Treasures in Heaven

This is an outline of the notes that I use to teach my Wednesday evening class on the sayings and the life of Jesus.

The Heart of the Lesson: we will look at some of Jesus’ most difficult saying about material goods and how worrying is pointless.

Today’s Term: mammon, often translated money, but is actually worldly possessions.

Possess Nothing but Heaven (Matthew 5:3)

  1. Here is the opening of the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. The point is that Jesus turns the world’s value system upside down. You are not blessed when you have an abundance of worldly goods.
  2. You are blessed, not when you are poor, but when you are really poor, the destitute. When we have no one to turn to except God. When we are flat on our back we have nowhere to look but up. While there have been many people who were upper class, the vast majority of the ancient world were poor.
  3. Jesus knows the poor are often pitied, snubbed, and ignored but they are closer to God than most people (Revelation 3:17). They were often people of character, decency, honesty, and loyalty.
  4. Jesus commends those poor in spirit, not just the literally poor. We are not accepted by God until we recognize and confess our deep spiritual need. Believing in yourself is not the way to salvation (2 Timothy 3:2).
  5. The pattern throughout history: when Christians become wealthy, many lose their or forfeit faith (among exceptions, of course).

Give Until it Feels Good (Matthew 5:42, Luke 6:34-35)

  1. Beggars back in the day were around just like today, but Jesus is challenging us to give generously even if you can’t determine if they need what they ask for. Who has time to investigate all the requests? He may be saying, “Be willing to accept being taken in.”
  2. The Law of Moses: borrowing money interest-free (Exodus 22:25, 25:36). Wealth in monasteries increased and theologians began to justify money-lending and capitalism. Capitalism grew when Christians who were to live under vows of poverty, interest was a sin, chose to ignore their vows.

Jesus via Paul (Acts 20:33-35)

  1. Here is a saying of Jesus that is not written in the gospels… it is in read letters!
  2. Paul provided for his own needs when he was traveling (tent-making) and in Ephesus, he challenged them to follow his example. Not only provide for yourselves but have funds to help the weak and needy.

A Beggar’s Banquet (Luke 14:1, 7-14)

  1. Here we have a Sabbath meal with a prominent Pharisee. Rather than think about places and position, think about those of low status.
  2. Seek the lowest place rather than assuming the place of honor. Life is not a game of “king of the hill.”
  3. Jesus also addresses generosity without thought of reward. Don’t invite someone with the thought of a reciprocal invitation.
  4. There is genuine gratitude from people who can never repay you for your generosity and kindness.

Rust-Proofing Our Lives (Matthew 6:19-21)

  1. Material goods can easily become our idols. Many people embrace Retail Therapy to feel better about their situation or themselves.
  2. Treasure on Earth is is a temporary and false God and can disappear in an instant. People can show off their wealth through cars, clothing, technology, and possessions. Our joy and value in things will eventually fade.
  3. Our investments and possession are never secure.
  4. The Bible never says that money is the root of all evil, but the love of money (1 Timothy 6:9).

Financial Slavery (Matthew 6:24)

  1. Being a slave to wealth is not just for the wealthy, but the poor can make acquiring possessions their personal goal.
  2. The phrase “be a slave to” is better “serve.” Similarly, the word “masters” is lords or owners. The idea is clear, there is an owner-slave relationship when it comes to money and possessions. Do you possess your things or does your stuff possess you?

Worry and Anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34)

  1. Trust and provision is what we find in Psalm 23:1.
    1. A worrier believes the worst will come to pass, and if it doesn’t, we credit our worry as the factor that kept the bad from happening.
    2. A worrier attempt to take control over life, to drive away the negative by fretting over it.
    3. A worrier will create a lot of unhappiness but God is the one who satisfies (Psalm 145:15-16).
  2. A call not to worry is not a command against planning ahead, but rather a call to not let the future sap your joy for today.
  3. The antidote for worry? Prayer (Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7).
  4. God’s will is still a factor (James 4:13).

Rich and Sad (Mark 10:17-22)

  1. The man ran up to Jesus with such urgency, seeking eternal life.
  2. Good Teacher – Jesus may have seemed harsh but flattery was not going to work on him.
  3. You know the commandments – Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish the Law. The question, “which ones?” reveals perhaps he was “buying the stairway to heaven.”
  4. The desire to “do” something certainly indicates the belief in a works salvation. In his Jewish background, it did not occur to him that he needs to “be” something rather than “do” something.
  5. This guy had a lot going for him and he was striving toward doing what the Law required; he kept the Law from his youth. He was not a jaded or wayward son. He had it all, but lacked one thing (Mark 10:21).
  6. Selling all you have and giving it to the poor is not an alternate plan of salvation, we still need to be born again. Selling all he had was like a death sentence, literally. Having treasure in heaven requires that we give up our earthly treasure.
  7. Consider the disciples…
    1. No settled homes (Luke 9:58)
    2. Went hungry (Mark 2:23)
    3. Were a charity case for certain women (Luke 8:3)
    4. Had given up everything to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28)
  8. Here may be the only recorded time where someone was sad because he had a lot of wealth.

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