TREASURE IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
If you are sharing with us on television or radio the service of this First Baptist Church in Dallas, in your Bible the message is based upon a humble, simple, beautiful admonition of our Lord in the passage of Scripture that we read together, Matthew chapter 6, verses 19 and 20. And the title of the sermon is Treasure in Heaven. The word of our blessed Lord is this:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.[Matthew 6:19-21]
Our Lord makes here a plain and simple distinction between treasures upon earth and treasures in heaven. And His first admonition is this. It is against the investment of our hopes, and our dreams, and our ambitions, and our love and devotion in this world, in this earth, because, our Lord said, because of the providences and exigencies of life that so bring defeat and despair and disappointment. And He summed up those exigencies and providences in the words of a moth, of the rust, of the thief that carries it away. When we invest the love of our hearts, and the devotion of our lives, and the dreams and ambitions of our souls in this life, our Lord would say there awaits for us an inevitable disappointment and despair. “Lay not up for yourselves the treasures of hope and devotion of soul and life in this world.”
Sometimes we can invest our dreams and our hopes in a field, in the product of the ground. As you know, for so many years I was a village and a country pastor. And in one of those churches there was a farmer who had a great, vast wheat field. And having planted it, and having seen it grow, the time came for the harvest. And he spoke so much and so often of what the field would buy when the harvest of grain was sold, and even his wife began to speak to me of the things that they would buy with the money the field would bring.
Upon a time, visiting in the home, she said to me, “Last week, my husband went up on a little knoll overlooking the field, and buried his face in his hands, and cried like a child. For that week a heavy hail storm had come, and beat down every stalk of the wheat into the ground.” This is the treasure in the world that brings with it so oft times disappointment.
Sometimes our hopes and our dreams are in the investments we’re able to make in the financial community and economic program of a great nation like America in stocks, in bonds, in many other ways can we treasure up for ourselves in this world. And it also has the possibility of loss and disappointment. In this very city, in the circle of this very church, there came to see me one time a sweet, dear woman who all her life had lived in wealth and affluence. She had come to see me about the possibility of her finding a job. And I said, “You? You?”
“Yes, I.” For they had lost everything they possessed in an investment venture that had turned to ashes and to dust, and she was seeking employment in order to sustain the basic needs of her little family; treasure in this world.
Sometimes we can dream of it, and think of it, and work for it, and build it in behalf of our children. And there could hardly be a nobler aspiration than for a father and a family to work, and to build toward an estate that the children can possess, and continue to build up like some of the great names and the great fortunes in America. But it also has in it the possibility of indescribable sorrow and loss. Sometimes the child is prodigal and wasteful and doesn’t assume those marvelous opportunities placed in his hands by a provident father. And, of course, sometimes every dream and every hope is dashed to the ground by the visit of the pale horseman, and death takes away everything for which we’ve prayed and loved: treasure in this world.
Sometimes our treasures are exhibited in the diligence of a man for his business. And again, it is a virtue commendable for a man to be diligent in his business. He works. He’s not lazy. He’s not slothful, and he’s ingenious, and he pours his heart into it, and he seeks to make it flower and to grow under his guiding and skillful hands. It is only that if we invest in that labor the whole dreams of our lives, the possibility of infinite loss is also present.
A little boy one time playing at his mother’s feet, said, “Mother, I don’t think Daddy will go to heaven.”
And the surprised mother said, “Well son, what makes you think Daddy will not go to heaven? Your father is a fine, noble man.
“Oh,” said the little boy, “I don’t think he will go to heaven because when I asked him to play with me, he said, ‘Son, I’m too busy at the store.’ And when we ask him to go with us on a picnic, he says, ‘But I’m too busy at the store.’ And when we invite him to go to Sunday school and to church with us, he says, ‘I’m too busy at the store.’ And mama, I was just thinking that when time comes to go to heaven, Daddy will be too busy at the store.”
I think of that with so many of our professional men especially. How many doctors do I invite to church? Everyone that I ever have opportunity to talk to! As a profession, they are so influential, and they touch life at its most strategic place. Most of them will never come, and their reason? “You see pastor, I have a profession, and I’m ministering to mankind, and I’m doing my part in this world. But I’m too busy to take time out for God, or the work of the Lord, or the worship of His name, or the assembling of God’s people together. I’m too busy at my profession.” So through all of the gamut of life will you find that. Their hearts are in this world. Their dreams are in this world. Their accumulations are in this world. Their treasures are in this world, and our Lord says it carries with it ultimately, finally an infinite loss and despair.
It was our Lord who told the story of that abundant, and affluent, and prosperous farmer who so increased in his yields, he tore down his barns and built greater granaries, then finally said, “Soul, take thine ease, for thou hast much store, and to come, and to spare. Eat, drink, and be merry. Look at the substance; you have incomes from half a dozen sources.” The Lord said, “Upon a night, God knocked at the door of his life, and said, Foolish one, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. Then whose shall be these things that thou hast provided for thyself? So,” said our Lord, “is he that heaps up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” [Luke 12:16-21]. When our dreams and the love of our hearts, and when our treasures and all that we propose, think, and love, when all of it is in this world, there comes along the moth, there comes along the rust, there comes along the thief, there comes along death, there comes along disappointment and grief when our treasures are in this world.
Then our Lord spoke of the beautiful alternative, “But, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where the moth cannot destroy, and where the rust can eat away, and where the thief cannot break through nor steal [Matthew 6:20]. Put your heart and the love and devotion of your life in heaven.” What a glorious prospect, and what an infinite promise that it is possible for a man to possess what he possesses forever, that a man enjoy the fruit of his life and his labor world without end, that a man can be rich toward God. Why, the very thought of it is inspiring and challenging and wonderful to behold.
Now, our Savior would not deny that there is a gladness, and a glory, and a triumph, and a blessing in this life in our philanthropy, in our giving, in our remembrance, our sympathy, our understanding, our sharing. There is a reward here. Even our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. There is a reward in this life, in this world, in our investment in the kingdom of God and in the work of our Savior.
I do not know of a more beautiful story than a testimony of the great merchandiser John Wanamaker. In the city of Philadelphia is one of the most magnificent stores in the world, John Wanamaker. He grew up in the days when people somehow found it difficult to support the church and to exalt the Lord in the earth. You know, it’s mighty easy for people to become miserly and small and diminutive in their outreach and in caring for God’s house and God’s work.
So in the Broad Street Church, located near the city hall, where the boy John Wanamaker was growing up, there was a grand old pastor by the name of Dr. John Chambers. In those days, the people built their own paving in the street; and if the street was paved, the people who owned the property had to do it. So the pastor stood up and said, “The paving around our street is so shabby, and it makes God’s house look so poorly, and the whole community is not blessed by our indifference.” And he pled with the congregation to put a beautiful paving around the church, and there was no response; fell on deaf ears and hard hearts.
So young John Wanamaker—he said he was sixteen years old then—young John Wanamaker decided in his own soul that he’d do that for God and for the pastor. He was the son of a man who owned a brickyard in Philadelphia. So he gathered together all the brick that he could in his father’s yard, and then he went to the other brickyards and gathered together all the brick he could from those yards; then he took his own little savings, and then he gathered savings from others, and finally enough to pave the street around the church.
And so it was finished on a Saturday evening. And early the next morning, the boy John Wanamaker went down to see what the pastor would think when he saw that beautiful brick paving on two sides of his church. And after a while, and early in the morning, the grand, old preacher, Dr. John Chambers, came walking to the church with his head bowed, thinking about God’s message for that morning hour. And he walked onto the street and out into the middle of it before he noticed it. Then he put his foot down hard on it to see if it was real. Then he walked around on it. Then he looked up one way, and then he looked up another way.
And the preacher was so happy and so glad, and the young John Wanamaker, getting into the spirit of it, began to follow the preacher as he walked around looking at the pavement. And then suddenly the preacher just stopped and turned around, and there the boy stood. And the old preacher said, “Son, my boy, you had something to do with this. Thank you, my boy, thank you, my boy!” John Wanamaker said in the years of his life, he said, “You know, that was one of the finest moments I ever lived through.” He said, “That was my first introduction to the infinite joy of doing something for God. Now,” he said, “I’ve been doing it through the years since, and every year better and finer and sweeter than the year before.”
And when President Harrison in 1889, appointed John Wanamaker as postmaster general of the United States, he said to the president, “I will accept on one condition: that every Lord’s Day I’m privileged to return to my church in Philadelphia, and teach my Sunday school class.” Men like that kind of exalt our humankind in the earth.
But I’m not speaking of that. I’m just saying that there is a joy, there is a gladness, there is a reward of doing things in this earth—to see it with your eyes, to feel it with your heart. But what our Lord said, “As much as it is blessed in this life, and as richly as the reward comes like a flood over our own souls here in this world, the riches,” he says, “and the true treasures are those that we experience and enjoy and lay up in glory.”
Well, I got to thinking about that, started thinking about that. The Lord says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” [Matthew 6:20]. So I got to thinking about that. Treasures in heaven, how do I get them over there? Every thing we possess in this world and this life we leave behind here, all of it, all of it. All of it’s left behind: stocks, bonds, lands, jewels, gold, silver, bank accounts, homes, houses, whatever, it’s all left in this world.
How do I send it over? Lord how do I lay up treasures in heaven? How do I get them beyond the great divide? I began thinking about that. And then something came so poignantly and meaningful to my heart. Why, it is a simple thing, it is a plain thing. The way I get treasure on the other side in heaven is through somebody who’s going there. That’s how I get it across. That’s how I place it on the other side: through someone who is going there.
Well, I started to thinking about that. Well, who’s going there? Who’s going there? Ah, Last Sunday morning, I was thinking about this sermon as I walked around our blessed Sunday school. When I don’t have to preach at the eleven o’clock hour, I just look around, watching our people at the Sunday school hour. So last Sunday morning when Dr. Sullivan brought the message at this eleven o’clock hour, I just walked around and looked at our people. And this was my answer: treasures in heaven, people who are going there. Well, I walked by our Special Education department, a ministry we have to retarded children. And I stood at the door, and I watched them. Oh, I just thank God for it. They were so jammed in there. Some of these days, we’re going to build a beautiful place for those retarded children, where they can have a fine place to come to church.
Looking on the inside of that room where our retarded children are loved and taught, I saw a little boy that is so dear to my heart. You see, his mother brought him to me here at the church, and she said, “I took my boy to another church, and to another denomination. And that week I was called on by the leaders of the church, and they said to me, ‘Don’t you bring that boy to this church anymore. He’s not like us. He’s different from us, and we don’t want him. Don’t you bring that boy anymore to this church.’”
And the mother said, “And it just killed me. It broke my heart.” Then she said, “And I heard about you. I heard about you, and I heard about your church, and I brought my boy. I wonder if you’d take him? Would you have him?” I said, “Dear mother, God sent us here just for this. You bring your boy. You bring him.”
Then, upon a time, she brought the boy to me and said, “You know, my boy says he’s taken Jesus as his Savior, and he wants to be baptized. And I thought you could talk to him and see if he understands.” Why, I never saw a boy that understood better in my life. And I pray with all the children. I prayed with him. And the mother said, “Ask him to pray.”
I hadn’t thought about it; being a retarded boy, you know, I was kind of reluctant. The mother said, “Ask him to pray.” That little boy, down on his knees, prayed with the tears falling off his face, prayed for me, and thanked God for me, and prayed for the church, and thanked God for the church; sweetest prayer, sweetest prayer. So the mother said, “Now when the boy comes to join the church, I’m coming too. We’ll both be joining.”
There he is. Every Sunday he’ll be here. He’s going over there. And all of those dear, precious retarded children, they’re going over there. And when I do good for them, and invest in them, and make possible a ministry for them, that’s treasure over there. They’re going. They’re going. Oh, I love this church!
Just walking around looking, there’s our Oral Deaf department. They can’t hear. They’re little children that are born with an oral defect, an auditory defect, and we’re so given to ministering to those children. They don’t meet with our Silent Friends because they try to make it possible for them to lip read, and not use manual signs. And those dear children are there. And they’re going over. They’re going over, and I’m sending treasure over there with them.
And I walk around the church and look at this dear church, and there’s the apple of my eye and the love of my heart: my Good Shepherd department. That’s a ministry to the poor people downtown. Every great city has a sub-marginal area around it, where the people who used to live have gone out, further out, and built beautiful homes, but that doesn’t mean there’s nobody lives there. Poor people crowd in; and I’ve always felt—and you’ve heard me say this for the years of my ministry here—our church, whether any other church ever feels it or not, our church under God has an obligation to the poor people who are pressed against the heart of this great city, and our Good Shepherd department is our ministry to those poor people. They’re won to Jesus. They’re baptized here by the hundreds. They’re going over. They’re going over; treasure in heaven.
And I just look at the whole fabric of this blessed ministry. Our own children, why, I just love to go by and look at them. Our own children: there’s little Johnny, and there’s little Mary, and they’re the bone of our bones, and the flesh of our flesh, and the life of our life, and the love of our loves; these are our children. They’re going over. They’re going over.
Then our teenagers and our young people, the whole ministry; then I think of our services here, and the appeal we make for Jesus, and those who respond and are saved. They’re going over. And finally I begin to think about our missions, the six missions of our church and the souls that are won there, and they’re going over; and then, ultimately, the ministry of our dear church beyond the seas and to the farthest ends of the world, and they’re going over. And they’re going over; treasures in heaven.
There was a vision I read one time. It was a vision of a couple laden. They had everything. And they had come to the great divide that separates between us and the beautiful city of God. And when they came to the great divide, they came with reluctance, and dread, and foreboding, and anxiety, and fear; and they were laden down. And the angel who stood on the other side before the beautiful city said to the couple so laden down, “Now, see that scrapheap? Put all of that stuff you’re carrying on the scrapheap.” And the man said, “On the scrapheap? But these are the accumulations of my life! Look at this gold.” And the angel said, “Gold? Why, we pave our city with that. Put it on the scrapheap and come over.” And with great reluctance he put it all on the scrapheap. And the angel said to her, “What do you have in that case you clasp to your heart?” She said, “These are my jewels.” And the angel said, “Those little jewels? Why, we make the foundation of our city out of those jewels. Put them on the scrap heap.” And they went over with reluctance, and empty-handed, all left on this side of the great divide.
Carve your name high o’er the shifting sand,
Where the steadfast rock defies decay;
All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
Count your great conquests on sea and on land,
Hoard up and treasure as you may—
All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
And there came another couple, practically nothing, unladen; and they came to the great divide. And the angel met them, and with gladness and with joy and with anticipation they laid down what little they possessed and entered into the city of God. And at the gate there was rejoicing, and welcoming, and singing, and happiness, and in shaking hands with the people, they met so many they’d never seen before, had never heard of before. And as they shook hands, the dear couple said, “Well, who are you? And how did you know our names? We never saw you before.” And they replied, “When we came to this beautiful place, we saw in the Book of Life your name, and we read on the pages bright and fair of your gifts that made possible the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God to us; and we’re here because of you.” treasures in heaven, invested in those who are going over.
Oh, what a beautiful and marvelous thing God hath made possible to us. And isn’t it wonderful thus so to love God and thus so to serve Jesus, that when the time comes, we go to Him or He comes for us. It is not with dread and foreboding, but with exultance, and anticipation, and glory, and triumph? It can be like that if we’ll make it.
If Jesus should come in the rise of the morning,
When all of the world is engrossed in its care,
How many of us could our Master discerning
Turn in our accounts and welcome Him here?
Or if He should come at the bright hour of noonday,
With a light far more glorious than that of the sun,
How many have eyes that could gaze on His glory,
And hearts that could say, Even so, let Him come!
If deep in the night, when the third watch is starting,
A cry should go forth, The Bridegroom is here!
If upward in rapture the bride were departing,
Could you without fear meet your Lord in the air?
If I know my soul and if I know my heart, I am ready. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. Treasure in heaven: the love and the devotion of our lives on the other side, where it becomes a possession forever, oh, bless our dear people as we become rich toward God.
And while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of the church; a couple you, a family you, one somebody you, while we sing the song of appeal, make it now.
We’re still on the air. If you’ve listened to the sermon today, either trusting Jesus as your Savior or devoting your life again and anew to Him, make a commitment of your soul to our blessed Lord now. You may be driving along on the highway; pull to the side of the road, bow your head over the steering wheel, and say, “Lord Jesus, I just give all I am or ever hope to be to Thee.” In a bedroom, kneeling on the floor; in a living room, down by the side of the chair; in a family circle, the commitment of the whole house to the Lord; “God bless us this holy day as in a new and a deeper, a more meaningful way, we offer to Christ all that we have and are.”
And in the great throng of people here, in the balcony round, there’s a stairway down front and back, and on either side, and there’s time and to spare; come. Come. “Here I am, preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God.” Or, “Here’s my wife and our children; all of us are coming today.” A couple, or one somebody you, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.