There’s only one kind of investment that’s risk-free—and the returns are out of this world.
Several years ago I was sued by an abortion clinic for my involvement in peaceful, nonviolent rescues. When the abortion clinic won the lawsuit, it came to garnish my wages from the church where I’d been a pastor for thirteen years. Suddenly my wife and daughters and I were faced with a decision. Could I continue as a pastor when the church would be required by law to pay a fourth of my salary each month to the child-killing industry? As a matter of conscience, we had to resign.
Suddenly I was without a job I had loved and depended on. I could no longer receive royalties for the five books I had written. I was no longer qualified for a long-term group health insurance plan. As for “financial planning,” we were faced with the fact that whatever I did, for the next twenty years (the duration of the legal judgment), I could never earn more than minimum wage without 25 percent of it being taken by an abortion clinic.
Worry has a way of chasing after us. It tries to grab hold of us, bleed off our energy, and rob us of joy by limiting our vision to a short-sighted perspective of this life’s circumstances. That’s why one of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:19-34, where Jesus unveils an investment formula for a secure future and a worry-free present.
In this great sermon, Jesus doesn’t tell us not to store up treasures. On the contrary, he commands us to store up treasures (v. 20). He’s saying, “Stop storing them up in the wrong place (earth), and start storing them up in the right place (Heaven).” He also says “store up treasures for yourselves.” When we follow Jesus, we act not only in His best interests but in ours. No matter how difficult the challenges of the moment, we can be assured that “they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
This was Paul’s consuming motivation throughout his life—the prospect of eternal reward from his Master’s hand (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and it was his greatest anticipation at his death (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Most of us see no further than the horizons of this world. To correct our shortsightedness, God prescribes a vision correction that allows us to see through the lens of eternity. Suddenly we realize this present life is but a brief window of opportunity to invest in what will last for eternity.
In Matthew 6, Jesus says there is only one safe place to invest, and that is in the Kingdom of God. He says, in essence, “You can’t take it with you,” but he adds a life-changing corollary: “but you can send it on ahead.”
Practically speaking, what does this mean? Suppose I had access to $10,000. With it I could buy a new car. Or, I could use the same money to support ten Nigerian or Indian church planters full time for an entire year. If I have an investment mentality, I ask myself, “What’s the better investment for eternity?” Maybe a $1,500 used car, or no car at all, would serve His Kingdom purposes better than a new one. It would allow me to invest the rest in Heaven, where it will never get scratched, dented, totaled, stolen, or need repair.
To carry that thought further, imagine you are alive near the end of the United States Civil War. You are temporarily living in the South, but your home is really in the North. While you have been in the South you have accumulated a good deal of Confederate currency. Suppose you know for a fact that the North will ultimately win the war, and that the end could come at any time. Now, here’s the critical question—What will you do with all that Confederate money?
If you are smart, you will cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency—the only money that will have value in the long run. You will keep only enough Confederate money to meet your basic needs until the war is over.
As Christ’s disciples, we have inside knowledge of a major change in the worldwide social and economic situation. There is a coming holocaust during which no earthly possession will survive (2 Peter 3:10). The currency of this world—its money, possessions, values, fashions, and whims—will be worthless at our death or at Christ’s return, both of which are imminent. This “insider’s tip” should radically affect our investment strategy. To accumulate vast earthly treasures in the face of this knowledge is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money in a Union economy.
Financial planners have a hard time convincing people to look down the road instead of just focusing on today, this week, or this year. “Don’t think one year,” they’ll tell you, “think thirty years from now.” Then they’ll share ways to prepare for thirty years from now by budgeting, saving so much a month, contributing to an IRA, investing in this mutual fund or that real estate partnership.
But it’s only slightly less short-sighted to think thirty years down the road than to think thirty days. The wise man does indeed think thirty years ahead, but far more—he thinks an eternity ahead. He thinks not just to his retirement years, not merely to the end of his earthly life, but far beyond. He plans for the day that he will stand before the Lord, and he prepares for the eternity that will follow.
Following Christ doesn’t always improve our circumstances—some of my circumstances (including my income) would be better if I hadn’t followed the Lord. But better for what? Better for accumulating earthly possessions, but not better for laying up treasures in Heaven and experiencing the exhilaration of trusting God to provide. What following Christ does change is our perspective. The unbeliever’s vision is restricted to the horizons of this world. But we have the big picture. We know this life is the preface to the book, the tune-up to the concert. If we are wise investors, we will spend our lives buying up shares in the world to come.
After talking about two treasuries and two perspectives, Jesus speaks of two masters, God and Money (Matthew 6:24). We can’t serve both, so we have to make a conscious choice between them. Our Lord immediately follows this by commanding us three times, “Do not worry” (v. 25, 31, 34). The “therefore” of verse 25 tells us that His command not to worry must be understood in light of what He has just stated. In other words, anyone who is investing in the right treasury, adopting the right perspective, and serving the right master has nothing to worry about. In contrast, those who invest in the wrong treasure, adopt the wrong perspective, and serve the wrong master have every reason to worry.
Unlike the pagans who “run after all these things” (v. 32) and “worry about tomorrow” (v. 34), the believer is to follow Christ, live the radical life of faith, and trust God to provide. God is ready to accept full responsibility for a life wholly committed to Him. So why worry?
In Matthew 6:33 Christ doesn’t just say, “All these [material] things will be given to you.” Instead, He specifically limits that promise to those who fulfill the prior condition of seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Rather than a blanket promise to all, this is a contractual agreement with those who are sold out to Christ and employed in God’s service. Those committed to building their own temporary, financial kingdom receive no such assurances.
It’s no accident that the command not to worry follows the command not to lay up treasures on earth. God warns people “not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God” (1 Timothy 6:17). None of us is more secure than the object of our trust. If our trust is in material things—a house, a certain job, or people—we set ourselves up to worry. Those things are uncertain; God isn’t.
“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). God guards any treasures we put in Heaven, so we can relax. In contrast, we have to restlessly guard the treasures we store up here.
Christ’s radical perspective on money, possessions, provision, and trust raises some practical questions. Do my long-term savings or retirement plans, my insurance policies, my beautiful house, car, or real estate holdings reduce my sense of dependence on God? Do they give me misplaced security? Considering what the money spent on these things would do if directly invested in the Kingdom of God, do I really believe the money is being used in the best way? Am I forfeiting treasures in Heaven by storing up treasures on earth? Am I setting myself up for worry by trusting in the things that cannot bear the weight of my trust?
To those who seek first His Kingdom and sacrificially give of their assets to it, Christ’s promise is material provision (Matthew 6:32-33, Philippians 4:19). Trust Him and there is nothing to worry about. Trust anything else and you’ve got every reason to worry.
With every challenge my family and I have faced over the years, I have found myself thinking more and more about the treasures of Heaven. Every moment of our lives we are one step closer to the world to come, and one step further from this present world. Are we headed toward our eternal treasure or away from it? The choice is ours.