Laying Up Treasure in Heaven

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(Matthew 6, 13 & 19, Genesis 6 & 7)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 6

Laying Up Treasure in Heaven

(Matthew 6, 13 & 19, Genesis 6 & 7)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Do you need to have someone keep an eye on you? I know I do. Each week I teach the lesson that I write. Turns out that this is an invaluable check on my thinking. When Malachi 3 (and the other verses we have studied) tell us that if we give materially to God’s work, He will pour out a huge amount of blessings, I teach that this is about money, among other things. My class members respond that it is about other things more than money. Who is right? The prime characters in the Old Testament were rich and the prime characters in the New Testament were not. Consistent with my view I read Matthew 6:19-20 to be talking about money. “Treasure equals money.” Ouch! I’m an old guy who has saved for retirement. But if the blessings in Malachi 3 are not primarily about money, should we conclude that the “treasures on earth” are also not about money? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. The Nature of Treasure
    1. Read Matthew 6:19. Is this a debatable statement? (No. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, put simply, is that things left alone get worse. We have all seen it. Our treasures are not safe here on earth.)
    2. Read Matthew 6:20. Heaven is a perfect place. I believe that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not exist there. The practical questions is: “How do we make deposits there? How do we “lay up ... treasures in heaven?” (The answer to that is the main discussion that follows.)
    3. Read Matthew 6:21. Does this help us to understand what is meant by “treasure?”
      1. Can anything we love more than God be defined as treasure? (I’m doubtful that is true.)
      2. To aid our understanding of “treasure,” look again at Matthew 6:19. What kind of things are subject to rusting, being eaten, and stolen? (This sounds like Jesus is talking about tangible things. But if this is to be taken literally, how would we get these tangible things to heaven? And if we did, would we value them up there?)
    4. Read Matthew 13:44. This defines the Kingdom of Heaven as like a treasure. Is the whole thing a treasure?
      1. Is it for sale?
      2. Let’s look at this from a practical point of view. Why would the man in the parable sell everything he had to buy the field? (Because the treasure hidden in it was worth more than his money.)
        1. Did he expect to make a profit? (Yes!)
        2. Does that expectation apply to us? For example, if we are talking about money as treasure, should we get more money by putting the Kingdom of God first?
      3. If heaven is the treasure, does it make sense to conclude that “laying up treasure in heaven” mostly means getting there? When you get there you have the treasure?
  2. The Rich Young Man
    1. Read Matthew 19:21. Have we arrived at the precise instruction on how to create treasure in heaven? We bank treasure in heaven by selling all that we have and giving it to the poor?
    2. Let’s read the context to better understand Jesus’ teaching. Read Matthew 19:16. What do you think about this question? (Read Ephesians 2:8-9. This teaches that salvation comes by faith and not works. As we will see, the rich young man was boasting about his works, which is the precise problem identified in this text.)
    3. Read Matthew 19:17. What a minute! Do you think that Jesus believed that we are saved by keeping the commandments?
      1. Are Paul (writing in Ephesians) and Jesus in conflict?
    4. Read Matthew 19:18-21. The rich young man says that he has kept all of the commandments. Do you think that is true?
      1. Read Galatians 3:10-11. What does this suggest about the truth of the rich young man’s statement?
    5. Read Matthew 19:22. Is this a commandment that the rich young man would not keep? (He was unwilling to sell all that he had.)
      1. By the way, where is this commandment that Jesus cites written in the Old Testament? (I don’t think it exists. Of course, Jesus gets to state the rules. But the Old Testament rule found in Leviticus 19:18 that Jesus cites in Matthew 22:39-40 is “love your neighbor as yourself.” I would never ask my neighbor to sell all that he had and give it to me. Consider the practical problem if everyone had to sell all they had to give to each other. Once I give it to you, you have to give it back.)
      2. Do you think that the rich young man would have become perfect if he had sold all that he possessed and given it to the poor? (Re-read Galatians 3:10-11. This tells us that because the rich young man was unable to completely obey by selling all he had, that he was under a curse.)
        1. How did the rich young man end up under a curse? (By being one “who rely on works of the law.”)
    6. Read Matthew 19:23-24. We don’t want to lose track of the issue. Is Jesus saying (Matthew 19:21) that the way to deposit treasure in heaven is by selling all that we have and giving it to the poor. (I don’t think so. Instead of creating a conflict with the Biblical statements of Paul, Jesus is illustrating the truth of what Paul writes - no one can keep the law perfectly - and if you try you will fail and end up under a curse.)
      1. How do you explain what Jesus says about the difficulty of a rich person entering heaven? (The rich person is tempted to trust in his money instead of trusting God.)
      2. Is that the not-so-obvious key to making deposits in heaven - to trust God? (Think about this. If Jesus were speaking literally, that the rich must sell all to become perfect to enter heaven, then no rich person would ever enter heaven. Heaven would not be entered by the rich with “difficulty,” they would not enter at all.)
  3. Noah
    1. Read Genesis 6:13-15, Genesis 6:18, and Genesis 7:6-7. Assume you never heard this story before. How would you react to God’s command to build this massive boat?
    2. Read 2 Peter 3:3-6. What does this suggest the pagan world did while Noah was building the ark? (The idea of water covering the world was so unbelievable that it is likely Noah had to deal with scoffers.)
    3. Reasonably assume, based on these texts that Noah was surprised by God’s command to build a massive boat and the people around Noah were scoffing at him the way pagans scoff at the idea of the end of the world. What would be required of Noah to do as God requested? (Noah would need absolute trust in God.)
      1. Did Noah receive treasure because of his trust? (Read Genesis 7:23. Noah and his family inherited the entire world.)
      2. We have discussed the idea that heaven is the actual treasure being discussed, and trust is the key to obtaining that treasure. Do you think the Noah story illustrates the “treasure in heaven” concept? (I think it does. Noah trusted God and he inherited the earth. This is a parallel to our hope about heaven.)
  4. Sermon on the Mount
    1. Matthew 6:20, the text about laying up treasure in heaven, is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s examine what Jesus said almost immediately thereafter. Read Matthew 6:24-25. What is Jesus saying about money? What is He saying about trust? (If we are right that laying up treasure in heaven is about trust, Jesus now repeats the point that if we trust money we will “despise” trusting God. Failing to trust God makes us anxious.)
    2. Read Proverbs 10:3-5. What does this teach about hard work and planning? (Being diligent and having plans makes you rich and being lazy makes you poor. Choose diligence and prudence.)
    3. Friend, we must not trust in the outcome of our diligence. If we do we will not trust God. Trusting God, not money, is the key to heaven. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God?
  5. Next week: Unto the Least of These.