Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
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Store It Up

In Matthew 6, Jesus fully unveils the foundation of what I call the Treasure Principle: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (vv.19-20).

A first century Hebrew walks alone on a hot afternoon staff in hand. His shoulders are stooped, sandals covered with dirt, tunic stained with sweat. But he doesn’t stop to rest. He has pressing business in the city.

He veers off the road into a field, seeing a shortcut, the owner won’t mind- travelers are permitted this courtesy. The field is uneven. To keep his balance he thrusts his staff into the dirt. Thunk, the staff strikes something hard. He stops, wipes his brow, and pokes again. Thunk, something’s under there, and it’s not a rock.

The weary traveler tells himself that he can’t afford to linger. But his curiosity won’t let him go. He jabs at the ground. Something reflects a sliver of sunlight. He drops to his knees and starts digging.

Five minutes later, he’s uncovered it-a case fringed in gold. By the looks of it, it’s been there for decades. Heart racing, he pries off the rusty lock and opens the lid.

Gold coins! Jewelry! Precious stones of every color! A treasure more valuable than anything he’s ever imagined.

Hands shaking, the traveler inspects the coins, issued in Rome over seventy years ago. Some wealthy man must have buried the case and died suddenly, the secret of the treasure’s dying with him. There is no homestead nearby. Surely the current landowner has no idea that the treasure’s here.

The traveler closes the lid, buries the chest, and marks the spot. He turns around, heading home- only now he’s not plodding. He’s skipping like a little boy, smiling broadly.

What a find! Unbelievable! I’ve got to have that treasure! But I can’t just take it- that would be stealing. Whoever owns the field owns what’s in it. But how can I afford to buy it? I’ll sell my farm… and crops… all my tools… my prize oxen. Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough!

From the moment of his discovery, the traveler’s life changes. The treasure captures his imagination, becomes the stuff of his dreams. It’s his reference point, his new center of gravity. The traveler takes every new step with this treasure in mind. He experiences a paradigm shift.

The story is captured by Jesus in a single verse: “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 that he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).

The Treasure Principle

The parable of hidden treasure is one of many references Jesus made to money and possessions. In fact, 15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic- more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined.

Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions? Because there’s a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce our faith and our finances, but God sees them as inseparable.

In Matthew 6, Jesus fully unveils the foundation of what I call the Treasure Principle: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (vv.19-20).

Why? Because earthly treasures are bad? No. Because they won’t last.

But when Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on earth, it’s not just because wealth might be lost; it’s because wealth will always be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions.

Imagine you’re alive at the end of the Civil War. You’re living in the South, but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South, you’ve accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now, suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war and that the end is imminent. What will you do with your Confederate money?

If you’re smart, there’s only one answer. You should immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency- the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs.

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns- or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit.

Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He instructs us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to heaven (which is totally dependable, is insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace earth’s economy). Christ’s financial forecast for earth is bleak- but He’s unreservedly bullish about investing in heaven, where every market indicator is eternally positive!

There’s nothing wrong with Confederate money, as long as you understand its limits. Realizing that its value is temporary should radically affect your investment strategy to accumulate vast earthly treasures that you can’t possibly hold onto for long is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money even though you know it’s about to become worthless. According to Jesus, storing up earthly treasures isn’t simply wrong. It’s just plain stupid.

A Treasure Mentality

Jesus doesn’t just tell us where not to put our treasures. He also gives the best investment advice you’ll ever hear: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).

If you stopped reading too soon, you would have thought that Christ was against our storing up treasures for ourselves. No. He’s all for it! In fact, He commands it. Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures. He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong places and start storing them in the right place!

Store up for yourselves.” Doesn’t it seem strange that Jesus commands us to do what’s in our own best interests? Wouldn’t that be selfish? No. God expects and commands us to act out of enlightened self-interest. He wants us to live to His glory, but what is to His glory is always for our good.

Jesus is talking about deferred gratification. The man who finds the treasure in the field pays a high price now by giving up all he has- but soon he’ll gain a fabulous treasure. As long as his eye is on that treasure, he makes his short-term sacrifices with joy. The joy is present, so the gratification isn’t entirely deferred. Present joy comes from anticipating future joy.

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why? Because its right? Not just that, but because it’s smart. Because such treasures will last. Jesus argues from the bottom line. It’s not an emotional appeal; it’s a logical one: Invest in what has lasting value.

You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Why? Because you can’t take it with you (Psalm 49:16-17). If that point is clear in your mind, you’re ready to hear the secret of the Treasure Principle.

The Treasure Revolution

Jesus takes that profound truth” You can’t take it with you” and adds a stunning qualification. By telling us to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven, He gives us a breathtaking corollary: You can’t take it with you- but you can send it on ahead.

Suppose I offer you one thousand dollars today to spend however you want. Not a bad deal. But suppose I give you a choice- you can either have that one thousand dollars today, or you can have ten million more every year after that.

Only a fool would take the thousand dollars today. Yet that’s what we do whenever we grab onto something that will last for only a moment, forgoing something far more valuable that we could enjoy later for much longer.

Of course, there are many good things God wants us to do with money that don’t involve giving it away. It is essential, for instance, that we provide for our family’s basic material needs (1 Timothy 5:8). But these good things are only a beginning. The money God entrusts to us here on earth is eternal investment capital. Every day is an opportunity to buy up more shares in His kingdom.

You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. It’s a revolutionary concept. If you embrace it, I guarantee it will change your life. As you store up heavenly treasures, you’ll gain an everlasting version of what that man found in the treasure hidden in the field.

Joy.

My Treasure Covenant

  1. I will affirm God’s full ownership of me in everything entrusted to me.

  2. I will set aside the first fruits- at least ten percent- of every wage and gift I receive as holy and belonging exclusively to the Lord.

  3. Out of the remaining treasures God entrusts to me, I will seek to make generous freewill gifts.

  4. I will ask God to teach me to give sacrificially to His purposes, including helping the poor and reaching the lost.

  5. Recognizing that I cannot take earthly treasures from this world, I will lay them up as heavenly treasures- for Christ’s glory and for eternal good for others and myself.

  6. I will ask God to show me how to lead others to the present joy and future reward of the Treasure Principle.


- Randy Alcorn

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