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Written by: MacArthur Jr., John    Posted on: 04/01/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.  It was transcribed from the tape, GC 90-41, titled "Investing in Eternity" Part 1.  A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the original tape was made.  Please note that at times sentence structure may appear to vary from accepted English conventions.  This is due primarily to the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription of the sermon, "Investing in Eternity" Part 1, to strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.


Open your Bible, if you will, to Matthew, chapter 6, and I want to read to you three very familiar verses, the setting for our message this Lord's Day and next.  In Matthew 6:19, Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon 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 or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Very poignant, very direct, very simple words, easily understood.  Jesus said, "Your treasure is to be invested in eternity."  The Lord then introduces to us this matter of using our earthly treasure for eternal purposes.  To put it simply, I want to show you how you are to use your money consistently with the teaching of our Lord. 

And certainly, it is an appropriate study at a time like this, when people are spending more money than they do at any other time of the year.  And they are spending it on temporal stuff that will be burned up in the end, if it doesn't stop working in the next week.  In fact, at no time of year is it more evident that our society is crazed with material things. 

One of the things that I purpose in my heart not to do at this time of year is to go near the Mall.  The proliferation of things to buy, people to sell them, and victims to purchase them, produces a crush, that could only be reminiscent of trying to get out of the Rose Bowl after the game, when the 10,000 people in your section are trying to get out the same twelve square foot tunnel.  The difference is, at the Mall, you are trying to buy something in the process of being crushed.  Frequently, buying something you might not even see.

We are consumed with consuming.  To give you a little perspective on that, in 1950, 10% of all income was spent for luxuries, or about 50 Billion dollars in America.  By 1980 that figure was 30% of all income spent on luxuries, about 350 billion dollars.  And it is now, in the last ten years, moving towards 40% of our income.  To show how that is distributed, between 1983 and 1988, Americans bought 62 million microwave ovens, 88 million cars and light trucks, 105 million color TVs, 63 million VCRs, 31 million cordless phones, and 30 million answering machines, that most cursed of all inventions.  It is bad enough to have to answer the phone when you are home, let alone be responsible for what comes when you are not.  Who needs it?

Money magazine concludes, that not only do we consume like no culture before us, but Money magazine says we pursue money like no other culture.  "Money," the magazine said, has become the number one obsession of Americans, quote, "Money has become the new sex in this country," end quote.  And Newsweek magazine says, "Americans have achieved a new plane of consciousness, they call it, Transcendental Acquisition."  We want the money and we want the stuff the money buys.  Whether or not it serves any purpose seems irrelevant.

Randy Alcorn, in his book, "Money, Possessions, and Eternity," writes, "The comic strip Kathy depicts an interesting dialogue between a young man and a woman.  Pointing to each item as they refer to it, first one and then the other says, "Safari clothes that will never be near a jungle; Aerobic footwear that will never set foot in an aerobics class; Deep Sea Dive watch that will never get damp; Keys to a Four-Wheeled drive vehicle that will never experience a hill; Architectural magazines we don't read, filled with pictures of furniture that we don't like; Financial strategy software keyed to a checkbook that is lost somewhere under the computer that no one knows how to work; An art poster from an exhibit we never went to, by an artist we never heard of." 

Finally, with blank stares one says, "Abstract materialism has arrived," to which the other rejoins, "Yes, we have moved past the things we want and need, and are buying those things that have nothing to do with our lives.

And the "bumper sticker" says it, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."  What are we living for?  To consume.  One "bumper sticker" says, "Everybody needs to believe in something, I believe that I'll have another beer."  Pretty shallow life.  Have you taken a close look at America lately?  When we are not buying lottery tickets, so that we can get more and more money, we are probably watching "Big Game Winning" shows, because the euphoria, the vicarious euphoria of seeing someone else get some more material things, turns us on!

It is the new sex.  It is the new high.  And when we are not buying lottery tickets or watching game shows, and watching people win big materialistic prizes, we are then wandering through shopping malls to see if there is something that we didn't know existed, that we can buy.  And now we have, in this "shop till you drop" culture, a new feature called "Home Shopping Network."  The curse of all curses.  And you don't even have to leave home.  Today's "Couch Potato Materialist" can sit there.  He doesn't have to get in his car and fight a crowd, he just has his credit card and a phone. 

And you say, "Well, it is a pastime.  Well, it is a harmless preoccupation."  That is not so.  The whole materialistic obsession gets very ugly, very ugly.  Dr. Erin Beck did a 10 year study of patients hospitalized with suicidal tendencies.  It appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry.  His bottom line was this, "Suicide risk is increased with income."  The more money you have, the more likely you are to kill yourself. 

Another medical study proved, and I quote, "Subtract two years from your life if your family income is over $40,000 a year.  The more money you have, the more you have to be anxious about, the more complex your life becomes, and the less years you live.  Another study shows that the increase of money creates moral decline and family disintegration, because money becomes the obsession, and I am quoting, "Among both men and women, the incidence of marital infidelity rises in conjunction with an increase in income."  In other words, the more money you have, the less faithful you are to your marriage. 

Of the married men earning $20,000, only 31% conducted extramarital "love affairs."  Of the married men earning more than $60,000, 70% of them conducted extramarital "love affairs." 

It is not a harmless pastime.  Listen carefully, it is a destructive pathology.  Materialism is a destructive pathology.  And the Apostle Paul was "on target" when he identified it with these inspired words, "Those who want to get rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction, for the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a pang."  Materialism is a destructive pathology.

It not only is destructive in the ways that I've noted, but in general in our culture.  According to the latest crime statistics, the estimate is that 99% of all crimes are motivated by sex or money, and money "out points" sex four-to-one.  The obsession with money destroys families, destroys lives, destroys culture.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn rightly said in assessing western culture, "We are always paying dearly for chasing what is cheap."  It has a dramatic effect upon the Church, as well, does this materialistic society.  The Bible, and even the hymnbook says a lot about following Jesus, but the checkbook says even more.  You want to know where somebody is spiritually, go through their checkbook.  You'll find out where their treasure is, so you'll know where there heart is.

A study of thirty plus denominations points out that although income after taxes and inflation, increased 31% in the last 17 years, giving has gone down 8.5% in the same period of time.  We have more than we have ever had and we give less than we have ever given.  What does it mean when God has entrusted more and more earthly treasure to professing Christians, who have greater wealth then they have ever had in human history, and are giving proportionately less and less and less and less to the Kingdom, because they are consumed with the culture.

We are taking our cues obviously from the wrong place.  The scandal in the Church is not only that "lovers of money" in the pulpit are scandalizing the Church by stealing from the treasury.  The scandal in the Church is not just leaders loving money and stealing from the Church.  It is the people in the pew loving money and holding back what is rightfully the Lord's.

Almost half of all charitable giving in the United States, comes from households with incomes under $30,000.  The people above that proportionally give less.  A leader in the Romanian Church in Romania, now is one of the few countries left behind the "Iron Curtain" locked into Communism, but a Romanian Church leader said, and I quote, "In my experience, 95% of the believers, who face the test of persecution, pass it.  95% of the believers who face the test of prosperity, fail it. 

Hosea 13:6 may sum it up, "And being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot me."  When we become prosperous, we become proud.  We become conceited, we want to show that off, and so we forget God.  And, I tell you beloved, the possession of material riches, is usually a spiritual liability.  Jesus said, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God." 

This problem of materialism, of wasted money, of wasted substance, plagues our culture, plagues the Church.  And the Bible has a lot to say about this, in fact, 16 out of 38 of Christ's parables, deal with money.  More is said, did you know, in the New Testament, about money then about Heaven and Hell combined?  Five times more is said about money than about prayer.  On the subject of prayer and faith there are 500 plus verses, on the subject of money and possessions there are 2,000 verses.  And a Christianity that doesn't affect how you handle your money, is not a true Christianity.  We put too much of our life in the pursuit of money in this world, and of what it buys. 

J. H. Jowelet [sp.] was right when he said, "The real measure of our wealth is how much we would be worth if we lost all of our money."  How much are you worth if you have no money?  To God, to the Kingdom, to others?  So Jesus knows that we face the encroachment of materialism, probably like no other culture in the history of the human race.  We are facing it today.

In the most affluent society in the world, the most affluent time in history, the most comfort oriented time, and Jesus' words to us, "To not lay up treasures on Earth, but to lay it up in Heaven," is very, very, important.  To follow up what He said, we need also to hear him speak on another occasion, recorded in Luke, chapter 12.  And I would invite you to turn to Luke 12 and consider verses 16-21, again a familiar passage of Scripture, but one that speaks directly to the issue.

In Luke, chapter 12, verse 16, Jesus tells a parable.  This is one of those 16 parables about money and possessions, "The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'"  Bottom line, "I have more than I need.  After I have used all that I could possibly use.  After I have amassed all of this stuff.  I don't need it so I have to store it.  This is another problem that we have today.

I have lived 50 years on this world, and the last five, I have come to see a proliferation of "storage places."  Have you seen those?  I call them "Luke 12 Storage Places!"  What are they for?  They are to store what you don't need.  It's incredible.  Here we are a society where people rent places to store what they don't want!  They not only buy what they don't want, but they pay to store what they don't want, in a place they can't use what they don't want!  Unbelievable.

By the way, I don't have a storage place.  So this rich man said, "Where am I going to store my crops?"  He said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones."  That's an expensive operation.  "I'll store all my grain and my goods."  He wasn't about to give any of it away, and that's the problem here, he had more than he needed, and he wanted to keep everything that he had.  He was greedy and selfish, he says, "I will store all of it and I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.'"  "I'll no longer work, I'll just loaf, and live off of this.  God said to him, "You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you.  You are going to die.  I am going to take your life tonight, and now who will own what you have prepared?  So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

It couldn't be more clearer, dear friends.  If you are piling up a fortune for yourself, the Lord might just take your life.  And then who is going to be the one who owns it?  I don't believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to leave everything to somebody else.  I believe that I need to be a steward of what God gives me, and use it for His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom, in the years that he gives to me.  And if I don't do that, if I lay up treasure for myself, if I lay up treasure on earth, rather than Heaven, and am not rich toward God, then I am a fool, I am a fool, by Jesus' very definition.

Now go over to Luke 16, and here is another of Jesus' parables about money.  He was saying to His disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a steward."  Now a steward is a guy who doesn't own things, but he manages them.  Here's a wealthy land owner, a rich man, and he has this guy who is suppose to manage all of his assets.  He's supposed to take care of everything.  The steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  They word came back to him, "This guy is wasting your money.  This guy is throwing away your money." 

And he called him and said to him, "What is this I hear about you?  Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.  I'm not going to let you waste my money anymore, so you give me an account."  The steward said to himself, "What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me?"  And here's an indication just what kind of guy he was, "I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg."  He was a proverbial wimp.  He didn't want to do manual labor and he was too proud to beg, so he said, "I've got a real problem.  I'm going to lose my job.  I'm not willing to work and I'm not willing to beg.  What am I going to do?"

"I know what I'll do," he says in verse 4, "so that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.  I've got to have someplace to go.  I've got to have somebody who will take me in."  So here was his well thought out plan, "He summoned each one of his master's debtors."  Everybody that owed the master some money, or some commodity.

He got them all together and he began saying, to the first guy, "How much do you owe my master?"  And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.'  And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.  I'll cut it in half for you.'"  Well, you can imagine the guy's reaction.  "Oh, thank you, oh, very much, oh, if I can ever repay your debt, oh this is very generous.  Thank you, thank you."  And he said to the next guy, "How much do you owe?"  And he said, "A hundred measures of wheat."  He said to him, "Take your bill, and write eighty."  "Oh, thank you very much."  And he just moved through the whole group.

Well, now what has he done?  He has got all these people in debt to him.  They all feel obligated to him because of what he had done for them.  He knew he was going to get fired anyway, so he didn't care whether his master got everything he was due.  He discounted everybody's debt and he got them all indebted to him, so that when he gets "canned," he can go to them and say, "You remember how I helped you out?  I need a place to stay and I need employment."  He was setting himself up.

"And his master," verse 8, "praised the unrighteous steward."  He was unrighteous but he praised him, because he acted shrewdly.  He was a smart guy.  That was smart stuff.  And then Jesus says, "For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind then the sons of light."  We are real "blockheads" compared to them.  They are shrew.  That was a shrewd operation.

Now, notice how Jesus applies it in verse 9, "I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness."  Now that funny phrase means money.  Use your money to make friends.  Hey, the world does.  Do you know the name of the game out there?  You buy friends.  Right?  You buy relationships.  That's how it works.  You cross my palm, I cross your palm, you owe me, I owe you.  That's the way it is out there in the world.  They are very shrewd.  They get themselves networked by obligation.  They are shrewd.

Jesus says, "They have enough sense to use their money to buy friends who will receive them."  "That's smarter then most of you," He says.  Well, what do you mean?  Verse 9, middle of the verse, "They do this, that when it fails, they may be received."  Well, He says, "I'm telling you, that you ought to take your mammon of unrighteousness, your money, so that when it fails, they may receive you into eternal dwellings.  They use their money, use their position to buy friendships that will help them, that will receive them.  You ought to do the same."  What do you mean Lord?

This is what I mean, "You ought to use your money to purchase friends, who will receive you into eternity.  Do you understand what He is saying?  You ought to use your money for what?  For winning people to Christ, so that when you go to Glory, you are going to have some friends receiving you.  They are going to receive you because you were the instrument that God used, financially, to provide the gospel for them. 

Jesus says, "Even the world knows that you use your money to gain friends.  You ought to be at least that wise, and use your money to gain eternal friends, who will receive you into eternal glory.  They will be there waiting when you arrive, because you have made an investment in their salvation.  That indicates to me that they are going to know, they are going to know.

So we are then, according to the words of Jesus, not to be involved in laying up treasures on earth, but treasure in Heaven.  We are not to be involved in storing and storing, and amassing and amassing.  We are to take what we need, give to others who have need, and trust God for a new supply.  We are to be rich towards God.  We are to use our money for gospel ministry and evangelism, and outreach, and reaching people through, obviously the myriad of means the Church has to do that.  So that in eternity, we will be received by the friends we have made by that kind of sacrificial giving.  That is how we are to live.

The problem is, that seems frightening to us.  If you were in a deprived Third World poor country, this message would come to you, perhaps in a different way.  You would have very little.  You would have maybe enough to feed your family every day.  And if you had anything more you would give it to the poor, and you would have to trust God for the next day, and the next day, and the next day.  And if you got a little more, you would give it to someone who didn't have, and you would understand this.  This would not be that complexed.  And if you had a little more than that, you might use it to buy a Bible to give to another poor family that needed Jesus Christ, because life would be very simple for you.

But we who live in a materialistic culture where the temptations of that destructive pathology are so rampant, find it very, very difficult to untangle ourselves and to get back to any kind of simplicity.  The sin of materialism is a serious sin.  It has plagued our nation and it now plagues our church.  And I believe it cripples believers.  So I want to talk a little bit about that for a few moments.

Let me ask you a question, What are the signs of materialism?  What are the signs of materialism?  You say, "Big house, big car, fancy wardrobe, lots of jewelry."  No, those aren't the signs of materialism.  Some people may have received those as a gift.  Some people may need a large house because they have a lot of children and they have a lot a folks who come there and sleep and stay and rest, and are discipled, and maybe they have a Bible Study, so they need a larger home.

That isn't the answer.  Some people may have to have a good car because they have to get where they are going every time they go, and they don't know how to fix an old one.  There are lots of reasons.  Somebody might have nice jewelry because it was a gift, an heirloom, whatever.  You don't evaluate it on that basis.  You say, "Well now wait a minute, if you have a lot of money in the bank."  No some people may have money in the bank because they are making a wise investment, with the purpose of giving it to God.  They are waiting for a ministry to have that specific need.  And while that need is yet forming, they are earning interest on their money so they can make a greater gift to the Kingdom.  You cannot evaluate it on that basis.

Now there is a line, over which you can go, and it becomes apparent that you are demonstrating materialism.  Now you can have a house that is inordinately too big and a transportation mode that is irrational, and a wardrobe that is unacceptable and inexplicable.  But materialism is not primarily what you have, it is an attitude.  Now let me tell you some keywords, all right?  And I want you to do a little inventory and keep in mind that money is not the root of all evil, what is?  The love of it.  The love of it and loving it is different then having it.  You can have it and not love it, and not have it and love it.

What are the signs of materialism?  You can do a little inventory.  Number one sign, anxiety over money.  Anxiety over money.  What do I mean by this?  I mean that you no longer just manage your money, you worry about it.  You no longer budget and take care of the details of your money, you fret over it.  You're concerned about it.  You're worried about it.  You discuss it husband and wife.  You argue about it, you get mad about it.  You hassle over expenditures.  It is in your mind, an anxiety. 

What it usually means is, you're irresponsible and or you are spending more than you earn.  And that is why you are worried and you should worry.  See our culture is built on credit, so the majority of people in America spend more than they earn.  And if you do that, you are going to worry about money, and that's materialism, because you are now preoccupied with money.  You have a materialistic mindset.  It occupies your thoughts, it occupies your anxieties and distracts you from spiritual endeavor.  You are not managing your money, you are anxious about it.

Second word, first word is anxiety.  That's the first attitude consistent with materialism.  The second one is covetousness.  It is characteristic of the materialist that envies what others have.  That invariably he wants what he doesn't have.  He lust for something that somebody else has.  He's not content with his situation.  There is something pushing him for the new and the different.  He becomes tired of something very rapidly.  And I'll tell you folks we are feeding a generation of children on this mentality.  We have a generation of children growing up who have a very difficult time being entertained by anything for more than about five or ten minutes.  They are learning to constantly demand something new.  That's covetousness, lusting for what they don't have, envying what someone else has. 

Third word, selfishness.  The attitude of materialism incorporates the concept of selfishness.  Simply defined, I'll put it to you this way, you have no joy in giving.  That's the bottom line in selfishness.  You have no joy in giving.  Little joy in giving.  If someone wants to use what you have, you get upset.  If someone comes to you and presents a need, and tells you about that need, you are angry about the fact that you think that you are obligated to give.  You write that check out for the church and you write it for a little less each time.  And even though it is less than it used to be, you are upset that you are even having to write it.  You begrudge that.  You have lost the joy of giving.  That is a dead giveaway for selfishness, which is an element of materialism. 

Let me give you a fourth word, and I guess maybe that the right word for this would be greediness.  Greediness manifests itself a number of ways.  Wanting more is obviously the basic definition and in that sense it is like covetousness, but greediness is different than coveting.  Coveting is wanting what somebody else has, greed is wanting what you don't have.  It is sort of the other side of it, it is your personal desire for more, for more, for more, and for more.  It feeds on a number of things. 

It feeds on "get rich quick" schemes, where you are going to make a lot of money real fast.  It feeds on lottery tickets.  It feeds on gambling, that is trying to gain something by chance, which of course is contrary to stewardship and to the character of God.  It is worrying all the time about the rate of return on your investments.  It is reading the stock pages, constantly being burdened that you stock dropped or your dividends diminished.  Constantly worrying about your investments, constantly worrying about the rate of return.  Worrying about the prime rate or whatever it might be.  This is greediness, because what happens is that you are preoccupied with all of this money making.  You are concerned to make money, rather than being concerned to do right, do your best, work unto the Lord, and so forth. 

Another word that defines materialism is the word discontent.  Discontent seems to be very simply defined as loosing appreciation for what you have.  And you know as well as I do that this entire culture in which we live is a culture steeped in advertising, and the "bottom line" in all advertising is to make you discontent.  To make you unhappy and dissatisfied with what you have.  You see materialism is not what you have, it is an attitude.  It is an attitude of anxiety over money.  Instead of just using your money and managing your money, you worry about it. 

It is an attitude of covetousness where you are envying what others have.  You want the kind of style of life, clothes, car, house, whatever else that they have.  It is selfishness, where if you have to give, you give grudgingly.  It is greediness, where you never get enough, you always want more, so you are always scheming on how to get more and are preoccupied with how much more you are getting.  And then discontent means that you have lost the ability to appreciate what you have.

Another word to add to our list is unfaithfulness.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that in the spiritual dimension, materialism will always show up in a lack of interest and a lack of faithfulness to serving Christ.  You are not concerned with time in the Word of God, you are not concerned with time in prayer, you are not concerned with comforting God's people, you are not concerned with fellowship, you are not concerned with using your spiritual gift, and you have no time for serving Christ.  That's a "dead giveaway" for materialism.  You are consumed in your little world.  And your world of amassing and consuming is consuming you.  And you are unfaithful to serve Christ and to give your life to others.

There is another word that I think fits into materialism and this too provides an inventory of our own lives, and that is the word flattery.  Another mark of materialism is flattery.  Flattery is simply saying things to people for personal gain.  And usually you are saying things that are only relatively true.  You are overstating the case,  You are building them up.  You are puffing them up.  You are stroking them because you believe in such fabrications and lying there will be personal gain.  If you are a flatterer you are a materialist. 

And lastly, would be the word idolatry.  What is idolatry?  It means that you are sacrificing relationships with people for things.  You are worshiping things.  The inanimate idol, that is materialism. 

So you are a materialist if you are anxious over your money all the time, rather than just contentedly managing it.  You are a materialist if you are coveting what you don't have and lusting for something someone else has.  You are a materialist if you lose the joy of giving, if that is not an exhilarating, thrilling joy for you.  You are a materialist if you want more, want more, want more, and are always worrying about how much more you are getting.  You are a materialist if you are discontent with what you possess.  You are a materialist if you are unfaithful to the service and the relationship you have with Jesus Christ.  You are a materialist if you use flattery on people who can somehow provide more for you.  And you are a materialist if you find yourself bowing down to things, at the cost of relationships.  And again I say, materialism isn't what you have, it is the attitude you have.

Let me show you 1st Timothy 6 again, verses 17-19, which I think is instructive for us, because it shows us that there are some people who have much and do not necessarily need to be corrupted by that.  1st Timothy 6:17, here we have this word, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world. . ."  Now there are

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