Here we are, April. At Cornerstone, as most of you know, April signifies the end of our church year and the beginning of a brand new church year and financial year. If you are wondering why April and not December there are probably a couple of reasons. And if you are really interested give me a call sometime and we’ll chat about it.
I made a decision ten years ago that instead of preaching about stewardship in response to some financial crisis in the church that I would begin to develop a theology of giving at Cornerstone and methodically preach on it each year as one church year came to an end and another one began. It also allows us to address the issue of year end finances and new year finances together. So here we are. April, or money month as it’s been dubbed by some.
Now I understand that not everyone enjoys it when the preacher preaches on money, don’t feel bad, most preachers don’t enjoy it when the preacher preaches on money. But I have discovered that most people don’t mind, they understand that if they are going to enjoy having a building to worship in, with heat in the winter and cooling in the summer, if they are going to enjoy the benefit of having a pastoral staff then somewhere along the line it will have to be paid for and paid for responsibly.
And all the expenses at Cornerstone are paid by those who attend here and who give sacrificially. And some folks think “Well there are others who can afford to pay for it.” Regardless of our circumstances giving costs something, every dollar that someone chooses to give to God’s work could have been spent or invested elsewhere, but a choice was made.
But the issue isn’t what others are doing; the issue for each one of us should be what we are doing. Throughout the Bible from the very first book God’s people were called to make giving a part of their worship, because God knew that something that costs you nothing is worth exactly what you pay for it.
And we appreciate those who sacrificially give to God’s work here at Cornerstone and with a $275,000.00 a year budget it really does require effort from all of us. There is no one person who can or does underwrite Cornerstone.
So the message today begins with a little history lesson. Cornerstone had its beginning 17 years ago this summer. Angela and I and our two children, who were 10 and 7 at the time, had returned from Brisbane Australia and under the sponsorship of the Atlantic District came to Bedford to start a new Wesleyan church.
The financial commitment from the denomination was $10,000.00 American which was to be used to buy equipment, supplies and advertising and provide some training. And back then $10,000.00 American was about 14 grand Canadian. And from the District we were on a three year plan where the first year we would receive $30,000.00, year two we would receive $15,000.00 and year three we would receive $7,500.00 and then we were on our own. And from that funding we needed to pay my salary, office expenses, phones, advertising and facility rentals.
So as you can probably guess part of my responsibility was to raise the extra support we would need. So, our first year in Bedford I would meet people through the week and try to convince them to join us on this grand adventure and on the weekends I would travel throughout the Maritimes and Maine and beg.
Well, the churchy term was to do deputation, and I called it my “Dog and Pony show”, but the reality was that every week would see me in a different church and sometimes two different churches with my cap out asking for money and prayer support. And some I did very well at, and some, well not so well, not even sure if it paid for the gas to get there. I wore out a car that first year, it was not unusual for me to put a 1000 or more km on my car each weekend.
But I had an interesting conversation with an old Wesleyan preacher by the name of A.D. Cann on one of those trips and by old I mean old. It was at First Wesleyan in Fredericton, I had spoken there in an evening service toward the end of Denn’s magical mystery tour.
We actually were worshipping together as a church by that time, so one Sunday I had preached at our service and then I jumped in my car and drove to Fredericton for the six o’clock service.
After I had finished speaking Rev. Cann approached me at the door and told me that I was making a mistake when I stressed having prayer partners over giving partners. You know in my appeal I would let people know that as important as having their financial support was that what we really needed was their prayer support.
I guess I hadn’t expected that from someone like A.D. Cann. He saw by my confused look that I just didn’t get it, and so he said “Remember what Jesus said, Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Rev. Cann went on to tell me that most people got that scripture mixed up and would say “that where your heart is there your treasure would be also.” And then he told me “People might say they are praying for you but if they aren’t supporting you financially they probably won’t have a passion or a reason to pray for you. But if they are supporting you they will be praying for you, even if it’s only when the write the cheque each month.”
And I thought “Darn, why hadn’t I heard that at the beginning instead of the end of this process.”
You heard that scripture read for you this morning, it is a part of Jesus’ greatest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount and it is just one of the many places that Jesus talks about our money, how we earn it and how we spend it.
So that will be our theme for this month, Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Or simply put our theme is “The Treasures of the Heart.”
2000 years ago people weren’t a whole lot different than they are today; they were concerned with where they would live, what they would eat what they wear and at the end of the day whether or not they would have a little extra to put aside for a rainy day. Every day they got up and went to work in order to meet those basic needs of their lives, and Jesus was speaking to those needs and those concerns when he warned people in Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. And two thousand years later those things we collect still are in danger of rotting, rusting or being ripped off. And with the stock market we could add just plain disappearing.
But that isn’t what Jesus is warning people about, if you want to make faulty investments that is your choice. If you want to collect shoes, cars or billy goats that’s up to you. But if you profess to follow Christ, if you profess to be a God lover then Jesus is telling you to make sure that your love for stuff doesn’t take the place of your love for God. And in the final measure, the number of shoes, cars or billy goats that you have will be irrelevant. Jesus is telling us that if you want to take peek into a man’s soul you just need to take a peek at his treasures.
But it’s not as simple as just looking at a person’s net worth, it’s the motives that drives them. How often have you heard people say “Jesus said that money is the root of all evil”? Nope not at all, Jesus never said it. What they are alluding to is a paragraph written by Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Now listen to the rest of the paragraph: And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Get it? It’s not money it’s the love of money, and poor folks can fall into this trap as easily as rich folks can.
And so Jesus advises us to store our treasures in heaven and as a result that is where our loyalties and priorities will be. He tells us that what we are doing with our treasure, no matter if it’s a big treasure or a little treasure will be indicative of deeper more important matters in our life. And maybe you are sitting there thinking to yourself: “Self I am glad I don’t have to worry about this because I don’t have any treasures.”
Well compared to some of our neighbours we may not have much treasure but globally we are obscenely wealthy. A couple of things to think about 20% of the world’s population lives on $1.00 a day, another 20% live on $2.00 a day. 20% live on more than $70.00 a day and the other 40% fall somewhere in between. 8% of the world’s population own a car. The combined income of the 477 wealthiest people in the world is greater than the combined income of half the world. Did you catch that 477 people are richer than 3.25 billion people combined.
And so Jesus gives us direction in determining where our treasures are being invested.
When I started studying this scripture I completely missed the first point. Jesus talks about having treasures in heaven and then he immediately segues into Matthew 6:22-23 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” And then he segues back otthe money again. I was confused, what do your eyes have to do with your treasure? Why would Jesus stick a completely different thought into this series of thoughts on where our treasure is?
And then it hit me: What if this isn’t a different thought?
We Can Determine where our Treasures are by What We Are Looking At: Here is a deep thought, you don’t have to have a treasure for it to be your treasure. Something can take a priority in your life long before you actually obtain it. Those who would guide you to success would encourage you to cut out pictures of those things that you dream about and put them on your fridge, or the mirror of the medicine cabinet where you can see them every day and visualize them as yours. But they aren’t yours and simply looking at them won’t make them yours, but it might make you bitter because you don’t have them.
I heard a married man defend his girl watching habits once by saying “Just because you are on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.” But if you’ve ever been on a diet you know the worst thing you can do is look at the menu. You might go into the restaurant with the very best of intentions, a grilled chicken breast, a baked potatoes and asparagus, and then you looked at the menu.
That’s why Jesus warned people in Matthew 5:28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Because that is what happened to King David way back in 2 Samuel 11:2 Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. I’m assuming that the accidental view turned into something more prolonged because it wasn’t long before we read that David asked his servant to find out who she was and we are told in 2 Samuel 11:3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” And it wasn’t long after that he had invited her to see his etching and then the bible records that they slept together. David was a married man and Bathsheba was a married woman, just not to each other. There wasn’t anything David could do about his first glimpse of the beautiful Bathsheba, but he didn’t have to look again.
It was earlier in David’s life that he wrote in Psalm 25:15 My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies. And if he had kept his eyes on the Lord he would have kept the rest of him out of trouble.
What is it that you are looking at?
This isn’t so much a warning about having as a warning about wanting. Because ultimately if we want it bad enough the question will be asked, what are you willing to do to get it? What price are you willing to pay? And it becomes a never ending quest for more. What I call: the Cult of the Next Best Thing. A bigger house, a better car, more pleasure. And what you would be willing to do for it. That’s why one of the Ten Commandments warns us about wanting what our neighbour has. Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”
If you went to Sunday School as a child perhaps you sang the chorus. “Be careful little eyes what you see.” And that warning is a valid today as it was way back in Sunday School.
And Jesus continues by saying Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
We Can Determine Where Our Treasures Are By What We Serve. What is it in your life that has your priorities? What has your focus, your passion? I used to tell people that I could tell what their priorities were by looking at the two most important books in their life, their cheque book and their date book. Well we don’t have cheque books or date books anymore, we do it on our pc’s but the principle holds true. You can tell what is important to you by how you spend your money and how you spend your time.
What would you be willing to do to maintain your life style? Your salary? Do you remember the warning that we read earlier from the book of Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. They were willing to give up the eternal for the temporal. You understand that at the end of your life all that you will hold in your hands is who you are, not what you had. Thirty years ago Bob Dylan wrote the song “You gotta serve somebody.” And you will choose what or who you are going to serve. And what will they pay? Will it be in things that will rot and rust, or will it be in currency that will last forever.
Where will you invest the treasures of your heart?
It is getting close to Easter and the story that is told in Matthew 26:14-15 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.
And there have been all kinds of theories about why Judas betrayed Christ. Some think he betrayed Christ because of political motives; he had originally followed Jesus thinking that Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom and he became impatient and was trying to force Jesus’ hand. Others would say that it is much simpler than that Judas did what he did for the money, and we are told that the thirty pieces of silver that he was paid would be worth over $1,600.00 in today’s currency, not bad for an evening’s work.
But whatever reason there was something in the story that was more important to Judas than his relationship with Christ. That’s where his treasure was and that is where his heart was.
On the other hand was the story told in Luke 7:37-38 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
In a similar story in the book of Mark we are told that the jar of perfume was worth a year’s salary. It was probably her savings and maybe it was part of her exit strategy out of her life. Undoubtedly it was all she had and yet in Jesus she saw someone who was worth everything and more. We don’t know the entire back story but at that point we do know where her treasure was and where her heart was.
And so Jesus is asking: Where do your loyalties lie? Who or what are you serving?
And then Jesus tells the people who followed him that day, Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
We Can Determine Where Our Treasures Are By What We Worry About. What are your concerns in life? What keeps you up at night? Do you worry about how much money you make or don’t make? Do you worry about keeping the stuff you have and do you worry about getting more stuff? Jesus wasn’t telling people that what we eat, what we wear and where we live isn’t important in our life, just that it shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life.
Because if we go back to Jesus initial statement Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. If your treasure is in the stock market you will be thinking a lot about the stock market and watching it go up and down. If your treasure is in the bank you will be thinking about the bank and the interest rates they are paying. But if your treasure is in heaven than you will be thinking about heaven.
But the reality is that most of us didn’t need to hear this message because we know exactly where our treasure is.