Dr. Richard L. Strauss
April 12, 1992
Purpose: To encourage believers to use their money in a manner that will earn them eternal rewards.
Most people I know would like to have a little more money, and will do their best to get it any way they can--any honest way, of course. Maybe you heard the story of the mother who saw her three-year old son put a nickel in his mouth and swallow it. She immediately picked him up, turned him upside down and hit him on the back, whereupon he coughed up two dimes! Frantic, she called her husband and said, "Your son just swallowed a nickel and coughed up two dimes! What should I do?" The dad replied, "Keep feeding him nickels, and I'll be there as quick as I can" (Reader's Digest, August 1982, "Money Hungry").
Now feeding you children nickels is probably not a very good investment of your money. And most of us are looking for the best investment we can find--the highest return, in the shortest time, with the lowest risk. That's the ultimate investment.
But sometimes the best deals are not always the short term investments. We may need to begin thinking in longer terms. And, in fact, the very best investment opportunity of all is the longest term you can imagine: it will pay off in eternity. I realize that some people aren't interested in that kind of investment. They want it all now. They want an immediate payoff, instant gratification. But God's way is to defer returns on our money. And He promises to make it well worth the wait.
Today I would like to give you some insider investment tips that will pay off handsomely in eternity. You see, you can earn eternal rewards by the way you invest your money here and now. I know some people think that we're all going to get the same thing in heaven. Maybe some of you think that. The same size condominium, the same amount of spending money--if there are things like that in heaven! The same measure of praise, the same level of responsibility. But we're learning from Scripture that it just isn't so.
While there is nothing we can do to gain entrance into heaven except put our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, at Calvary's cross when he died in our place for the forgiveness of our sins, what we receive in heaven will be determined by what we do while we are on earth. And I would like to show you how you can earn greater rewards in heaven with the use of your money here on earth.
Now, there is a great deal said about the use of money in Scripture. Did you know that 18 of Jesus' 36 parables deal with the subject of money? That blows some people away. And someone has estimated that there are approximately 2,000 verses in the Bible about money. That sounds like it might be a rather important subject. And there are many verses linking rewards to the use of money.
So let's find out how we can invest right now for eternity. The first principle is rather general and quite obvious.
1. By Giving to God's Work, Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19
That's what was behind Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount.
Read Matthew 6:19-21. "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."
Treasure in heaven. We lay up treasure in heaven by investing our money, right here and now, in things that last for eternity--like bringing people to saving knowledge of Christ, building them up in their faith, helping them develop Christ-like character--things that pertain to the spiritual realm, to the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the kingdom down in verse 33: "But seek first the kingdom of God."
The things we treasure up on earth have a way of disappearing, no matter how risk-free we think they may be. Recessions, depressions, inflation, business failures, bank failures, crippling diseases--and what we thought was financial security suddenly evaporates before our very eyes. Mary and I have certainly found that to be true. We've never had much money to invest, but it seems as though whatever we have invested in has gone sour! If you ever want to put somebody out of business, just talk us into investing with them. It's a sure thing!
We've gotten the idea that God has been trying to teach us something--not that it's wrong to plan for the future, but that nothing on this earth is safe and secure, and only what is invested in His kingdom is certain to pay off. That's the lesson, and it's an important one.
You see, what we invest in the Lord's work produces eternal results, and so God honors it with eternal rewards. That makes sense, doesn't it? It's what Jesus calls in verse 20, "treasures in heaven." As some of us have learned by bitter experience, the best banks on earth can go broke. But the Bank of Heaven will never fail. It offers a sure thing.
I'm not sure many Christians really believe that. I think they read these verses and just gloss over them, never really absorbing the truth of it. An organization called Empty Tomb, Inc. in Champaign, Illinois, has been tracking church giving for years. They found that in 1968, the average per-capita giving to churches was 3.05% of disposable income. By 1989, that had declined to 2.62% (Christianity Today, 11/11/91, p.49).
Some of you give a whole lot more than 2-1/2% of your income to the Lord's work. I know believers with modest incomes who have consistently given more than 20% over the years. But many are obviously giving much less than that for the average to be 2.62%. Think about that for a moment. Is that all you want to enjoy throughout eternity: 2-1/2% of your present income? The report suggested that if church people only increased their giving to the classic tithe (10%), there would be over $60 billion more each year to help meet physical and spiritual needs around the world.
The Apostle Paul reaffirmed this same principle in his first letter to Timothy.
Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."
We've always heard that you can't take it with you. But you can. "To store up" means to store up a treasure (as both the NASB and NIV indicate). By giving to God's work here, you can store up treasure which will provide a solid foundation for your eternal home, and allow you to enjoy life to the full throughout eternity.
I don't think many wealthy Christians believe that. Some do. But some don't. You see, another study, using data from the National Opinion Research Center of the U. of Chicago, showed that the poorest fifth of church members give an average of 3.4% of their income to their churches (an average of $200 annually), while the wealthiest fifth give only 1.6% (about $1000 average, NIRR, 6/3/91, p.8). Apparently, these people have never read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Or they don't believe it.
Are you willing to take God at His Word and begin to secure for yourself treasure in heaven? Are you willing to put giving to God's work much higher on your list of financial priorities? God says the return will be phenomenal. Let's take Him at His word.
So the general principle is that we earn eternal rewards by giving to God's work. There are several corollaries to that principle. And I am almost hesitant to mention the first lest somebody think that I am asking something for myself or the pastoral staff. But it is part of God's Word and must be mentioned. We earn rewards by giving to God's workers.
2. By Giving to God's Workers, Matthew 10:40-42; Mark 9:41; Galatians 6:6-7
Jesus is speaking to His disciples in Matthew chapter 10.
Read Matthew 10:40-41. "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward."
That's amazing, isn't it? Providing for the messenger of Christ is like providing for Christ Himself. And the one who makes such a provision will receive the same reward that the messenger receives for his dedicated service to the Lord Jesus.
Read Matthew 10:42. "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."
"Little ones" may refer to the disciples of Christ, because they have a simple childlike dependence on Him. And the idea seems to be that providing for the needs of a disciple--because he is a disciple, as the NIV indicates--guarantees that you will not lose your reward.
There is a similar promise in Mark 9:41. Again, Jesus is speaking to His disciples.
Read Mark 9:41. "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."
It sounds to me like it might pay you to take a special interest in our missionaries, to invite them into your home, to provide meals and accommodations for them, to supply some of their pressing needs, to pray for them faithfully. We can earn the same reward they receive for their sacrificial service. That's what Jesus is teaching us.
Once again, the Apostle Paul affirms this same truth. Turn over to Galatians chapter 6.
Read Galatians 6:6. "Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches."
And he follows it up immediately with the promise of reward.
Read Galatians 6:7. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
That reaping is not necessarily profit in this life, as the health-and-wealth hucksters try to tell us. We may not get an unexpected check in the mail next week to cover what we gave. But we will have rewards to enjoy throughout eternity. The principle is clear in Scripture: Those who benefit from the ministry of the Word provide for the needs of those who minister it. Not make them rich, but provide their needs. And God will reward them in heaven for their faithfulness.
It's like the preacher in the small rural church who preached a rather long sermon on our free salvation, and when he finished, he asked Deacon Jones to pass the collection plate. "Just a minute, Reverend, you said salvation was free--free as the water we drink." The preacher thought for a moment and replied, "It sure is...salvation is free and so is the water free...but when we pipe it to you, somebody's gotta pay for the plumbing" (Quote, 3/1/86, Giving--Costs of Local Church). If you want to invest in something that pays off forever, this may be a good place to put your money.
We earn rewards with our money by giving to God's work, and by giving to God's workers. There's a third way...
3. By Giving to the Poor and Needy, Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; Luke 14:12-14; Hebrews 6:10; Galatians 6:9-10
Hold on to Galatians. Put a bookmark there. Then go back to Matthew 19.
Peter said, "You know, Lord, we left everything and followed You. Now what do we have?" Jesus, then, talks down in Matthew 19:29: "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children and lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life."
"Inherit" there, I think, probably means to have an inheritance beyond just entrance into God's kingdom. Something special.
"Shall receive a hundredfold." That same thought is repeated in the gospels often, by the way. Turn over to Luke.
Read Luke 12:33. "Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys."
The word "alms" comes from the word for "mercy." Alms are merciful gifts given to those in need. Simplifying our life style, selling some of our stuff--we all have too much stuff, including me--and giving generously to people in need can earn us treasure in heaven.
Look at another twist to this principle. Jesus was visiting in the home of a high-ranking Pharisee, in Luke 14.
Read Luke 14:12-14. "Then He also said to him who invited Him, 'When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'"
In other words, you're going to get your payback in eternity. When we do something for others, we usually expect them to reciprocate in some way, don't we? We invite people to dinner whom we expect will invite us to their homes in return. If we give a Christmas present, we usually expect one from them. And if we don't get one for a few years running, we'll probably quit giving them one. That's just the way life is. But it doesn't get us anything in glory.
On the other hand, if we consciously endeavor to give to needy people who cannot possibly afford to repay us, God will repay us in eternity. That's His promise. And quite frankly, I think God's repayment schedule is going to be far more generous than theirs would ever be anyway. So why not take Him at His Word and give to those who are genuinely needy?
Now let's go back to Galatians. For the third time, Paul repeats the same truth. This is the same context in which we learned about giving to God's workers, but he broadens it this time.
Read Galatians 6:9-10. "And let us not grow weary while doing good"--"doing good," by the way," means giving of our resources to help meet needs--"for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all"--see how much broader it gets? That is all we are aware of and able to help--"especially to those who are of the household of faith." Other believers in need.
We may not see the returns immediately, but we shall in due season. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10). You can count on it. Giving to the poor and needy is an investment that guarantees eternal returns.
So, we earn rewards by giving to God's work, giving to God's workers, giving to the poor and needy, and fourth...
4. By Giving with Generosity, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Matthew 19:27-29
Somehow or other, most of us have adopted the attitude that what we have is ours to enjoy any way we please. "This is something I always wanted, and now I can afford it, so I have the right to buy it." We don't consider whether or not God wants us to have it, nor consult Him as to whether we should buy it. We forget that what we have does not really belong to us at all. Everything we have is all owned by God, and He loans it to us to invest for His glory.
You say, "Wait a minute! I worked for this money. I earned it!" Did you? Where did the health, strength, ability to earn it come from? Where did the opportunity come from? You could have been born in another country where you'd never have had this opportunity. It comes from God! He's responsible for it all. Christ's parables of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the minas (Luke 19:11-27) make that abundantly clear.
Bob Shank tells the story of an employee who was laid off, and on his last day on the job he piled all the stuff from his office into the company car and was ready to drive off with it. When confronted, he said, "When I was hired they said, 'This is your office, your desk, your computer, and your company car.' So I assumed I could have it." Surely he knew better. What they meant was that it was his to use while he worked there.
Some of us are laboring under the same misconception. We think all this stuff we have is ours, when in reality it is only ours to use while we are on this earth. We are merely stewards who are temporarily entrusted with it, and the God who owns it all wants us to use it responsibly and faithfully in a manner that honors Him.
But I say all that in order to make this point: It is usually easier to be generous with money that belongs to somebody else. Just ask Congress! They'll tell you. And since it all belongs to God, we can be generous in giving it for the work of His kingdom. We ought to be able to give to the work of His kingdom since it's His money to start with.
Generosity is the basic point of Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians. As you know, chapters 8 and 9 are about money. Both entire chapters.
Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
Notice two words. The first is "bountifully." It means "generously." God wants us to give generously. The second is "cheerfully." God wants us to give cheerfully.
That reminds me of the cartoon I saw: a little fellow on his way home from church who said to his parents, "You said God loves a cheerful giver, so I gave my dime instead of my dollar. That way I could be cheerful."
You've probably heard that the word "cheerful" is the Greek word hilaros from which we get our English word "hilarious." But that doesn't mean you have to laugh uproariously when the offering plate is passed. The idea in the word is a readiness of mind and willingness of spirit that leads to generous giving.
The word "generous" is probably bad enough, but most of us cringe when we hear the word "sacrificial" applied to giving. Yet that is clearly the idea in Christ's promise to the disciples when they asked Him what they would have because they left all and followed Him.
Matthew 19:29. "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life."
Sacrifice! Giving to the point where it truly cost us something. That's what guarantees a bountiful in heritance in eternity.
A preacher wanted to see if a farmer in his congregation was willing to support the Lord's work sacrificially. So one day he confronted him with some very direct questions. "If you had two farms," he asked, "would you be willing to give one to God? "Why certainly!" was his reply. "No question about it. I only wish I were in a position to do that." So the minister continued: "If you had a million dollars, would you give $500,000 of it to the Lord's work?" Without hesitation the farmer responded, "How I'd love to have that kind of money! I'd enjoy giving generously like that." Then the preacher put this pointed question to his friend: "If you had two pigs, would you give one to the church?" The farmer hesitated for a moment and then blurted out, "That's not fair. You know I've got two pigs" (Our Daily Bread, 11/2/80, Giving, as God has prospered).
Generosity, maybe! But sacrifice, never! Could that sum up the attitude some of us have toward giving? But if we want the highest returns in eternity, it may be pay us to take that final step to "sacrifice," giving that costs us something.
We earn rewards by giving to God's work, to God's workers, to the poor and needy, with generosity and sacrifice. There is one principle I want you to see in the Scriptures. There is one more way to use our money to earn rewards, and this one affects all of the previous four...
5. By Giving Without Fanfare, Matthew 6:1-4
We go back to where we started, the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6.
Read Matthew 6:1-4. "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men."-- "charitable deeds" refers to charitable giving. "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
We don't usually sound a trumpet when we drop our money in the offering plate, but we do have our subtle little ways for getting glory from people for our charitable giving. We will tell a few folks how much we gave. We'll give to projects were the donor's names are published, or engraved on a bronze plaque. Or honor of all honors--we'll get a building named after us!
But if our goal is to get honor, glory, admiration or respect from people on earth for our giving, then we have our reward. That's it! We aren't going to get two rewards for one act of giving, so if you did it to get praise from men, don't expect to get any more from God. You've had all you're going to get. We're talking about motive here. If someone happens to find out about it, you're not going to robbed of your reward in heaven. But if your motive is to get praise here, don't expect a reward there.
By the way, that's one of the reasons we don't put bronze plaques on items around the church in honor of the donors. We want them to enjoy their reward in heaven, forever. That will mean far more than having it for a few short years here on earth.
Maybe you remember the story about that great British preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, and his wife. They were called "miserly" because they always sold the eggs their chickens laid rather than give any of them away. Even close friends and relatives were asked to pay. Rumors circulated that they were mercenary, seeking only to make a profit for themselves. But they took the criticism graciously, and it was only after they both died that the truth came out. They had used all the profits to support two needy widows whose husbands had spent their lives serving the Lord. Not wanting any praise from men for their kindness, they had refused to defend themselves or make their generosity known (Our Daily Bread, 3/20/81, Giving, in secret).
That's exactly what the Lord Jesus was talking about here. That's what earns public honor and praise from our Father in heaven.
Well there you have them: five insider investment tips that will pay off generously in eternity. Would you rather have a little now for a few short years, or a bundle for eternity? It there any doubt about the answer to that?
The bottom line is what we're going to do about it. What you do about it depends on whether you truly believe this is God's Word. If you believe it, you will give to God's work, you will give to God's workers, you will give to the poor and needy, you will give generously and sacrificially, and you will give without fanfare. And your reward in heaven will be enormous. It is the promise of God's word.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
Now please don't get the idea that you can buy your way into heaven. Just because we're talking about rewards in heaven doesn't mean you can buy your way into heaven. Oh, that would be the worst impression I could possibly leave with you. Can I say it again? There isn't enough money in the whole world to buy even one person's way into heaven. Money cannot do it.
But Jesus did it. He paid it all. His work on Calvary's cross was perfect and complete. And when He rose from that grave, He proved it. And He offers the results of that work to us freely. All He wants to know from us is that we know we are sinners and that we want to be delivered from our sin. It is when we put our trust in Him that gives us entrance into heaven--faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Have you done that?
Let's bow together right now, please, before Him. With our heads bowed, may I ask you if you know for certain that you've made this decision and put your faith in Christ as your Savior? If you're not certain you've done this, if you thought you could get to heaven by giving money to a church or to charity, or by doing other good deeds, or belonging to a religious organization--if you thought that, would you follow God's word? Even our righteous deeds, performed by sinful people, are unacceptable to God, as far as earning our way into heaven is concerned. It just can't be done.
Would you put your faith in Christ? Settle it in prayer right now, just in the quietness of your own soul, in words something like this:
"God, I'm a sinner. I know my sin separates me from You. I believe Jesus paid the penalty for my sin on that cross. Lord Jesus, I'm trusting You right now. Come into my heart and deliver me from sin."
Oh, how He longs to do that. He longs to save you--that's the way the Bible puts it. You can leave this place today saved, delivered, assured of eternal salvation. Don't put it off.
If you know you've put your trust in Christ and you know you are a Christian, have these verses in God's word about money challenged you today? Could it be that He wants you to rearrange some financial priorities in your life? Would you make that commitment to Him right now?
Lord, we asked at the beginning and we ask it again: Help us, I pray, to respond with a teachable, flexible spirit in total submission to Your will for our lives. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.