owns to us for a time. Recognizing that fact gives one the ability to release material goods when they disappear. It also helps put our thinking in the right place – on the things that really count. God is looking for a return on His investment.

That principle of spiritual stewardship is more far reaching than money. When God talks about sowing and reaping, He makes the application to every aspect of our lives: spiritual, physical, mental as well as financial. He judges us on how we use what resources we have to honor Him.  Read and discuss Luke 6:10-11 and Psalm 49:6-7.

Looking for your best investment opportunity? Invest your life in seeking God’s face and His glory. This is the only investment you can be sure of. When you share the good news of the gospel with others, you reap eternal rewards. The richest gift anyone has ever received came directly from God in His Son Jesus.

The gift of salvation through Jesus, resulting in an eternal relationship with God, is of more value than anything the world has to offer. Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom – especially the parable of the treasure in the field and the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44—46) – emphasis the value of this relationship. No treasure on earth can be compared to being part of the family of God.

© Stephanie B. Blake

* This Bible study is excerpted a chapter of “Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”

Download Your Treasure Temporal and Eternal Part Two