Matthew 6:19-34

Jesus telling us how to perceive how we go to work

Commentary by Walt Henrichsen
on 22 March 2003 at the Lippo Centre in Hong Kong

 

 

09:00-10:00 – waiting and talking

10:00-14:30 – commentary on Mt.6:19-34 – Jesus telling us how to perceive how we go to work

12:30-14:00 – lunch break

14:00-16:30 – practical implications and question and answer time

 

(Note: words in parenthesis were added to clarify/further comment on what Walt said.)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

When faced with uncertainty, we feel insecure.

    Ž Therefore, men spend their lives trying to make things certain.  This is futile.

 

Mt.6:19-34 – Jesus was telling us how to perceive how we go to work.

It’s important to understand this, because how we perceive reality does not change reality.

How we perceive reality just affects how we respond to it.

 

Mt.6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Labor for eternal wealth.

Jesus didn’t say this because He was angry.  He said it, because it’s the smart thing to do.

 

Usually, when people are concerned about their reputation, they do things at the expense of their character.

 

Temporal wealth

According to Solomon, there are three things that your kids can do with your accumulated material wealth:

1.      Use it up in a few weeks (bad)

2.      Be spoiled (bad)

3.      Use it to propel them to greater heights (good)

 

But no man can predict how his children will use it.

We can teach our children and pray for them, but God will determine the result (predestination).

It’s their choice (free will.)

 

God will not judge us on results, but only on our faithfulness to opportunity.

 

In a free world, people will invest time in what they value most.

 

We even seek what’s best for our enemy, because we seek eternal gain.

Question: What do you think about the war in Iraq? (because it had just started in March)

Answer (regarding war in general):

In the New Testament the tasks of love, mercy and forgiveness are individuals’ responsibility.

Justice is the court’s responsibility and duty.

The state’s responsibility is to ensure justice.

Rom.13:5: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”

Therefore, governments are free to kill in the pursuit of justice.

Therefore, (in the Old Testament times) God commissioned the state of Israel to do a lot of killing.

(After lunch: hear Jim’s ideas since he’s a consultant for the US government.)

 

Mt.6:33 … “all these things will be given to you.”

     Ž Gifts come with responsibility, so we should have thankfulness.

 

Mt.22,23 – 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!”

 

Temporal wealth has great attraction.

Therefore, we need a steady eye to keep our focus on the things God declares to be of worth.

We put our eye on what we hope for: worldly wealth, beautiful woman, (status, etc.) or eternal things

A soul involved in things of the world brings terrible darkness!

 

Meanings of “Know”

1.      Intimacy        Ex: Adam knew his wife

2.      Information   Ex:  2 x 2 = 4

3.      Assurance      Most common in the Bible – product of a healthy relationship

 

1Jn.5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

     Ž We need assurance because reality does not depend on our perception.

 

Faith = commitment without knowing.  Therefore, self-examination is important:

·         2Cor.13:5 – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?

·         Phil.2:12 – Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

·         2Pt.1:10 – Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall.

 

How does a man get to heaven?

Conditions that have to be met

What are the evidences of salvation?

Jesus!

Faith/believe

Rom.4:4,5 & Eph.2:8,9 – justified by faith and not works

Many: obedience, good works, persevering – Heb.3:14 - “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”, (etc.)

 

Evidences help in showing the conditions.

Discipline is necessary when someone refuses to comply.

Mt.18:18 – “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

 

Old Testament discipline was a vigilante system – kill the offender

New Testament discipline is a process and the objective is to save people

Paul: 1Cor.5 – expel the immoral brother

Jesus: Mt.18:15-20 – one on one; else with one or two witnesses; else to the church; else treat as a pagan or tax collector

Application: when a person claims to be a Christian and freely admits he’s disobeying a negative command of the Bible, shun him and don’t even have a meal with him – for the sake of the body

If he does not freely admit he’s disobeying a negative command of the Bible, then take 2 witnesses

If there are no witnesses or no witnesses willing, then just focus on your own sins; you’re not the gustapo.

(Walt made no mention of how to relate to such a person in the future, though.  He didn’t seem to want to discuss it or suggest any concrete application.  Perhaps he would privately shun the person.  Perhaps being a leader and moving around a lot, he never had to deal much with this in his Christian life.  Perhaps he hasn’t been around groups in which there’s a lot of gossip, slander and unresolved relationships.)

 

Mt.6:24 – “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 (mammon).”

     Ž Everyone has a master.  Everyone gets to choose his master.  You can only have one.

 

Ja.4:4 – friendship with the world is spiritual adultery

Dt.14:22 – 2nd tithe – 10% of net worth – spend it on self/party

Dt.14:23 – that you learn to fear the Lord your God

    Ž When you spend it you don’t have it.

    Ž When you don’t have it, you must trust God

    Ž Saving is designed to remove fear.  (Therefore, too much saving tempts us not to trust God)

 

Mt.6:25-34 – “Do not worry about your life … but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness …”

Because Mt.6:19-24 is so difficult, God is going to help you!

Jesus is seeking to make your life easier!

To give your energy to meeting the needs of life distracts you from giving your life to that which is truly profitable.

Therefore, preoccupation with temporal profit and laying up treasures on earth is a repudiation of the intrinsic worth of the individual.  (ie., it says that we are worth less than the birds of the air.)

 

Question from group: what about a Christian in Somali who is starving?

Walt: God defines needs differently for different people.

A Christian businessman might reject Mt.6:25-34 because he’s not willing to let God determine his needs.

What’s scary is letting Jesus decide what our needs are!

 

Mt.6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?”

    Ž If God provides for the birds you eat, will He not provide for you?

 

Romans 1 -            God reveals Himself to man

                        Man rejects God

                        God rejects man – “God gave them up” 3 times – by giving them what they wanted!

        ŽTherefore, God NOT giving us what we want is actually a blessing!

        Ž God punishes spiritual blindness with spiritual blindness!

 

Mt.6:27 – “Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?”

    Ž You can’t meet your own needs by your own effort any more than you can add a cubit (18 inches)
         to your height.

Ž Do you believe it?

Ž It is counter-intuitive! (different from the heathen in verses 31 and 32)

 

Mt.6:31,32 – “So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

 

God didn’t give us our vocation for the purpose of gaining a living.

Instead, God provides (for our needs) through our vocation.

This might not affect what we do, but it should affect how we view it (what we do).

 

God uses a husband and wife to meet the needs of each other.

But they shouldn’t look to each other to meet each other’s needs – that’s using people!

That would risk hurting their marriage and would surely get God angry at us.

We shouldn’t use anybody!

 

Vocation: ALL Christians are ministers

The only difference between you and your pastor is your source of income.

The secular is spiritual when the focus of life is eternal.

The spiritual is secular when the focus of life is temporal.

Example: A pastor who wants the biggest church in town is no different from a businessman doing the same in the marketplace

 

When Walt was a young Christian people said to him, “You’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.”

Jesus says, “Don’t be so earthly-minded you’re no heavenly good.”

 

Lk. 17:20,21 – Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

      Ž The kingdom of God is righteousness, the rule of God in people’s hearts and lives.

 

1Cor.1:30 – It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

   Ž Jesus is our righteousness, wisdom, holiness and redemption

 

Mt.6:19-34 says that long range planning is only of value with an eternal perspective – when it includes e2

e2 = edification and evangelism

Edification has been called different things – follow-up, discipleship, mentoring

 

Lunch break

During lunch, Walt told one man that the only reasonable grounds for divorce and remarriage he saw were when the partner was unfaithful, the partner initiated the separation, and the partner remarried (or something similar to this)

 

After lunch - Brief Discussion on the War in Iraq (because it had just started in March)

·         One brother from the US shared how people he knew close the President Bush were confident that the president was praying an seeking God regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq.

·         He believed that the threat of weapons of mass destruction and the people’s need of liberation justified the war.

·         However, he said that if no weapons of mass destruction were found, someone would need to do some accounting later.

·         Walt said that based on Mt.7:12, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” it would be his preference to help people decide who will rule over them (because that is what he would like.)

·         For fuller summary, read Lee Yih’s article in a newsletter of the CEE.

 

 

 

Why work? (Pragmatic Implications)

 

1.      We do NOT work to make a living.
We DO work because God commands it (6 days work and one day rest)

 

2.      We do work because it’s strategic – an environment in which we can work out Mt.6:33.
The only difference between you and your pastor is how you get paid.
Ex: what if pastor wanted to grow church and get bigger salary?

 

Never set goals that require the performance of people to fulfill without a contract.

The contract implies that there’s no commitment (between the people).

(However, the people should be committed to the contract out of commitment to God.)

Ex: wife, children, brothers and sisters in Christ (should have commitment w/o contract)

Lots of conflict in the home will dissipate if you let go of goals.

 

Goal of employing people – serve them, not use them.

Yet expect that they are there to get work done.

 

If (as an employer) you want to lead people to Christ yet can’t get close, then be creative.

Ex: Walt’s wife’s job at one company was to do a bit of tedious work but spend most time getting to know women and sharing the Gospel with them.

 

Evangelism is the only business in which the salesman is paid for the call instead of the close.

 

Col. 3:23-25 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

 

23 – We play to an audience of one – God

24 – The reward of work is from God, not men (b/c God takes care of us on earth)

Walt’s kids never asked if there would be food and a bed tomorrow.

If you don’t trust God, it’s an affront.

Ex: son who saves money in case his father fails to meet his needs

25 – Don’t think that it won’t matter if you don’t do evangelism b/c we’ll be repaid for our wrongs

 

There is no necessary relationship between how hard you work and how much you make

Ex: in an economic downturn you may have to work harder even though you get paid less

Ecc.9:11 – I have seen something else under the sun.  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

 

3.      There is no intrinsic value in the product of your labor.

Jer.9:23,24 – This is what the Lord says, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

   Ž It will all burn.

 

Walt was an engineering major in college.

He didn’t want God to burn what he built, so he didn’t pursue it.

That’s why a laborer’s value is in his efforts not the final result.

Phil.3:8 – What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish (skubalon) that I may gain Christ.

 

Skubalon = dung, excrement, shit  Ž no intrinsic value (except possibly for fertilizer)

 

Determining your vocation is a subjective decision

You can decide

You will be accountable (for the decision)

 

4.      Significance is not found in the work you do or who you are, but in WHOSE you are.

To be a slave of Christ is a badge or honor.

This is lost today in the USA when a husband and wife both work.

This is a SCANDAL in the body of Christ.

If a wife is a full-time mother, does she know you (the husband) believe her worth is eternal?

Kids should know that parents like to be with them.

 

5.      You can participate in the work of God, but you can’t contribute.

You can get a slice of the action.

Ex: a friend lets you in on a great deal – you put in $5000 now and get back $5,000,000 in 6 months

You contribute nothing!

Also, there is no relationship between God using a man and God approving of him.

All God wants is obedience.

Part of that is giving your life in exchange for people.

That’s why a poor little janitor lady might be first in the kingdom of God.

Also, nobody will go to hall because of your neglect.

Walt said he likes to be a recluse, but he’s in the people business – prayer, evangelism, and discipleship.

 

Jer.9:23,24 – This is what the Lord says, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

   Ž Being smart, powerful or rich has no intrinsic value; not what you know but WHO you know (God)

 

Mt.16:18 – “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

    Ž God will build His church

 

Isa.46:9,10 – “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from the ancient times, what is still to come I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

    Ž All history is unfolding of the program of God.

 

Esther 4:14 – “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

    Ž if you remain silent, deliverance will arise from another place

 

Rom.1:11-15 – I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.  I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.  That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

       Ž Paul wanted a harvest (for himself)

 

Thoughts on Leisure

Part of the rhythm of life; nobody can work non-stop

There are seasons for harvesting and resting.

Leisure is part of the rhythm.

Because you can’t contribute in your labor, you don’t lose anything in your leisure

 

Thoughts on Retirement

Retirement is not an option in the Bible

It’s OK to retire from your vocation, but not from ministry.

The desire to retire is an expression of despair

      Ž It shows that a person has lost his focus on his reason for being here

Our vocation is our arena for non-Christian contacts

      Ž So we should not give it up unless we have another arena somewhere else

 

Thoughts on vocational Christian workers

Most businessmen don’t think highly of vocational Christian workers

Vocational Christian workers take sabbaticals every few years, but normal people don’t

Walt doesn’t understand why vocational Christian workers often don’t work as long hours as normal people.

Not working the hours in contract = stealing from employer