MONDAY, 10/17
Read Matthew 6:19.
This week we will be exploring Jesus’ Kingdom principles regarding how we treat possessions and wealth.  As we’ve seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets right to the heart of the issues.  He challenges the common practices in our world in order to reveal how God’s Kingdom is distinct.  As His disciples, we are to take Jesus’ words to heart and prayerfully consider how they speak into each of our lives.
In verse 19, Jesus addresses the human tendency to gather and store up things for ourselves.  Considering storage buildings are an ever-growing enterprise in America, it’s clear that this concerns more than just the people of Jesus’ day.  We know exactly what Jesus is talking about here.  It is common practice in our day to place an incredible amount of our time and energy into acquiring wealth and material possessions.  We often like to point the finger at those who are extravagantly wealthy, but this is a concern for all of us.  Remember, Jesus is talking to the working-class poor here.  They didn’t have wealth to throw around, but the reality is you don’t have to have a lot of money to love it.  You don’t have to possess a lot of things to want more.  
There are many reasons we try to acquire for ourselves.  We do so because we find security in having more than enough.  We chase more because society uses possessions and money as a means of categorizing people according to their value.  We too are susceptible to buying into that belief.  We gather and buy because it provides a sense of happiness, and that’s fun even if it is fleeting.  We could add to the list, but that’s enough for us to think about.  
Perhaps the most troubling concern Jesus has for the human desire to consume and pile up possessions is that it can be a symptom of a self-centered existence.  We buy and gather because we want for ourselves.  We’re thinking mostly of ourselves.  And when we only look at ourselves, we can invest an exorbitant amount of resources into our wants without considering investing in God’s Kingdom or in alleviating the needs around us.  
Jesus has a different vision for His Kingdom people.  Kingdom people don’t live with an inward focus, but an outward focus.  We aren’t to be excessively hoarders of stuff, but to be generous givers who reflect the heart of our Heavenly Father.  They want to give life rather than only thinking of what life they can gain from what the world provides.  
Now, the common response I’ve received to this teaching, both from others in the church and even in myself, is somewhat defensive.  We like to think that Jesus has someone else, anyone else in mind when He teaches here.  If we want to embrace the fullness of God’s Kingdom life for us, we must be willing to consider how the world’s values have influenced our own.  We must be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, allowing Jesus to speak into any deceptive beliefs we have adopted so that He can lead us into the ways everlasting.  
I wonder how the values of the world in regards to money and possessions might have crept into your mind and heart.  
Praying Together:
“Jesus, I give You thanks for Your life-giving teachings.  Sometimes they are difficult to swallow, especially when they expose what I would rather not acknowledge is in me.  You do this because You want to free us from the beliefs that not only don’t matter, but that can rob us and others from life.  So, examine my heart.  See if there are any false beliefs in my heart and lead me into Your way.  Amen.”
TUESDAY, 10/18
Read Matthew 6:20.
Yesterday, Jesus warned us against the temptation of being driven by the desire to gather and gain wealth.  It isn’t wrong to make money and have things.  We must do so to function in the world in which we live.  Jesus’ concern is when such a desire becomes the driving purpose for our existence.  At some point, whether in this life or at death, we will lose every material thing we worked so hard for.  In other words, it’s a bad investment.  
Jesus steers us toward making a wise investment.  If putting all our stock in gaining wealth and stuff is destined to ultimately disappoint and even perish, Jesus then calls us to make investments with our lives that are satisfying on a soul level and whose blessings are eternal.  
Jesus says for us to store up “treasures in heaven.”  Now what does He mean by treasures in heaven?  That’s a great question and worth asking here.  
Jesus is speaking to our good deeds.  It is the things we do in service to God and others.  Looking back over the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount alone, we can define good deeds as showing mercy and making peace.  It is when we patiently endure persecution for God’s sake.  It is when we are a light to the world, allowing our light to shine before others “that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven.”  Good deeds include giving forgiveness and pursuing reconciliation.  We bless the Lord when we show grace and love others, including our enemies.  Jesus names all of those things in Matthew 5 alone.  We can expand the list of good deeds by looking at the rest of Jesus’ teachings and that of the scriptures, but you get the point.  That is what Jesus has in mind when He says treasures in heaven.  He has in mind that those who have embraced new life and citizenship in God’s Kingdom will be driven by doing these things.
This is a fitting point to dwell on for a moment.  Kingdom people do Kingdom things.  We invest our time, energy and resources in the things that matter.  We use our financial treasure to participate in God’s Kingdom work.  We live for more than what is right in front of us.  We have an eternal focus and mindset with what we do with our lives.  We have such a focus because we know that our true life exists with God and that this life is but a blip in light of our eternal life with God.  This knowledge colors what we do here and now.  
Sending Prayer:
“God, I want my life to count for Your Kingdom.  Help me to use what You have given me for things that matter.  I don’t want to look back on my life and regret how I spent it.  I want my treasure to be the good things I did to honor and bless You.  I want a life that reaches far beyond my own.  I want to love and bless others for Your sake.  For such a life will have an eternal impact for Your Kingdom.  Amen.”  
Read Matthew 6:21
If there is a verse within the Sermon on the Mount that reveals the crux of the human condition, this would be it.  
Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount shine a spotlight on the human heart.  Even when Jesus addresses our actions, He does so in order to point to the condition of the heart that produced those actions.  For Jesus, the condition of our hearts is of utmost importance.  If the heart is spiritually healthy, sharing God’s Kingdom values, then it will produce good.  If our heart is spiritually unhealthy with a focus on self, then it will not produce good in the Kingdom sense of the word.  For Jesus, our capacity to embrace this new life in His Kingdom is based on the condition of our heart.
Looking at this verse here, Jesus acknowledges that the heart holds the things we treasure.  The heart reveals our greatest loves.  The mind can tell us what we ought to love.  What you hold closest to your heart will tell you what you really love.  Your heart will point to what you love by the desires that consume and drive you to do what you do.
Let’s look at how this could play out in one’s life.  I want to introduce you to Bill.  Bill is a Christian man with a family and career.  If you were to ask Bill what he loves most, he would know from growing up in Sunday school that the right answer is Jesus with his family and other relationships to follow.  However, at times, his actions tell a different story.  His career and the lure of success drive his life.  Most of his resources of time, talents and energy go there first.  Family and his faith often take a backseat to career.  Now, I’m not picking on fictitious Bill here.  It’s not that he doesn’t love his family but somewhere deep down there is a desire in him that is producing actions that are not in alignment with what he knows is most important.  His heart has latched onto the wrong treasure.  
Let’s be honest, we’ve likely all been like Bill at some point in our lives.  We have a lot of responsibilities to navigate in this world.  We need careers, money, possessions, relationships, etc. to function in the world.  None of these are bad things.  In fact, most, if not all, are gifts God wants us to enjoy and they can be enjoyed when our hearts hold them in their rightful place.  There is nothing wrong with having material possessions as long as they occupy a healthy place in our lives.  You will have to devote time to work, and even more than we would like at times, but are you being consumed by reputation and power?  Only you can answer that.  
Jesus gives us something to chew on for a while here.  What do you treasure in your heart?  I’m not asking for the Sunday school answer.  What do your actions reveal?  Look at where your time, energy and your checkbook.  What do they say about what your treasure is?  And, do your actions align with what you ought to love?  
Sending Prayer:
“Holy Spirit, You know me.  You know my heart better than I do.  Sometimes I only see in me what I want to see rather than what is truly there.  Open my eyes to what I treasure most in my heart.  Show me what I love the most.  If there are any misaligned values in my heart, I give You permission to rearrange them according to God’s Kingdom values.  You know what we should treasure most.  You know what is lasting.  Shape my heart to reflect the Kingdom that my life might produce life for You and others.  Amen.”
Read Matthew 6:22-23.
Jesus is a genius.  If you’ve been following our series on the Sermon on the Mount, I’m sure you’ve thought this before.  He is the Master of the human soul and His teachings can lead us to wellbeing, both spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  With His focus still on the internal life of our heart, Jesus points to another essential component that impacts our soul: our eyes.  
The eyes are the means by which we receive from the outside world.  We take things in by looking at them.  Jesus says that what we choose to look at has a dramatic impact on what goes on inside us, good or bad.  
This isn’t terribly surprising given what Jesus has already said regarding lust.  Where does lust begin?  Lust begins with the eyes when we choose to look at someone.  This look is more than a passing glance.  It is when we cross the line into staring, looking with the intent to derive pleasure from them.  We do the same things with stuff when we surf the web for the next thing to want or buy. 
What happens in us internally is that what we see influences then what we dwell on.  It doesn’t stop there.  Our eyes are connected to our minds.  This is important for us to understand because what our minds choose to fixate on has the power to shape what our hearts care about.  When something gives us pleasure, whether it’s a person or a material thing, it has a direct line to our heart.  The more we think about it, the more likely we are to care about it.  We want more pleasure from it and the more pleasure it promises then the more we will crave it.  
Now, if what we look at is good, then Jesus says, our whole life will be good.  If we choose to fix our minds on what is good, right, pure, lovely, and excellent (Philippians 4:8-9), then we can expect our lives to produce those very things.  If what we look at is bad, then it will produce the very same.  If we dwell on the things that anger us, provoke us, or that negatively influence us, then we will likely do things that reflect that.  The entire inner world of our soul is subject to what we see, dwell on and ultimately love.  The internal workings of these will produce what we do, good or bad.  This is why the inner world of our heart is so important to Jesus.     
The key to being a faithful disciple of Jesus is to be ruthlessly honest about our hearts.  It is to consistently assess its condition and give it over to Jesus for renewal.  
Sending Prayer:
“Father, You are so very good.  I’m grateful that You care to guide us into everlasting ways.  You have in mind to lead us to life, so that our lives can produce good things for You and for others.  Please renew and transform our eyes and our hearts.  We want to see the world as You do.  We want to love the world as You do.  Accomplish this in us for Your glory.  Amen.”  
FRIDAY, 10/21
Read Matthew 6:24
The message of this verse has been told in old folk tales.  It has been translated in many languages and cultures because it represents a universal temptation: to get stuck between competing forces in this world and in the next.  Here’s one version of this story.
One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said “My son, the battle between two “wolves” is inside us all.  One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.  The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith”. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Whether it’s the comparison between a good wolf vs. bad wolf or wealth vs. our God, we are constantly tempted to live rooted in the cultural values of the time, instead of keeping our eyes on God.  It’s only in stepping back from the daily grind that we can see what the challenges really are.  If we have built our identity around what we have accomplished in this world, then we tend to place our priority on wealth, power, and prestige.  If we have built our identity around the deepening of our faith and the frequent use of prayer and scripture, we tend to place our priority on God.  
It is so easy for our faith to get sidetracked, given the tangible benefits of having wealth and power. Our work schedules may be so booked up that we have a hard time staying focused on anything else, especially if we have kids in extracurricular activities.  What must we do to keep faith front and center in our lives?  How can we become more active in church related activities that encourage participation of children, teens and adults?  What consequences do we as people face when faith has lost its priority in the lives of families in our area?  What consequences do we as a community face when faith has lost its priority for families in our area?   
Praying together:
“Lord Almighty, show me how to place You first. Teach me how to incorporate You into all that I do.  Help me keep Your Presence the strongest presence in my home life and in my work life. Embolden me to keep my pursuit of happiness focused on You first instead of the goals of the culture around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Read Luke 12:13-15
A gentlemen approached Jesus about facilitating a conversation between him and his older brother about the portion he had been allotted of the family inheritance. Apparently, the man’s older brother refused to give him what he felt he was due. The laws of inheritance stipulated that the elder brother would receive a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). Jesus turned down the task, saying that he is not a judge of who inherits what, even though Moses had handled a similar request. 
Jesus rejects the man’s request because He will not take part in satisfying the greed that Jesus sensed had prompted it. Instead of helping the man get the inheritance, He points the man to a different understanding.  Luke 12:15 says life is not to be valued or measured in terms of wealth or possessions. It makes perfect sense, until you are the one who receives less than their due after your father/mother dies.
My Dad’s mom died over 30 years ago.  She had spent the last several years of her life labeling everything, so that she would have the final say over what went to whom. I received her wedding band and engagement set.  My sister received a cocktail ring. All of us received piles of Publishers Clearinghouse runner up prizes, which were most likely costume jewelry.  She used to value costume jewelry the same way she valued real jewelry because she was near blind by the time she received them and they both sparkled.  My sister and I never fought over it. My parents cleaned out the house and sold most of the knick knacks in the estate sale.  After the funeral, I can remember coming over to my grandmother’s house to find it empty of almost all of the furniture and antiques in it.
It seemed his brother had taken it, moved it into storage, and would eventually sell it all.  This was devastating to his sister, who remembers that furniture in her early childhood memories.  This was unexpected and made everyone in the family angry.  For his brother, it was greed. For his sister, it was her memories that he had taken.  
Family and inheritances are messy, precisely because it gets personal. The amount each person in the will receives does equate to the amount you were worth to the deceased.  But I feel certain, that while my dad and his sister moved passed it eventually, their relationship with their brother was never the same after that.  What can we do to prevent that equation, where the money received is equal to the amount each person was worth to the dearly departed? Where should the focus post funeral be?
Praying together:
“O Lord Almighty, the talk of inheritances often outweighs the importance of celebrating the life of the deceased at a funeral.  Guide me in what is important, Lord.  Teach me the merit of remembering the deceased over what can be received in the reading of a will. Build my focus around the preciousness of my relationships in life so I can cherish them in death. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
SUNDAY, 10/23
Read Luke 12:16-21
This passage is the telling of a parable. While the ground of a rich man yielded an abundant harvest, he was uncertain how he will store his harvest.  He decided to tear down the smaller barns to make space for the surplus grain.  With this surplus, the rich man will have plenty of grain stored for years. He was convinced his life could be easier and more enjoyable with the surplus.  But God proclaims that he is foolish if the same night he stored the surplus was his last. Then “Who would benefit from what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but it’s not rich towards God.”
This is represented earlier in the gospel to the dangers of wealth and the reckoning of God with the rich and also prepares the reader to expect a reversal of the rich man’s good fortune. If his fields have brought forth abundantly, it is a blessing from God that demands produce, fidelity and making provisions for the whole community. Abundance requires that one prepare for the famine that will surely follow. Here is the model of Joseph’s wise response to the seven years about the harvest that resonates in the background (Genesis 41:35-36).
By exposing the rich man’s inner thoughts, Jesus also fulfilled the earlier warning that everything secret will become known, whatever is said in private will be broadcast in public. Luke also reminded the reader repeatedly that the secrets of one’s heart are not hidden from God. The problem is not really posed by the size of the harvest, however, but by his insistence on gathering all of it and storing it up for his own use. The thought of giving to persons in need never crossed his mind.  
Hs internal dialogue sounds like someone who has been corrupted by wealth.  No sooner than he had planned out his future did God speak about concern for his soul.  How often have you heard loved ones speak the same way the rich man speaks?  What can you do to encourage a better outcome for your loved ones by warning them of the cost of selfishness and hoarding?
Praying together:
“Holy God, an inner voice speaks volumes about where a person is on the inside. Open my ears to hear my inner dialogue.  Open my mind to understand the consequences of my self-serving words. What does my inner dialogue say about me? How can I open my inner dialogue to You, God, so that a light will shine down on my selfishness and reveal what needs to happen next. I trust in You, God. Make in me a clean heart, one that is guided and shaped by Your Will instead of my own.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.”