Sunday August 11th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Isaiah 1:16-20; Luke 12:32-40
Playing the Stock Market
Several years ago I became curious about the stock market, and so I decided to invest in a few stocks for my kids, just for the fun of it. I had about $60 that I was willing to lose if things went sour, so I bought three shares in three different companies that were each selling stocks for around $20 per share.
After purchasing those stocks, something interesting began to happen — I became interested in following the stock market! My ears perked up when the newscaster mentioned whether the Dow Jones or Nasdaq had risen or fallen that day, which was something that I had never paid attention to before. I would find myself occasionally googling the stock prices of those three companies to see whether my little investments were gaining or losing value.
One of the companies that I bought stock in was Southwest Airlines, and a few months after I purchased that stock I found myself flying on a Southwest airplane on the way to a conference. And while flying on that airplane I smiled to myself, knowing that in some small way I was helping my stock gain value.
I invested in Ford on behalf of my eldest daughter, and for several years after that, every time we would see a Ford on the road my daughter would proudly proclaim that that car had been produced by “her” company.
In other words, because of the little financial investment that I made, our family began to care about things that we had never cared about before. We began to care about financial indexes and stock prices and about the companies of which we were (a very tiny) part owners. We wanted to see them succeed, we celebrated when their stock prices rose and mourned when their stock prices dropped.
Because our money was there, our heart was there also.
Where Your Treasure Is…
In Luke 12:32-34, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
And then he says this rather startling statement: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It’s startling because in our society we tend to promote the opposite. One common saying in American society is, “Put your money where your mouth is.” In other words, if you believe in something, back it up with your actions — your time, money or resources.
We have the mindset that if you really care about something you should give towards that. Even in the Church, we implicitly say things like, “If you really care about Missions, you should support missionaries! If you care about the poor, you should give your money to help those who are less fortunate than you. If there’s a cause that is deeply on your heart, give financially to help that cause.”
But here in Luke 12:34, Jesus isn’t telling us to give to the things that we already care about. Jesus is essentially saying, if you want to care about something, then invest in it, and your heart will follow. If you invest in things here on this earth, then that’s where your mind will be oriented towards. But if you want your heart to be set on heaven, then put your treasure there.
Just like I began to care more about the financial well-being of the Ford Company and Southwest Airlines after I invested stock in them, so too will we begin to care more about the things of heaven, where God dwells and reigns, when we invest our time, talents, and treasures in things that are eternal.
…there your heart will be also
Now some of you might say, but wouldn’t that be disingenuous? Wouldn’t it be wrong to give my time, money, or resources to causes that I don’t believe in, or to organizations that I don’t care about?
But the question is not, what do you already care about? But rather, what do you want to care about? Not, where is your heart? But, where do you want your heart to be?
You see, if Jesus told us to spend our money on things that we care about already, most of us would spend it on things related to ourselves. Why? Because most of us care about ourselves. If you’re like me, you probably have a whole list of things you would buy if you had enough money.
But if I’m honest with myself, most of the things that I want are not really essential. Most of those things are luxury items that might provide temporary happiness, but in the end would probably end up getting shoved in a corner where they would collect dust, or become obsolete. Most of the time when I spend money on myself it provides temporary satisfaction, but it is not something that will last for eternity.
Treasures in Heaven
In contrast, Jesus wants us to spend our money on resources on things that will last, things that will have eternal value. And maybe those are not things that you already care about, but if you put your treasure there, then your heart will follow.
Do you want to care about foreign missions? Then find a missionary who ministering in a particular area of the world and support them! I promise you that you will begin to pray more fervently, care more deeply, and love the people of that country more passionately. Your ears will perk up when you hear news of events happening in the province where the missionary your support is working, you’ll begin to pay more attention to issues facing the particular people that missionary is serving.
Do you want to care more about the poor in our city? Then give your time, money, or resources to organizations working to help those in need, such as the Food Pantry that we host here at our church. Keep a box in your own pantry where you can collect canned goods that you can give away. Give to a family in your neighborhood who does not have enough food to eat. You’ll not only begin to care more deeply for individuals in your community, but you’ll begin to care more about policies and procedures that affect those who are marginalized and impoverished in our city.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Treasures on Earth
It’s actually really difficult to find really good, solid, safe and secure places to invest our money. Banks are pretty secure, but they give very little interest in return. Mutual funds are pretty solid, but it is possible for them to lose value. Stocks have the potential to return great dividends, but they can also be risky.
We can always store away our treasures in our homes, but then there’s the constant fear that it might get lost, stolen, or destroyed.
As a society we spend a lot of money trying to keep our treasures secure. Many times, the treasures that we hold so dearly are above and beyond what we need. We store things away in case we might need them some day. But so often they become worn out, obsolete, or destroyed by moths or mildew when we don’t use them. (I definitely learned this the hard way when I stored one of my favorite guitars in our basement for a whole year, and the drastic changes in temperature caused my guitar to warp beyond repair!)
But Jesus encourages his followers, rather than spending a lot of time worrying about how to keep our money and possessions safe and secure, instead of tearing down our barns to build bigger barns to store our excess food, to instead give our wealth away to those who are in need.
Writing in the 4th Century A.D., Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom said it this way. He said that one should enjoy “luxury in moderation and [distribute] the rest to the stomachs of the poor.” Martin Luther King Jr. put it even more plainly when he said “Where can we store our goods?…We can store our surplus food free of charge in the shriveled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who go to bed hungry at night.”
When we do this — when we sell our possessions and give our alms to the poor, when we give our excess food to the hungry, we make purses that do not wear out, we store up unfailing treasures in heaven. And we never have to worry about our heavenly treasures getting lost, broken, stolen, or losing value.
And so this morning I want to challenge and encourage us to give our time, talents, and treasures to things that matter, to things that are eternal. Invest in things that will last forever. As it says in Isaiah, “Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
When we do this we will store up treasures in heaven. And where our treasures are, there our hearts will be also.