They say that the statistic for death is currently standing at 100%—for every one person who is born one person will eventually die. How does that statistic affect how we live? Does the fact that every day is one closer to death affect how we use our possessions? Do we forget that we will not be able to take any of our money with us into eternity? Do we realise that storing up treasures in heaven is great use of this short life. Heavenly treasures are the ultimate investment!
The Puritan Thomas Adams once said, ‘To part with what we cannot keep, that we may gain what we cannot lose, is a good bargain." Similarly, the twentieth-century missionary and martyr, Jim Elliot, wrote, 'he is no fool to give up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.'
This morning we are talking about the ultimate investment: heavenly treasures! Heavenly treasure are the ultimate investment!
1. Invest with a view to life beyond death
Jesus tells the story of a shrewd manager. But is he really telling us to imitate this man? Only in one respect! We are not to follow his example by wasting his boss’s possessions, and so earning the sack. We are not to follow his example in deceiving his boss’s debtors. But we are to follow his example in how he prepared for the future. As he prepares for life beyond being made redundant, we are to prepare for life beyond death.
This man says to himself, “My master is taking away my job.” He hasn't many prospects for getting another job and is too proud to beg. So he uses his remaining time of influence to call in his boss’s debtors and offer them knock-down rates on their debts. He is winning people’s favour so that after his job has gone people will welcome him into their homes. Just as that man makes preparations for life after work, we are to use our possessions for life after death. Our possessions can be used to store up treasure in heaven.
God saves people by grace (his free, unmerited and undeserved favour). He transforms people by grace, giving us new desires and enabling us to live a life that pleases him. He rewards people in grace; we will not receive our heavenly-reward thinking 'this is what I deserve' but rather we may exclaim 'this is kindness beyond anything I imagined.' Heavenly treasures are the ultimate investment.
God so kind. He inspires us to give, he teaches us how to live for him, and he delights to lavishly reward us for the things that he has enabled us to do.
2. Invest in people for Christ
The founder of Kraft (of Kraft Foods), James L. Kraft, was a Christian. For many years Mr. Kraft made it his practice to give away twenty-five percent of his enormous income to Christian causes. On one occasion he spoke of his attitude to worldly wealth saying, ‘The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I give to the Lord."
Jesus teaches something similar, ‘I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings' (it literally says 'that "they" may welcome you into eternal dwellings').
Think of the joy that there will be when people we have made sacrifices for on earth welcome us in heaven. We will look back and know that money was well spent. The same could be said of our time and our prayers. In heaven God will enable us to love his people beyond measure, and it will thrill our hearts to recall how we used this life seeking to be a blessing to them.
Or imagine someone coming up to you in heaven and saying, ‘the money you gave contributed to me being here, for I heard the gospel through that missionary you supported.’ Similarly, someone might approach you in heaven and say 'God used your prayers as part of his process in drawing me to himself?'
We can live now in a way that will add to the joy we will experience for all eternity. We can use our money in a way that will bless us for all eternity. Heavenly treasures are the ultimate investment!
3. Invest with a generous heart
Finally, God's economics are not our economics. He does not need our giving but he graciously uses our giving. What matters most to him is the heart with which we give. Remember the widow's mite? From a worldly perspective she gave almost nothing; from a heavenly perspective she gave everything.
In the Old Testament provisions were made for giving. In particular we remember how the people were to tithe ten percent of their income. In fact they were to give more than ten percent when we factor in different offerings that were commanded. I don’t believe that tithing is commanded in the New Testament. Instead the Apostle Paul writes, ‘Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a generous giver’ (2 Cor. 9:7). Our generosity should be the product of a transformed heart.
There is actually a risk with tithing. The Pharisees were experts at tithing, but they loved money. We can think that if we give a certain percentage then we are free to do what we like with the rest. Notice, however, that Jesus refers to our worldly possessions as something we have been entrusted with. All we have comes from God and should ultimately be at his disposal.
No matter how wealthy we are in this life, it is nothing compared to the riches that the Christian will be entrusted with in eternity. But if we have simply lived for ourselves with the things of the world we will not be entrusted with the riches of heaven. How we use our money actually demonstrates whether we have been born again.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Lynda Sittser concluded a letter to friends with a line that reflected her philosophy on life. She said, ‘I am trying to live my whole life in the light of eternity.’ Days latter a drunk driver crashed into their family car and Lynda died. Are we living our whole life in light of eternity? Her husband later wrote, ‘An eternal perspective will affect how we make choices. It stresses the important over the urgent, need over want, service over pleasure, people over things. A seminary professor told me just as I was beginning my first pastoral charge, “People and the Word of God are eternal. Most everything else in temporal. Make sure you invest in the eternal.”’
God is so kind. He takes undeserving wretches and makes us his dearly loved children. He changes our hearts. He enables us to serve him. And he delights to reward us for all that we so imperfectly do for him.
Jesus tells us that heavenly treasures are the ultimate investment. So invest with a view to life beyond death, invest in people for Christ, and invest with a generous heart.