The Genius of Generosity #2: Lay Up Treasure in Heaven
There are three reasons, at least, Why I am happy to talk about Generosity. And these are reasons why you should be glad that I am talking about giving.
- It Puts us in Good Company
First, speaking about giving puts us in good company, namely, with Jesus. Randy Alcorn reckons that “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this possessions and giving — more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined” (The Treasure Principle).
To a rich young ruler Jesus said, “You know the commandments…Yes, teacher I do… I have kept them from my youth….Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “There is one thing you lack: Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Mark 10:19-21 Jesus loved him by flat out telling him there was something he lacked. He was holding to tightly onto things. Release, sell, give and lay up treasures in heaven.
“But God said to the man who built bigger barns to store all his goods, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21 We all will lay up treasures; either here and for ourselves or for God in heaven.
Over and over Jesus is relentless in his radical call to a lifestyle of generosity and to meeting the needs of others. So we are in good company with Jesus, not to mention the early church who: “They sold their possessions . . . and distributed the proceeds . . . to those in need…” Acts 2:45. Or the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth: “In the midst of being afflicted, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity . . . God loves a cheerful giver,” 2 Corinthians 8:2; 9:7. SO, it puts us in good company when we talk of giving and generosity.
- It has the Potential to Unleash Mercy and Missions
Second, if we as a church were gripped by the open-handed generosity that Jesus taught it has the potential to unleash an avalanche of mercy and missions! Literally hundreds if not thousands, both locally and globally, could be touched with the love of Jesus Christ. Those who now go without spiritual encouragement would receive what they need. More would hear of God’s love and come into a relationship with Jesus Christ and more would begin to live life in a way that makes this world a better place. More would be serving others and more physical and spiritual needs would be met.
Giving People Are the Happiest People on Earth
Third, if you personally were set free to give the way Jesus and the NT talk about giving, you would be the happiest people on earth. I say that because I have observed it and experienced it and I say it because the Bible teaches it:
“Happy is he who is gracious to the poor.” Proverbs 14:21
“He who is generous will be blessed.” Proverbs 22:9,
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
O, that young people would learn quickly and older people before it’s too late, that there is NO positive correlation between having many things and being happy. A life of simplicity, with a governor on your spending and a passion to advance the kingdom through giving, will be a far happier and more blessed life than a life of luxury. I plead with my children and grandchildren to learn these things early because I am convinced the older you get the more you revert back to being a two-year-old who holds on to things and says “It’s mine!” <PIC and story of grandson>
So for these three reasons I am happy to speak on generosity and giving. 1) It’s puts us in good company; 2) it has the potential to unleash mercy and missions; and, 3) if we embrace the call to generosity, it will make us happier than all the wealth in the world.
In the text that was read, there are three main imperatives, three commands. Everything else is meant to help you see the commands as wise and right and joyful. The three commands are
1) “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven“ (20) (“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” is a negative way of saying the same thing).
2) “Do not be anxious,” (25, 31, 34) found three times. “Do not be anxious about your life.” “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat, drink, or wear?’” and “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.”
3) “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness“ (33)
How Do These Commands Relate to Each Other?
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” is the large, overarching command — be passionate about experiencing the saving, purifying, empowering, love-producing, reign of God in your life. We not only pray for it -we seek “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in my life.
Then “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven“ is a specific instance of what seeking God’s kingdom involves. Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness involves not trying to be rich on earth but trying to be rich in heaven. Seeking the kingdom means treasuring the things of God and freeing yourself from the drag of earth.
Then “Do not be anxious” is the condition of the heart by which we break free from our addiction to earthly treasures and give ourselves with passion to laying up heavenly treasures. God frees us from anxiety as we trust in his promises.
Those are the three main commands. That is what Jesus wants us to be like: Free from anxiety, seeking his kingdom, laying up treasure in heaven and not on earth. That is the fruit of trusting Jesus as our Lord and Savior and Treasure. This is the normal Christian life — radical freedom from earthly things and earthly security, with a joyful pursuit of God and his righteousness.
Everything else in verses 25-34 is foundation and support. Jesus doesn’t just tell us not to be anxious; he gives us multiple arguments to help us realize we have no need to be anxious…look at the birds and flowers, your heavenly Father cares for them and he will care for you!
How do I Lay Up Treasures in Heaven?
Today I want to simply answer: How do I “Lay up treasures in heaven?”
Evidently there are two ways to live: you can live with a view of accumulating valuable things on earth, or you can live with a view to accumulating valuable things in heaven. Jesus says: the mark of a Christian is that his eyes are on heaven and he measures all his behavior by what effect it will have on heaven — what joy it brings to God.
And something else is clear: laying up treasures in heaven and laying up treasures on earth are not good bedfellows. You have to choose between them. You can’t say, “Well how about both?” That’s the point of verse 24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The implication: we are either living for what money can buy in this world or for the things of God, either accumulating things here on earth or laying up treasures in heaven.
So how do we lay up treasures in heaven?
- By doing that which honors Jesus Christ
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:32-33 Here Jesus explains “No need to be afraid, you have been given the Kingdom! Here’s how you can have “purses that will not wear out” and how you “provide yourselves with treasurse in the heaven that will never fail,” namely, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” That’s how you do it.
Possessions on earth are not for accumulating, they are for distributing in ways that honor Christ. When we give — especially when we give so generously that we have to sell something to have anything to give — we show that Christ is our treasure and that we love Christ and others more than we love our own security and comfort.
- By showing hospitality to the least, lost, and last
- Jesus gave this illustration: When you throw a party do not invite those who can repay you for the invite, “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14. In other words, when you generously extend hospitality without expecting to get anything in return you are laying up treasures in heaven. You will be rewarded at the resurrection.
- By giving to spread the Gospel
We lay up treasures in heaven whenever we give to spread the Gospel, to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Whenever we help folks to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ we change their eternal destiny. The only thing that will be in heaven is that which is eternal. People’s lives are eternal. They are the only thing we can take to heaven with us. But to go with us they need to know and trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So the ultimate laying up treasures in heaven is when we help someone come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So I would like to ask you to prayerfully consider asking God how you might invest what God has entrusted to you. How do we lay up treasures in heaven?
- By doing that which honors Jesus Christ which may just mean selling something so you can give to the poor
- By showing hospitality to the least, the lost, and the last
- By giving to spread the Gospel, helping to change some one’s eternal destiny so you may take them with you.
As we move to the Lord’s Supper let this be in your mind: If there is any inclination in your heart to treasure Christ, and to love people, and to give for his sake, this is because Christ bought you with his blood and is working in you by his Spirit.
And so it is fitting that we pause, even while we ponder being generous and the use of our resources and remember the infinitely generous one who gave of his body and blood for us.
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