N THE ROLLING HILLS overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the little village of Capernaum, Jesus stood among a growing crowd and delivered His greatest message. Probably taking no more than 20
minutes, Jesus delivered His “Sermon on the Mount” to common people, addressing issues everyone faces.
The message was not delivered as a list of dos and don’ts. Jesus did not offer things to check off as He spoke. Instead, He presented words of inspiration and instruction designed to help people lead victorious and meaningful lives. He spoke with authority and love.
The setting was perfect for living illustrations. Jesus used the surrounding flowers and birds to drive home points about the Father’s love and care. He also addressed difficult issues like sin, lust, money, and more. He mentioned fasting and prayer, love and hate, forgiveness and judgment, and the kingdom of God.
Near the middle of His message, Jesus said:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).
What was Jesus talking about? Heaven is not a financial institution where investments can be made. Jesus was certainly not appealing for funds or goods from the people for Himself. A closer look reveals He was addressing the bigger idea of two kingdoms—the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God. One of these kingdoms will be dominant in our lives, and Jesus urges us to choose His kingdom. In doing so, He used the idea of making investments in Heaven.
The stinger is the line “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” which doubles down on making sure our heart is in the right place and that we are investing in the kingdom of God. I don’t think anyone believes there are heavenly storage places where all our good deeds done on earth will produce stuff we will collect when our life on earth is over. We will have no need for those kind of things in the life to come. However, Jesus was saying what we do in this will impact our everlasting future.
Some people are surprised to discover how much Jesus talked about money and possessions. In almost two-thirds of His parables, Jesus addressed finances in some way. The Author and Finisher of our faith knows the earthly kingdom requires us to be good stewards of possessions, time, and money. Jesus’ teaching runs counter to the world’s system; it seems upside-down. Jesus communicated to those on the hillside, “If you make an investment in My kingdom, it is protected for eternity. Nobody can steal it. No one can manipulate the system to get it. It does not expire, it pays huge dividends, and it comes with My blessing.”
Later in the message, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 NKJV). Notice Jesus spoke of entering His kingdom. This does not happen by good deeds or extraordinary talents. We enter by the blood of Jesus, and we do so by faith. The motive of a pure heart produces lasting “treasure” for believers. Things done here for His glory will produce fruit there. Pure hearts capture the attention of Heaven and do not go unrewarded. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (5:8).
In Acts 10, the prayers and generous giving of a Roman centurion captured the attention of the Father. In a vision, an angel told Cornelius, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!” (Acts 10:4 NLT). This centurion’s heavenly investments were about to produce dividends for him. Three days after the heavenly vision, while Simon Peter was speaking to Cornelius’ household, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (v. 44 NIV).
A precious woman in our congregation has been teaching the same children’s Sunday school class for more than 50 years! I have observed her dedication and attention to detail, even after all these years. She has taught the Word of God long enough that she is now teaching the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of some of her first students. Sandy Tillman is not seeking any accolades (in fact, she will not be happy with me for including this); rather, she just shows up week after week ready to do her part for the kingdom of God. I believe she has a tremendous treasure awaiting her. Perhaps her greatest reward in Heaven will be the people who are there because she took the time to faithfully teach them about what really matters.
When Jesus said, “Your heart will always be where your riches are” (Matthew 6:21 GNB), He made the point that if we are focused on heavenly treasure, we will do life differently than those who are focused on earthly treasure. We will pray the prayers, preach the messages, sing the songs, and teach the class for 50 or more years, knowing what we are doing has eternal significance.
It is extremely important to remember this life is temporary. This is not our home. We are passing through this world on the way to the next. What treasures are eternally important are there, but not here.
I recall a story about a missionary couple returning home to America after spending 40 years in Africa. The big ship they were on sailed into New York Harbor. As the ship was being moored, the couple heard the music of a band playing. There were signs everywhere saying, “Welcome Home.” The missionary couple thought some of their friends had come to welcome them home and gotten the band together. As they started off the ship, an attendant stopped them and said they would have to wait a few moments. It turned out that President Theodore Roosevelt was aboard the ship, returning from a big-game hunt in Africa. The band and signs were for the returning president of the United States.
The missionaries were disappointed and surprised when they finally got off the ship and found no one was waiting to welcome them home. They picked up their suitcases and made their way to a small hotel. There, the man said to his wife, “The president goes to Africa for a few weeks and a band greets him. We’ve spent forty years in Africa, but when we come home, there is nobody.”
After they poured out their hearts to the Lord in prayer, the man’s countenance had changed. He told his wife that God had whispered to him, “My child, you are not home yet.”
The road that leads to Heaven is the road less traveled. The treasure is there. Never forget the “Welcome Home” banner will be hung out for faithful servants. The banner will not say, “Well done, everybody knows who you are.” It will not say, “Well done, you are so talented.” It will not say, “Well done, you are so clever.” The welcome banner to Heaven will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV).
David C. Nitz is lead pastor of the Village Church of God in Winter Haven, Florida, and author of A Place to Stand (Pathway, 2021).