Matthew 6:19-21, 25-34
November 1, 2009
What do you treasure most in this world? You know what I mean by that, don’t you! What is most important to you? Is it your family? Is it your home? Is it your Church? Is it your job? What is it that’s most near and dear to your heart? That’s the kind of question Jesus would ask. In his ministry, Jesus looked on the heart. When his detractors questioned him, they wanted to talk doctrine and religion – even politics. But Jesus was more interested in talking about what was in their hearts.
Do you remember the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give to the poor. And he didn’t tell everyone to do that. But when he looked on that young man’s heart, he saw the real problem. He saw what the man treasured the most. And he saw he needed to replace that “love of money” with a love of God. He needed to redirect his heart!
One of my longest and best friends became a lawyer. And a couple of years ago we were at a big dinner together, and he was talking about his exercise routine. And at one point he said that his doctor measured his heart rate at under 70. And before I could stop myself, I said, “Wow, Jeff. Being a lawyer and all, it’s amazing he could even find a heart!” I can’t repeat what he said to me!
Well, all kidding aside, what I want you to see today – what I want to remind you of today – is that God looks on our hearts. God cares about our hearts. He’s not as concerned with what the rational part of us is thinking, as much as he is concerned about what’s going on in our hearts. He cares about that deepest, sometimes most suppressed part of our being. He wants us to see what are our hearts are longing for.
Last week I talked about how people in our world place a high emphasis on “intelligence.” And if you’ll remember, I said that it’s “wisdom” that’s more important to God. Well, unfortunately, it’s the same with matters of the heart. The world sees the rational, intelligent part of us as predominant, and it makes the heart subservient. And again, I’m not saying it’s not important to “learn things.” Far from it! I love learning! But too many people have forgotten their hearts in the “all important” pursuit of knowledge and intelligence.
In my most recent years, I’ve been “redirected” in my thinking as I’ve read the words of John Eldredge. Through his books, I’ve come to a better understanding of the importance of the heart in all matters of life. I’ve come so see more clearly what Eldredge so desperately wants his readers to see, that there are so many broken hearted people in this world. (I realize I once was one of those!) And there are so many people who have sacrificed their hearts on the altars of intelligence, and popularity, and possessions, and power. They may “have everything,” but they’ve lost their souls. They may “be smart,” but they’ve lost their heart!
It’s become so ironic to me lately that often when you look at menus in restaurants, you see little heart symbols next to certain dishes. You know what that means. That means those are “heart healthy” choices. And you can find those same words a lot of food packaging in grocery stores. Everybody is concerned with “heart health.” But so many miss the real source of “heart health.” They forget to care for their hearts – to “guard their hearts.” as the scripture says. And by the way, possessions are not the problem. Though having many of them can cloud the real issues of the heart. Actually, I believe it is entirely possible for a person to have a lot of things and to know many things, and still have their heart! And I hope that’s us!
Today is Stewardship Sunday. And what I want us to see today is that Stewardship is ultimately a matter of the heart. That’s why I’m saying all this stuff. Sure, Stewardship does have to do with numbers and budgets and obligations. And all of that is important. But the scriptures show us that our Stewardship is ultimately a matter of our hearts! That’s where our motivation comes from. We give because we love God’s kingdom! We give because we love our church.
We’ve been looking at this passage from II Corinthians chapter 9. And this is such an amazing passage about Stewardship! Let me remind you of Paul’s words. He said, “You are to give as you have made up your mind…” Now, that sounds like a rational decision, doesn’t it? But very quickly he takes it out of that realm and makes it a matter of attitude! He says, “…but not reluctantly or under compulsion. For God loves a (?) cheerful giver.” That brings it down to the heart! And that’s a decision, isn’t it? We can choose our attitudes. We can choose what we do and think in our hearts.
Of course, one of the most profound things ever said about this comes from the one who best understands our hearts. Jesus said, “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but instead, store up treasure in heaven. For where your treasure is there will your (?) heart be also.” The word translated “store up” here is not a word that means to “stockpile” or “accumulate.” It’s the verb form of the Greek word for treasure. The word is “Theysaurus.” What does that sound like? Thesaurus! The Greek word meant a storehouse, or a repository. But more importantly, it meant a treasury – a place where we keep our most valuable things! We’ve used it to mean a treasury of words. But here it means more. And in the verb form it means, “Do not treasure the things of earth.”
That’s what we started with this morning, isn’t it? “What do you treasure most in this life?” We need to think about what is the most near and dear to our (?) heart! (There’s that word again!) Why? “Because,” Jesus concludes, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Just as an example, think for a moment what that means in terms of our time. It has been said, and I agree, that you always have time for that which is important to you! Whatever is near and dear to your heart, you’ll find time for it!! “And, if you aren’t finding time for it, you have to ask yourself, how important is it?”
It’s the same with our earthly treasure. What we spend our money on is what is important to us! And we’ll always find the extra money when something is near and dear to our hearts! Now, I know that’s not always easy! I know this has been a tough year for everybody. I’m sure many of us have had times when there has been no excess – no “disposable income.” (And don’t you just love that description?) But it still holds true that where our heart is, there will our treasure be also. (And by the way, do you think that maybe God shouldn’t be getting that which is simply “disposable”?)
I know there are those of us think of the Church first. I know that some of you, when you sit down each month to pay the bills, you write that very first check for your pledge. And those of you who do know that it’s because of the heart, isn’t it? You’re not doing so, as Paul described, “out of reluctance or compulsion.” You know that where your heart is, there is your treasure! And I hope you will remember what I’ve said before, that a Church is never as strong when people’s minds are convinced, as it is when their hearts are inspired! I hope that’s us!
Just before I began, we sang the great old hymn “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.” Well, do you? And does that affect your stewardship? Sometimes we have to remember our love for God, don’t we? In the letter to Ephesus in Revelation the spirit says, “You’ve done wonderful things. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4) Do you remember that? What was the exhortation then? It was to, “Remember.” It was to choose to reawaken that love!
At one point in our Stewardship campaign, we were talking about the challenges ahead of us. And clearly we have challenges! We cannot forget that! But at one point, someone said, “That means we gotta dig deep.” And the more I’ve thought about that, the more I realize that person was right. But not just in terms of “digging deep into our pockets.” It’s even more true that we need to “dig deep into our hearts!”
Some of us need to rediscover our hearts. Some of us need to have our hearts healed!! Some of us need to learn to “guard our hearts.” All of us need to remember this day, and in the year ahead of us, that it is in our hearts where true stewardship resides. May we treasure the kingdom of God. May we put our money, not where our mouth is, but where our heart is!
Let me close with Paul’s concluding words to the Corinthians. And then we will move to the dedication of our pledges. Paul said, “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may have enough of everything, and may be able to provide in abundance for every good work!” May our Stewardship come from the heart. And may it produce both joy and abundance, so that we can provide abundantly for God’s kingdom!
Eternal God, we do love thy kingdom! Help us to have hearts for you, to know we are yours, and to love you with all of our being! Inspire us, Lord. Guide us in being good stewards. And please, bless our efforts here in this place, as we seek to be your joyous people. For we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.