Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 6:16-21
October 21, 2018
Last week we learned Paul’s “secret.” Do you remember? It was the secret of being content, of having peace, “in all circumstances.” And what was that secret? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” That’s what Paul called his “secret” to having that peace.
Well, this week we turn to the actual words of him who “strengthens us” – Jesus. These are some of the most famous words Jesus ever spoke. They are from his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” And as we hear these words again, consider my growing belief, the belief that there was in attendance that day, a certain Pharisee, named Saul of Tarsus.
As we pick up his sermon at this point, Jesus is dealing with some very practical things about living this life. Like Paul, Jesus gave us both the spiritual teaching, and the practical aspects of that spiritual teaching. And where we read today, Jesus is giving us some practical thoughts that lead up to the passage we’re going to talk about next week. That’s the place where he talks about worry and stress and what those things do to us.
If you remember, we just heard Paul’s version of that from Philippians 4. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Well, Jesus will get to that. But first he leads up to it by talking about “things we treasure.” And that’s all part of the picture. Because “what we treasure” is often the source of much stress and anxiety! Isn’t that true? And the thing is, I don’t believe God wants us not to have “things.” What he does want is for us is to have perspective on those things. He doesn’t want us to stress about them. He wants us to know what is truly important in this life!
That’s hard, though, isn’t it? It’s too easy to find ourselves stressed out about what we have and what we don’t have, what we need or think we need. Those things can dominate our thinking. They can consume us, can’t they? And Jesus knew that. He saw that in people. And so he gave us these words. And he told us these things because he loves us and he wants the very best for us! That’s one thing we should never loose sight of!
So, this is not about “having” it’s about “treasuring.” We’re focusing on the verb today. The noun is treasure. It is the things. The verb is “treasure.” It means “to value highly.” It means to desire, perhaps above all things. It is that which we focus on and maybe even obsess about. So Jesus is saying literally, “do not treasure treasures on earth.” This is not about just having or getting. It’s about wanting and desiring! It’s about treasuring! It’s about that which we highly value.
So, think about it. What do we “treasure” in this life? What do you treasure? Is it things? Is it people? Is it memories or experiences? We might also say, what do we “highly value” in this life. And as he asks us that question, Jesus is also trying to show us how the “things we treasure” affect our general and spiritual well being! They affect our “stress level!”
What do you “treasure” in this life? And do you really treasure God’s kingdom? How valuable to you are the “things of God?” That’s what Jesus is asking here. And keep in mind that the Church – this Church – is your nearest connection with God’s kingdom. That’s a good thing to think about during this time of Stewardship! How much do you “treasure” your Church?
As you think about that, remember that you always make time (and make room in your budget!) for things that are important to you! Jesus’ version of that, which we read today, was this. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I think those are some of the wisest words ever spoken about our earthly and heavenly treasure!
So, what about it? What do you treasure? Is what you treasure now the same as what you used to treasure? We had fun thinking about this on Monday. For example, think about finding something in your attic, something you once had to have, and now it’s there, just gathering dust! It isn’t so important any more! We should all do that from time to time. We should look at the things we have, and the things we have put in storage. That really helps us to get perspective on things of this world!
Alright, then think about something you used to have, but you don’t have any more, but you were told later that it has great value!!! Has that ever happened to you? What have you thrown away over the years that’s now worth money? Or perhaps you had something that had of great value, that you didn’t know it did! Or you found something that seemed worthless at first, and you found out later it wasn’t!
Every once in a while, you hear stories of somebody finding a Picasso painting in a yard sale! Jesus told the story of the man finding the one pearl of great price. He didn’t say where. Maybe it was in a Jerusalem yard sale! Maybe we need to be a little more careful about that stuff for sale on the Church table at the Flea Market!
We had something like that happen to us in our family. Did any of you ever hear of a woman named Neysa McMein? Through the miracle of modern search engines, I went back and found I mentioned her briefly back in 2007. Let me refresh your memory.
Neysa McMein was an american artist and illustrator who lived in the “Roaring ‘20’s.” She was well known in society! Her New York apartment was often the scene of parties that included the “who’s who” of her time. She even dated one of the Marx brothers! (Harpo, I believe.) Well, her art work was also well known! Her works appeared on a number of the important magazine covers of the time, including “The Saturday Evening Post.” (It wasn’t just Norman Rockwell!)
Well, we had a large picture on our wall growing up. And it was a picture of a “society lady” with a big bonnet, and white gloves, and she was holding a small bouquet of flowers We used to call that picture, “The ugly lady on the wall.” (Yeah, we were rotten kids!)
Well, a few years ago, my brother did some research, and he discovered that that picture was a pastel painting done by Neysa McMein! And that particular picture appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post! He even found a picture of the actual magazine. You can find it on Google! I’ve seen it! Well, my brother also discovered that our picture was not a reproduction! It was the actual picture painted by Neysa McMein, and it was worth many thousands of dollars! Suddenly the “ugly lady on the wall,” was not so ugly! We never knew what we had hanging on our wall, and we looked at every day! Something had great value that we didn’t know about!
Well, Jesus is asking us to think about what is valued in this world? What do people treasure? What do we treasure? And he is asking us – no, actually he’s telling us – this is in the imperative mood – he’s telling us to “treasure not the things of earth. Treasure instead the things of heaven.” It is indeed the treasures in heaven that are lasting. As Paul would later tell the Corinthians, “We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient – that is, they are temporary – but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Again, this is not about what he have, it’s about what we treasure! It’s about what is valued and about who values it. Our world often has all of that out of whack! And it tries to suck us in. And as we’re figuring all this out, we need to be careful who it is we’re listening to.
The world tells us every day that to look to the treasures on earth. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” And then these incredibly insightful words, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Eternal God, help us to have and keep a heavenly perspective on the worldly things. Help us to see the value of your kingdom, and to keep everything else in proper perspective. Above all, help us to know the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ, our Lord. For this we pray in his name, Amen.