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St Giles and St George

Growing A Culture Of Generosity – Responding to God’s Generous Grace
 
Small Group Intro and Discussion Points.
 
Week 3. Matthew 6:19-22. Build up Treasure in Heaven 
 
“The Insurance policy to end all Insurance policies” is how my friend Jim likes to describe Christian faith. For him faith seems to be about covering the risk that one day we might possibly have to stand before the creator. So he reasons, by investing a little here on earth in church attendance, good deeds, praying, tithing etc, we build up a fund that one day we might just have cash in. 
 
Although it’s not a view of faith that Christians are likely to share, in one sense Jim is closer to the truth than he thinks. He’s close to the truth in so far as he’s made the connection between what we ‘invest in’ here on earth and our ‘heavenly account’. It’s a connection that Jesus makes in our reading today. Jim would be most upset if he thought he’d got it right! 
 
Q – What do you make of the idea of building up treasure in Heaven? It’s quite an ambiguous phrase, what do you think it means? 
 
In our reading Jesus talks about two types of treasure. Earthly treasure and Heavenly treasure. Let’s begin by looking at the former – Earthly treasure or wealth as we’re more likely to call it. 
 
Much of what we’re thinking about in this series is concerned with challenging prevailing cultural attitudes to wealth and how we use it, and today follows a similar path.
 
When it comes to ‘treasure’ or money people don’t love it for it’s own sake. There are (I hope) relatively few people in the world who see a pile of crisp bank notes and feel any kind of emotional or romantic attachment to them!
 
Instead, we love ‘treasure’ or money because of what it offers us. It promises to meet a number of deeply felt human needs:
  • the longing for security
  • the desire for power
  • the craving for self worth
  • the ability to transcend our mortality
Because these needs are so deeply felt, and because ‘treasure’ promises to meet them, mankind sets out to build up stores of treasure.
 
 
Q – How do some of these felt needs manifest themselves in your life? 
Are there any that you’re particularly conscious of that drive you to take a certain view of earthly treasure / wealth?
 
It may be good to pray at this point if particular struggles are identified.
 
As we think about the strength of these desires, and the promises that treasure / wealth makes about fulfillment Jesus words in Matthew 6:19-22 take on particular force. One of Jesus great skills is exposing the absurd for what it is and in these few short sentences he does just that. 
 
Jesus says placing our hope in things that can be eaten by moths, or destroyed by rust, or stolen by thieves is…well, one word…ridiculous. Despite the promises it makes, says Jesus, earthly treasure / wealth can’t possibly support the weight of expectation that we place on it when we look to it to meet our deepest desires. 
 
These desires:
  • the longing for security
  • the desire for power
  • the craving for self worth
  • the ability to transcend our mortality
Are met only in the Heavenly places by the Heavenly Father. 
  • the longing for security is met as we are called children of God
  • the desire for power is met as the Spirit’s power is at work in us
  • the craving for self worth is fulfilled as we recognize our value in Gods eyes
  • the ability to transcend our mortality is granted in eternal life
Wherever we believe these needs will be met, we will invest. If we believe these needs will be met in treasure / wealth then we will invest in treasure and seek to build wealth – and this is where our heart will be. If by contrast we believe these needs are met in the Heavenly places then we will invest here and this is where our heart will be. Jesus points this out in verse 21. 
 
Q – Where is your heart? Where do you primary motivations and concerns lay? Do you look primarily to build your treasure stores on earth or are you more concerned to build your treasure in heaven? 
  
As we re-orientate our hearts and lives towards God, as we turn away from the hollow promises of worldly wealth we find that two things happen:
  • Our deepest needs are met
  • We’re freed to store up treasure in heaven rather than treasure on earth
So what is treasure in heaven? 
 
Although it’s not a phrase we use much today in Jesus’ day it was a common phrase and part of the Jewish vernacular. It was usually defined as ‘deeds of mercy and deeds of kindness to people in distress’. By calling this treasure the implication is that such deeds are of great value both to the person helped and also to the person who gives help. 
 
Q – Why is helping the poor, showing mercy and kindness, etc (things that Jesus asks us to do) so valuable to the person doing them that they can be called ‘treasure’? Where does the value lie to the person who does the deed?
 
Does this have any link to Rev 20:12-13 – Does this help explain some of the value in doing such things? 
 
Q – What are some practical ways in which you might store up treasure in heaven?
  
Ministry & Response:
 
We know that we stand forgiven and loved before God through the blood of Christ. We also know that we will one day be called to give account for the lives we have led as God’s people. On that day the full importance of ‘treasure in heaven’ may become apparent!
  
Why not spend some time in prayer doing two things:
 
Firstly thanking God for his full and absolute forgiveness and love – asking him to meet our needs as outlined earlier with his love and his grace. Perhaps we may need to ask for his forgiveness for times we’ve believed the empty promises of wealth and earthly treasure – that it can meet our deepest needs and fulfill. 
 
Secondly spend some time asking God to help us to re-orientate our hearts away from earthly treasure towards heavenly treasure. Perhaps ask God to show us practical ways in which we can build up treasure in heaven.
 
Going Deeper:
 
Compile a ‘deposit book’ in which you can detail practical ways in which you can help those in need and store up treasure in heaven.
 
Think and pray about how you might make lifestyle changes that free you to store up treasure in heaven rather than storing up treasure on earth.


Simon Butler, 14/02/2011


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