THE BEST INVESTMENT ADVICE YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE
Rev. George Bradford
The name Bernie Madoff has become infamous in the last few months. Over the years many people and financial institutions invested 50-65 billion dollars with him but his scheme recently collapsed and many people have been financially ruined as a result. Many people have lost their life savings, their retirement funds, their homes and are now destitute.
This has been a very costly lesson from which we all can learn. How we invest and where we invest is critical because we could, in the end, lose everything.
Every one of us is in the business of investing. Every day we are investing our lives. Every moment we are devoting our time, our abilities, our money, our mental and physical powers to something; but in what are we investing? That which will give a good return; that which will last or that which will give you no return in the end?
Financial advisors tell us that it’s important to regularly review our investment portfolios. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to do the same thing where He gives us the best investment advice we will ever receive. In Matthew 6: 19-21 He says this:
19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
The best investment advice you will ever receive is this - dedicate yourself to storing up for yourself treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth.
What Is Heaven?
To begin with it is important for us to understand what Jesus is talking about when He speaks about heaven. Over His three and a half years of teaching Jesus had much to say about this subject. Here in the Sermon on the Mount He refers to heaven a number of times. What does the Bible tell us about heaven?
a. Even though we can’t see it or touch it, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John that
heaven is a real place. (John 14: 1-6).
b. Jesus also tells us in the Gospels that even though He is everywhere,
God’s throne and His special presence is in heaven (Matthew 6: 9-10, 16: 17, 18: 14, 23: 9). In addition to this Jesus also stated that He came to earth from heaven (John 6: 25 – 40).
c. According to Jesus, Heaven is where He would eventually go after He rose from the dead and where He is today. (John 14: 12, 28, 16: 10, 16, 17, Acts 1: 11)
d. He also told His committed followers that when He would leave them and return to heaven
He would prepare a place for them there where they would be with Him forever. (John 14: 1-6)
e. A further thing that needs to be said about heaven is that
it is a free gift extended to everyone.
Many people think that heaven is a place into which you have to somehow earn your way. You have to pay to go into a movie theatre or a sports stadium so you have to have to pay to gain entrance into heaven. But this is not what God’s Word, the Bible, says.
In John 10: 28 Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” The Apostle Paul makes this point as well in Romans 6: 23 where he says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Since heaven is a free gift that God offers to everyone, does that mean that everybody is going to heaven? No! Like any other kind of gift, God’s gift has to be received.
And how does a person receive this gift? By, first of all, admitting that he or she has sinned against God. Then, repenting or turning away from their sin. It also means inviting Jesus Christ to come into their life and allowing Him to be their Lord and Saviour.
f. The Bible further describes heaven as a wonderful place, where, after this life, those who are fully committed to Jesus Christ will go to spend all of eternity with God. Someone has described heaven as the place of “no more.” The Bible says that in heaven there will be no more sorrow or tears or pain. (Revelation 21: 4) In other words there will be no more ill-effect of sin. (Revelation 22: 3).
g. One last thing about heaven and that is it is a place of rewards for those who have given their lives to Jesus Christ.
Speaking to Christians the Apostle Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5: 10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” There is going to be a day for every Christian when we will have to give an account of what we have done while we are here on earth.
On a couple of occasions Jesus told stories to make the point that when the Christian gets to heaven he will be rewarded or not rewarded for what he has either done or not done while here on earth. (Luke 19: 11-26). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells His followers, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5: 12
God’s reward is not just for a select few but for every Christian. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 6: 8, “you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”
What Is A “ Heavenly Treasure?”
Jesus raised this important matter of “heavenly treasure one day when He was with His disciples and gave them what is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” In this section of Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 5-7) Jesus gives us a number of practical principles by which His followers should live their lives, including how to invest our lives.
When Jesus speaks about “treasures” what is He talking about? He’s talking about anything what we consider to be valuable or important. For one person it could be money or jewelry; for another person it could be material things such as homes or land; for yet another person it could be standing or status in the community. Some people consider certain awards or fame or educational degrees to be their treasure.
When you think about it, all of these things I’ve mentioned are “earthly” treasures. So what then is a “heavenly treasure?”
A “heavenly treasure” is anything that we do in this life that will glorify God and build up His kingdom. It is an investment in eternity while we are here on earth.
This raises a number of questions that need to be answered. Why should I lay up treasures in heaven? How do I do that? What can I expect if I take Jesus’ advice? These are questions I would like to answer in the rest of this article.
1. WHY INVEST IN HEAVEN?
Why should we do what Jesus tells us to do and invest in heaven rather than here on earth? When we look at what Matthew 6: 19-21 says there are several reasons Jesus gives.
a. The first reason Jesus gives us for not accumulating treasures for ourselves here on earth is that these things are not permanent. He says our earthly treasures will someday decay; they are transitory; they don’t last.
In Jesus’ day there were three major forms of wealth— clothing, food and precious metals or stones. What Jesus says here is these three forms of security are both temporary and very vulnerable. The clothing that we have in our closets is open to attack by moths, or they eventually wear out or go out of style and sooner or later we get rid of them.
Jesus goes on to say that the food that we store away can be eaten by worms or can easily spoil. That’s what the word rust means- “that which eats or corrodes.”
Jesus then talks about what we have that is vulnerable to thieves such as precious metals, jewellery and money. If our possessions escape one attack, another will get them, and if they survive all of these attacks then death will eventually rob us of all of the things that we have accumulated during our life-time.
After John D. Rockefeller, the world’s first recorded billionaire, died his accountant was asked, “How much money did John D. leave?” “He left it all” was the reply. The same will be true for us when we die. All that we have accumulated will be left behind.
If our trust is in the things of this world then we live with constant insecurity. You may object and think that we have overcome these three great enemies of Jesus’ day. You may think that we have perfect ways of protecting our possessions from these things.
The economic downturn of the past year has dramatically shown us that fortunes can be lost overnight and earthly treasures can be taken from us without warning. Our earthly wealth to-day is no more secure than it was in Jesus’ day. There is always someone trying to take our earthly treasures from us through one scheme or another.
To give ourselves to the pursuit of these things for our own use is a waste of time because the increase of these things only magnifies our insecurity and robs us of our heavenly treasure. Jesus is saying that to accumulate things and to store up earthly wealth does not make sense because these things do not last. Nor do they give us peace or happiness in this life.
Here are statements made by some famous millionaires of their day:
“I am the most miserable man on earth” John Jacob Astor
“I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness” John D. Rockefeller
“Millionaires seldom smile” Andrew Carnegie
“I was happier when I was doing a mechanic’s job.” Henry Ford
b. A second reason that Jesus gives us not to store up treasures here on earth is earthly treasure has a way of robbing us of our love for God.
In Matthew 6: 21 Jesus says “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our treasure is here on earth, that is where our heart or love will be. It is not uncommon for a Christian to unconsciously make money and things the aim of their life. When this happens gradually the treasures of this life will crowd out their love for Jesus Christ and their Christian faith becomes a formal routine.
The Laodicean Christians are an example of this in Revelation 3: 14 -21. Materially they were well off. Jesus said that they were rich, increased with goods and had need of nothing. But He also said to them that they were neither cold nor hot spiritually. As far as their love for Jesus Christ was concerned they were “lukewarm.”
I like what Dwight Pentecost has said, “Man loves to accumulate and he loves what he accumulates.” This is all too true and this is the danger with things and with money, when we gather them for ourselves and for our own use we can expect our love for Jesus Christ to grow cold.
But you may say, “I can do both. I can love Jesus Christ and still love the things of the world. I can lay up treasures in heaven and I can store up treasures here on earth as well.” That’s not what Jesus said in Matthew 6: 24. There He made the point "No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and money.”
Christian, do you love Jesus Christ as you ought? Do you love Him as you once did when you first became a Christian? Could it be that things and money have robbed you of this love?
c. There is a third reason that Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount why we should not lay up treasures here on earth and that is because they have a way of distorting our perspective on reality.
In Matthew 6: 22 & 23 Jesus says that "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
What is Jesus talking about here? Basically He is saying that “when we make the storing up of treasures here on earth the focus of our life rather than investing in heaven then our view of life becomes warped.”
In verse 22 when Jesus talks about a person’s eye being good He is talking about someone whose eyes are in focus and can see things properly. The person described in verse 23 is someone who has a problem with his eye that causes him not to be able to see; or if he can see he sees double; or what he sees is blurred; or he cannot see clearly.
The implication of Jesus’ statement is this. The person who is laying up treasure here on earth soon loses his spiritual ability to see the issues of life, the values of life and the goals in life clearly. The person who makes the treasures of this life his chief concern soon loses his understanding of spiritual things and his understanding and fellowship with God becomes distorted.
Jesus is warning us here in verse 23 that when a person makes money and things the focal point of his life, a spiritual darkness comes over him and he is not able to understand things as he should.
A young man left his home in the Highlands of Scotland and moved to a large city. In one of his first letters home to his family he wrote, “Here in the city the people know the price of ever thing and the value of nothing.” This is what making things and money the centre of our lives does. Our whole view on life becomes distorted.
The focus of our life must be on the Kingdom of God.
d. Not only does Jesus tell us what not to do, but He does tell us what we should do in Matthew 6: 20 when he says, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” THIS IS THE BEST INVESTMENT ADVICE you will ever receive.
When we give what we have to God now in this life two things happen. First of all, we store up treasures in heaven and secondly, God takes care of our earthly needs. In a discussion that he had with Jesus Peter made the comment, “We have left everything to follow you!" “We have invested everything we have – our time, our abilities, our money, our careers, our businesses and our energies to be your followers.”
Here’s how Jesus answered him in Mark 10: 29-30, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”
Jesus does not say that in this life- time we will have ownership of all these things. But He does say that when we invest everything we have and everything we are with Him we will have so much more available to us in this life. Did you notice what the rate of return our investment will earn? Jesus says ten thousand percent!!!
2. HOW CAN I INVEST IN HEAVEN?
There is an old expression that says, “you can’t take it with you.” When life is over all the wealth that you have gathered here on earth will all be left behind and you will have no more control over it. However, even though you can’t take it with you, it is also true that you can send it ahead while you are alive and it is totally secure, eternal and gathering interest.
So how do you store up treasures in heaven? How do you send your eternal investment ahead?
a. In Matthew 6: 1 Jesus talked about God someday rewarding us for our “acts of righteousness.” The Apostle Paul states in Romans 2: 6 “God "will give to each person according to what he has done." Good intentions or kind feelings don’t store up treasures in heaven but “acts of righteousness” do. So, what “acts of righteousness” does Jesus have in mind?
As He went on in Matthew 6 Jesus talked about the giving our money and efforts quietly to help needy people around us (Matthew 6: 1-4). Jesus expanded on this thought in Luke 14: 12-14 where He said, “"When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
In Matthew 10: 40 - 42 Jesus says that even the simplest act of kindness, such as a cup of cold water given to someone in His name will someday be rewarded.
b. Another way to send our treasures ahead is by the giving of our time to pray for the concerns of God’s Kingdom, to fast, to deny ourselves so that we can take care of the needs of the Lord’s church. Matthew 6: 5-18
c. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus implies that when we love our enemies and pray for those who want to harm us we will be rewarded in eternity. Matthew 5: 43-48, Luke 6: 35-36
d. One of the greatest ways of storing up treasures in heaven is to spend out time sharing our faith with people who are not Christians so that some day they will be in heaven. Investing our lives in discipling other Christians is also storing up treasure in heaven. The investment of our time in the lives of others will pay eternal dividends for us.
e. Living a life of obedience to God and seeking to carry out His will rather than our own agenda is another way to store up treasures in heaven. In Hebrews 11: 23-29 the writer summarizes the life of Moses. In verse 26 we’re told that Moses obeyed all that God asked him to do because he valued his heavenly treasure more than all the treasures of Egypt
f. Randy Alcorn says that the best place to start laying up our treasures in heaven is by giving God at least a 10th of our income. That is what He has asked for so that is where we should begin to give to God.
The late Dr. A.W. Tozer once wrote, as awful “a thing as money often is, it yet can be [changed] into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor; it can keep a missionary actively winning lost people to the light of the gospel and thus [change] itself into heavenly values. Any [earthly] possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with [eternity].”
How does a person lay up treasures in heaven? The Apostle Paul summarizes the answer to that question best in I Timothy 6: 17-19 when he writes,
?“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
3. WHAT ARE THE RETURNS ON MY INVESTMENT?
So what does the Bible have to say about these eternal rewards that God will give to His children when they get to heaven?
a. One thing is that the Christian will spend all of eternity in the presence of the Lord
and enjoy constant, unbroken fellowship with our Creator, our Master and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that when Jesus Christ comes again, as He promised to do, “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:17. This is the greatest reward that the Christian will receive - to be forever with the Lord, to see Him face to face and to be like Him. I John 3: 2
b. He will give His servants positions of authority
Secondly, in Revelation 5: 10 we are told that we will reign on the earth. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
One of the things that we are promised in the Bible as a reward are crowns. There are 5 that are mentioned in the Bible. There is
An Imperishable Crown – I Corinthians 9: 19-27
A Crown of Exultation – Phil. 4: 1, I Thess. 2: 19-20, Acts 8: 26-38
A Crown of Righteousness – II Timothy 4: 1-8,
A Crown of Life - James 1: 2-4, 12
An Unfading Crown of Glory – I Peter 5: 1-4
What does it mean that Christians will receive crowns? Of what is a crown a sign? Crowns speak of authority. Here is what Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven writes about this:
“Because “crowns” are the primary symbol of ruling, every mention of crowns as rewards is a reference to our ruling with Christ. In His parables, Jesus speaks of our ruling over cities (Luke 19: 17). Paul addresses the subject of Christians ruling in I Corinthians 6: 2-3, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” The form of the verb in this question implies that we won’t simply judge them a single time, but will continually rule them.”
There are a number of other verses in the New Testament that reinforce this point. The Apostle Paul writes “If we endure, we will also reign with him (Jesus)” (2 Timothy 2:12). God also says that his servants will “reign for ever and ever” on the New Earth (Revelation 22:5). Jesus Christ promises “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26). “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21). Speaking of Jesus Christ Revelation 5: 9-10 describes a scene in heaven where the 24 elders fell before Him and sang “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. (5:9-10, NKJV)
Heaven is not a place of continual rest and constant boredom but God will give us the honour of serving Him throughout eternity.
c. God’s approval
Not only will God give positions of authority to those who are given a reward but He will also give His approval. In one of the stories that Jesus told in the Gospel of Matthew 25 Jesus said that not only did the master reward his servants tangibly but also verbally with these words, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25: 21 & 23). Also in the Gospel of John 12: 26 Jesus says this, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Everyone appreciates being told that they have done a good job and what they have done is appreciated. We all like to be encouraged by those for whom we work. For the Christian who has served God well, they will also be rewarded with His commendation.
d. Pleasures forevermore
A fourth reward is mentioned in Psalm 16 where David speaks about death not being the end for the child of God. He says this of God in verse 11, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” For so many people life has no joy or happiness. But for the Christian, God holds out the promise of endless pleasure throughout all of eternity.
Some years ago in Ireland two gifted young men teamed up to use their talents to serve the Lord. One was a preacher and the other a singer. For a period of time they held meetings together across Ireland and saw God wonderfully bless as people became Christians. Gradually the young singer was enticed to use his gift of music singing the songs of the world rather than the songs of God. He became well known in the world and lost contact with his friend who had continued serving the Lord.
After a few years word was sent to the preacher that his friend was very sick and was not expected to live. He went to see his dying friend and as they talked the preacher asked the singer about the state of his soul. He asked the singer, “Are you afraid to meet the Lord?” The dying man said, “No, I’m not afraid to meet the Lord because I’ve got things right with Him, but I’m ashamed to meet Him” He was ashamed to see the Lord because he had laid up all his treasures on earth. He had become famous and popular and made lots of money but he had failed to use his gifts and abilities to serve the Lord and to store up treasures in heaven”
If you are a Christian, how will you face the Lord if He came today? Would you be ashamed because you have stored up all your treasures on earth? Would you be ashamed because you have used all that God has given you for yourself?
The best investment advice you will ever get is give your time, your talents and your money to God. Use them to extend His kingdom. This will result in eternal treasures that will never fade away, or be taken from you.
Are you looking for a safe, sound-investment that will pay tremendous dividends someday? Here it is; the giving of all that we are and have to Jesus Christ, placing everything at His disposal. Let me ask you, what kind of a treasure are you accumulating— one that is going to fade away and someday be destroyed or one that is eternal and will never be destroyed? Just where is your treasure?