HEARTS AND TREASURES
It was 1982. Gloria and I had been pastoring a new start church in Fort Scott, Kansas. We had gone through a building program and had helped pull together a congregation that was averaging around 80 in attendance. But now I had felt that God was preparing us for a new assignment. I sent out resumes to various districts and talked with our own District Superintendent Rev. James Hester. After a few months our names were submitted to a couple different places and we came to Branson for an interview. We did some serious praying during that time as we sought God’s direction.
Interestingly, Silver Dollar City had launched a new marketing theme and was advertising on our local television stations. Several times during that time of soul searching we would hear the theme music and hear the words coming over the air: “Follow Your Heart to Silver Dollar City!” I knew it was a marketing tactic, and I can assure you that the jingle was not the deciding factor in our accepting the offer to come pastor in Branson. But during that time, every time I heard the commercial, I smiled inside because I knew we were seriously considering a move right here to Branson at the doorstep of Silver Dollar City.
Are you following your heart?
The month of February is often referred to as “Heart Month.” Not only is it about romance and Valentine’s Day, it is also the month the American Heart Association emphasizes the importance of health for the physical heart. Their pamphlets and websites talk about heart health and have lists of symptoms that would indicate heart disease and the onset of heart attacks. One website lists these key points:
Key Messages: Take Control of Your Heart Health
• Find time to be active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Invite fitness buddies on an afternoon stroll, try an exercise class, or challenge the whole family to a soccer match.
• Make healthy eating a habit. Small changes in your eating habits can make a big difference. Try making healthier versions of your favorite recipes. How? Look for ways to lower sodium and trans fat, and add more fruits and vegetables.
• Quit tobacco—for good. Smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products affects nearly every organ in your body, including your heart. Quitting can be tough, but it can be easier when you feel supported. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) today or start with Tips from Former Smokers® .
• Know your numbers. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease. Ask your health care team to check your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels regularly and help you take steps to control your levels.
• Stick to the ’script. Taking your medications can be tough, especially if you feel fine. But sticking with your medication routine is important for managing and controlling conditions that could put your heart at risk.2
There is much more that could be said about Heart Month—and the scriptures do teach us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and that we should treat it as such. And I do encourage you to pay attention, do your homework, and strive to live a heart healthy lifestyle.
But the scripture passage today in its reference to “our heart being located where our treasure is,” is not so much focused on the physical heart that is beating in our chest as it is about those things in which we place our value and concern.
Luke’s Gospel has a similar passage that reminds us to put God’s kingdom above the other concerns in our lives. That passage concludes with these words found in Luke 12: 32-34—“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moths destroy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our passage in Matthew 6 is a portion of what is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” That is a discourse of Jesus delivered on the side of a mountain very early in his public ministry. That passage lays out the ethical requirements of Christianity. So these words today are a part of the very foundation of Jesus’ teachings.
Matthew 6:24 concludes this passage with these powerful words: “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.”
WOW! That is a message that hits our American culture right in the face! The major theme of the State of the Union address this week was the booming economy. Money in our pockets is a major concern of the American Household!
But is this passage is really slamming a booming economy and the concern that our households have amble resources at their disposal? What it is focusing on is that in which we place the most value—the temporal and earthly, or the spiritual and eternal.
Let’s take a closer look and what Jesus is saying. It is really the same thing that we saw in Hebrews 12 last week. Rather than focusing on making more money, accumulating more possessions, and making ourselves more comfortable or feeling more important, we should “Fix our Eyes on Jesus!” (See Hebrews 12:1-2). With that in mind, consider these points:
I. ACCUMULATING TREASURES…
a. Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Mt. 6: 19-20).
b. Several years ago I befriended a homeless man who really enjoyed playing the role of a tramp. We had some long discussions about his lifestyle, about spiritual matters, and about the importance of the church. I remember one day when a group of our men were meeting at McDonalds just to have coffee and talk. I invited my homeless friend to join us and he did. In the process of solving all the world’s problems much like we do at our fellowship breakfast each month, somehow the topic moved to money investments. Later on, after the group had moved on for the day, I asked my friend what he thought about our time with our church men. He acted really angry as he called them names because of their financial discussion. And then I reminded him that if it were not for people like these men who had earned a living and invested in various companies, he would not have anyone available with the means to help him. And he certainly depended on handouts to survive. And he realized that what I was telling him was true. If God didn’t bless some with the ability to make money, people like him who had nothing would not have anywhere to turn for help.
c. And in this passage, the problem isn’t having money or even making money. The problem was in what we do with our money
d. On another occasion I was visiting with a young man who had a promising career with a major company. He had just been offered a promotion that would greatly add to his family income. But along with that promotion would be the responsibility of traveling often and being away from his family days and sometimes weeks at a time. My advice to him was to think long and hard about what he was being offered and how it would affect his relationship with his wife and small children. And I made the statement that I feel is very true: ‘Sometimes the cost of money is way too expensive!
e. The point Jesus is making has to do with that which is most important to us. If work and accumulation of wealth is more important to us than honoring and obeying God, our values are definitely askew. And that is a spiritual problem!
II. CONTROLLING OR BEING CONTROLLED.
a. Matthew 6: 24 says, “No man can serve two masters…” The Greek word from which we get “Serve” in this verse really means “enslaved.” “No man can be a slave to two masters.” William Barclay in his Daily Bible Study commentary has this to say about this word: “To understand all that this means and implies we must remember two things about the slaves in the ancient world. First, the slave in the eyes of the law was not a person but a thing. He had absolutely no rights of his own; his master could do with him absolutely as he liked. In the eyes of the law the slave was a living tool. His master could sell him, beat him, throw him out, and even kill him. His master possessed him as completely as he possessed any of his material possessions. Second, in the ancient world a slave had literally no time which was his own. Every moment of his life belonged to his master…and was at his owner’s disposal. Barclay goes on to say, “Here, then, is our relationship to God. In regard to God we have no rights of our own; God must be undisputed master of our lives. We can never ask, ‘What do I wish to do?’ We must always ask, ‘What does God wish me to do?’ We have no time which is our own. We cannot sometimes say, ‘I will do what God wishes me to do, and, at other times, say, ‘I will do what I like.’ The Christian has no time off from being a Christian; there is no time when he can relax his Christian standards, as if he was off duty. A partial or a spasmodic service of God is not enough. Being a Christian is a whole time job. Nowhere in the Bible is the exclusive service which God demands more clearly set forth…”
b. To make ourselves a slave to someone is to give that person complete control over us. I’ve known many people who have allowed money—or their desire for money—to control their every thought and action—usually to the detriment of their family or their health, and certainly to their relationship with God.
c. So, the strength of the message of this passage is this: We either belong entirely to God or entirely to money. We cannot have it both ways. “Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” (Matthew 6:24a).
III. THE HEART IS LOCATED WITH YOUR TREASURE.
a. I can tell you that there are many things that I treasure:
i. I treasure my family. I would lay down my life for anyone of them—my wife, my children, my grandchildren. I treasure my family very highly. It would be accurate to say, that “My heart is with my family.”
ii. I treasure my freedom as an American. And the few times I have been out of the country I quickly realized how fortunate I am to be an American and when I returned home I was tempted to kneel and kiss the ground. My heart is in America!
iii. I could go on like this, but let me conclude this way: While in my heart I have loyalty and love for many things, there is one thing that far exceeds them all. Jesus said that the greatest of all the commandments is this: “”Love the Lord thy God with all your heart…soul…mind…and strength.” And my heart is with God because I know He is the One who loves me so much that He gave His only-begotten Son, who took my sins upon himself and died in my place to pay the debt I could never pay on my own. All I am, all I have, all I ever hope to be—it all belongs to God. He is my treasure. He has my heart. All these other things are secondary. They have their place, but my love must first of all be for Him: “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you.” (Matthew 6:33).
I believe it was General Superintendent Jerald Johnson who said, “We should wear the clothes of this world very loosely.”
In the same sense William Barclay tells this story: “…a conversation between a young and ambitious lad and an older man who knew life:
“I will,” said the young man, “learn my trade.”
“And then?” said the older man.
“I will set up in business.”
“I will make my fortune.”
“I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.’
“Well, I suppose that someday I will die.”
“And then?” came the last stabbing question. The man who never remembers that there is another world is destined some day for the grimmest of grim shock.”
Today, could you be totally honest with yourself and truly consider where you ultimate treasure is?
Where is your heart this morning?