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