Heavenly Treasures – 9-8-19 – Pastor Donna Doutt

Last week in my message, we talked about the early church…those who were new to Christianity. We talked about how they loved their church, showing their love to all they encountered, and how the church grew daily. They came together to building their relationships, study the Bible, break bread together, and build the church.

[1]The first church knew that love meant sacrifice. They used their possessions to make sure that everyone needs were met in their congregation. They shared what they had, and because of their love, no one among them was needy. I would like to think that if someone in this church was in need, that they would understand we would do as we were able to help them as those early Christians did.

The new congregations relied on godliness to make them content. The generosity of the church in meeting all of the needs among them allowed the apostles to preach with great power. The actions of the church bore witness to the change that Jesus could bring to a life. Everyone was experiencing God’s grace, and it was a compelling witness to their world.

Not one person among them was needy. Do you remember last week when you heard me say that there were thousands of people in the new church? But in Acts 4:32-35, we read scripture that tells us “none of them were needy.”

Here this interpretation from The Message: Acts 4:32-35 “The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. 34-35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.”

At Riverview United Methodist Church, as we prepare for their 100th anniversary celebration, I’ve seen documents that confirmed that people mortgaged their properties, or borrowed money to build that church. I’m sure the same thing happened at Faith on Jefferson and Faith on 68. Those were the days when no one made any bones about putting your money where your mouth was!

What is that prevents us from experiencing that level of sacrifice and commitment in our churches today? First Timothy 6:6-7 might give us a clue. “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.” 

Who remembers my sermon from last month, “You Can’t Take It With You?” We modern-era Christians don’t often seek our contentment in Jesus. We don’t understand the value of godliness. We have been deceived into thinking that money and things are the source of peace and stability in our lives today. Nothing could further from the truth. Money has never been a stable asset, and possessions can disappear with the flick of a match.

When you listen to people who have experienced natural disasters and have lost everything they own, they often say that they are just happy their family is safe. Suddenly, their possessions no longer matter to them.

We only have an illusion of control over them. However godliness is a treasure that can’t be lost. It’s much more valuable that your grandma’s cuckoo clock or the stocks we have saved for retirement. Not only is it of precious value in this world, but unlike our “things” and loaded wallets, we CAN take it with us! It’s attained here on earth and stored in heaven. Our heavenly treasure!

So, when we compare worldly riches with godly actions, it’s no contest as to what should be sacrificed. The early church understood this spiritual economy, and everyone in their company benefited from it. They knew their possessions didn’t matter to them if there were people in the church who were suffering. They wanted to meet needs more than they wanted “stuff!” Giving sacrificially was a source of contentment for them. It helped them grow closer to God and to each other.

So does this mean that those of us who are rich should sacrifice what we have for the poor? You may not like this, but I’m going to say ABSOLUTELY! But those who are poor also need to sacrifice to meet the physical needs of others. Each of us must give as we are able.

Think about the scripture of the “widow’s mite.” Let’s hear that again! Jesus was, “sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

What did Jesus mean when He said that the widow had put more money into the treasury than anyone else? Clearly, he was indicating that economic value is relative! The widow’s contribution would have been nothing but spare change to the rich who preceded her. But to her, two mites represented enormous value. It was “all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Replacing it would be difficult, if not impossible; as a poor widow, she was probably unemployable. Giving it to God meant that she could not use it to buy her next crust of bread.

But Jesus indicated that God placed moral rather than economic value on her tiny offering. Her gift showed that she was giving herself entirely to God and trusting in Him to meet her needs. Her use of money disclosed the moral and spiritual condition of her heart. Her gift of the two mites became stored as her heavenly treasure.

I read an article put out by the Pennsylvania Lottery that says based on a MarketWatch survey, 1 out of 3 lottery winners go bust. The fact that this trend increases among lottery winners makes me wonder if it’s because they did not have to work for it. As the saying goes, ‘easy come, easy go”.

It’s unfortunate, that when some of these people win the lottery, they don’t see their prizes as a life-changing gift to better their futures. Instead, they live for the moment and spend far too much. Even the fairly modest lottery wins seem likely to trigger spending that just wouldn’t happen if the money had been earned. These people are missing the point of wealth. Giving is truly more important than receiving. It sounds like those statistics will bear that out.

The act of giving has more gain than just meeting an immediate need in someone’s life. It changes us and gives us something that we didn’t have before we shared our wealth. And this increase in godliness is meant for all of us, rich and poor alike.

To the rich, it gives a new perspective: a realization that God supplies us with all things to enjoy. Riches are temporary and uncertain. Storing riches in heaven through giving is a sure foundation for the future, much more certain than any worldly investment can provide.

To those who do not fall into that category of “rich” (which I think many of us do), Jesus asks us to work and earn a wage so that we have something to share with those in need.

Because we love Christ and choose to follow Him, we toil so that we WILL have something to share with those in need. If we look at our work in this way, it makes our jobs more meaningful. If the purpose for which we work has meaning…true meaning…our labor is not in vain. Obeying Jesus by loving our neighbor changes us. And it will change our attitude about work. It profits us.

The Apostle Paul is the most well-known Christian missionary. He was beaten, persecuted, shipwrecked and thrown into prison numerous times for His faith, and yet wrote half of the New Testament!

Most of the church doctrine you see today is a result of Paul’s writings. Paul was an amazing and gifted man of God; and one that we would all do well in esteeming. Paul also talked about money on more than one occasion. Here’s what we know from his teachings: [2]

1. The Love of Money Is Powerful & Destructive – He told Timothy, “it is the root of all kinds of evil.” Notice Paul never says that money itself is a root of evil – rather he says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. If money were evil, we’d all be in trouble. But loving it is where the problem lies.

2. Be Generous – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Jesus’ generosity to us through the Gospel so that we may live should motivate us to be generous to others.

3. View Your Work as a Means to a Greater End - Why do you work!? Have you ever asked yourself that before? Some of us would answer, “Because I have to” or “Because I enjoy it” or “What else would I do?”

But the Apostle Paul gives us a different view of work that I think many Americans don’t have. Here’s what he said to the Ephesians: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

4. It’s OK to Be Rich – Isn’t that contradictory? No, not really. Not at all. I don’t think Christians need to take a vow of poverty because you can be rich and not be about your wealth. It all comes down to the heart.

Where are our heavenly treasures?

With the right attitude, what could we accomplish as a church? What could God do with the wealth that He has so richly supplied us? How deeply could we love our church and witness to our world if we, in faith, trust that God is the supplier of all our needs?

I ask you today to go from here and pray that God would help you to understand the value of heavenly treasures and how you can build that wealth for the greater glory of God.

Remember our scripture from Hebrews today, preaching to those new, second generation Christians Jews, “…do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  Amen.

 

[1]   I Love My Church Small Group Leader’s Guide. Outreach, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co. 2014.

[2] https://christianpf.com/4-things-the-apostle-paul-teaches-us-about-money/

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