19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If our hearts are in heaven, then we are living in the Kingdom of God. If we focus on heavenly things instead of worldly things, we will continually please God’s desire for us. If we are concerned about treasures here on earth, we are only deceiving ourselves and setting ourselves up for failure. Solomon, the wealthiest king of Israel wrote some great advice about our relationship with wealth in Proverbs 23:
4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
Jesus spoke a lot about wealth in His ministry on earth because He knew it is the greatest stumbling block of man. We compare ourselves to each other and how much stuff we have. We have even had to redefine our “wealth” as in how many friends we have or how many people love us in order to console our hearts when we don’t have a whole lot of stuff. But the truth is even relationships get destroyed and Jesus doesn’t want us to get distracted by them either. It’s not to say that Jesus doesn’t want us to be wealthy or have strong relationships with others. He just doesn’t want us to think that is the most important thing in our lives. Take note of what Jesus says in Luke 14:
25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
To be a follower of Christ, we must deny everything and make Him first in our lives. By doing so, we lay the foundation of discipleship. Jesus uses the example of building a tower or planning for battle to reveal to us the importance of denying everything in our lives and putting Him first. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. He is not saying we must be hateful towards our families and ourselves, but that in comparison to our dedication to Christ, we must die to all these things and even ourselves in order to truly follow Him. Jesus explains this concept a little later in Luke 17 when talking about His return to earth:
31 “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 “Remember Lot’s wife. 33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
Jesus explains that when Christ finally calls us to Him, our hearts must be set on Him because everything else will be fading away. Consider also what Jesus says about following Him in Luke 9:
59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
When we claim to be a follower of Christ (ie a Christian), He says we must fully follow Him. Our hearts must be focused on the Kingdom and nothing more, for if our hearts are divided we will not be true followers and in that day that He returns, we will be surprised to learn that our ignorance and desire for the world and God didn’t work out so well. Many people “convert” to Christianity but continue living as if they are of the world. We act as though we have bought our ticket to paradise but don’t care that we have been gifted with an entire retirement package starting right now! Jesus isn’t just the way into heaven, but the way into the Kingdom of God here and now today. His way is THE WAY for a reason. We read the story of Lot and his wife escaping Sodom and think she was stupid for looking back at her town but we not only look back, we go back! We go back to the old ways of life (or maybe we never left them at all) and then we get angry with God for not blessing us. Well duh, we continue to set ourselves up for failure because we continue to store up treasures here on earth even though Jesus was quite clear about why that’s not a good idea.
Our earthly purpose is to go everywhere and proclaim the kingdom of God. We can only do this if the Kingdom of God is our number one priority. We can only make it our number one priority if we choose to fully follow Christ and leave everything else behind. We must be willing to be rejected by our family. We must be willing to lose our jobs. We must be willing to walk away from a burning city that we grew up in. We must be willing to lose our lives if we must. In that, we gain everything: we gain the Kingdom. Our fear is not knowing exactly what all the Kingdom contains. Can we trust it? Can we let go of our previous lives and take the leap of faith towards the Kingdom? In that willingness to let go, we gain the Kingdom. In our desire to seek first God’s Kingdom, everything else gets added to us. In our trusting Jesus for what He says, we grow in faith, we grow closer to God, and we enter His Kingdom and learn how good it really is.
What must you die to today in order to become a true follower of Christ?