Money in the bank. That has such a nice, safe, secure sound, doesn’t it?
Money in the bank—as opposed to money under the mattress—money in the bank is much better. Money in the bank means it’s safe and secure. Someone can’t just find it and take it. Well, OK, maybe they can.
But money in the bank—as opposed to not having money at all—money in the bank is better. If you have money in the bank, then you know that you’re going to be all right. But if you don’t have money in the bank, then you’re probably worried. You look at those numbers at the end of your check book register and that tells you what your life is going to be like this month. And money in the bank tells you that you’re going to be OK. Maybe.
But money in the bank—as opposed to just the promise of money, like an IOU, or a contract that says you’re going to get paid someday—money in the bank is a lot better. You might even have “a sure thing”, but it ain’t really sure until the check clears and then it’s “money in the bank”. Money in the bank means we’ve got it for sure. It’s definitely ours.
Unless of course, the bank fails. Remember the last time that happened? Probably not, unless you’re about 75 or so and you lived through the Great Depression. But now we have FDIC: insurance by the federal government that guarantees our banks won’t ever fail. Our money in the bank is safe. That is, of course, unless the federal government fails. But that could never happen.
And then something comes along like the attack on the World Trade Center three years ago yesterday. Hundreds of lives were lost and that single event rocked our economy to its core. Our government didn’t go under. But, as terrible as 911 was to our country, it was just a minor tragedy compared to the catastrophes that have taken place in history, the disasters that are suffered in other parts of our world, and the potential calamities that could happen in our country’s future.
Setting aside for just a minute the horrible loss of life that happens in every disaster, imagine what it would do to our economy if we had a 911-type attack every month and earthquakes or powerful hurricanes like Ivan every month, or a powerful epidemic like AIDS that we couldn’t control. Imagine what would happen if the financial losses to the insurance companies, and hospitals, and banks, and emergency response organizations and industries were so great that they couldn’t handle it and the government had to step in to keep them from failing just like they did with some of the airlines after 911? Just how much could the government bear? At some point, it would run out of money. Some would say it already has. And then all the government can do is spend money and promise to pay it back in the future.
If you think about it, isn’t that all that money is anyway? Isn’t it just a little piece of green paper that represents a proportionate promise to fulfill your needs and desires in the future? And that promise is only as stable as the one who makes the promise—the federal government. Nothing against America, but just how stable is that?
Money in the bank isn’t sounding nearly as safe and secure as it used to. It doesn’t seem certain at all.
You know what? That is exactly what the Bible says about money—whether it’s in the bank or under your mattress or in your wallet or in your dreams. Money can’t be trusted.
This year, we’ve been studying Matthew 5-7, a section that Bible teachers call “The Sermon on the Mount”. But we’ve been calling it, “The Kingdom Handbook” because it’s something that Jesus taught to everyone who wanted to follow him and be part of his kingdom. In the Kingdom Handbook, Jesus teaches us about life, about how it works, and about what really matters. And today we come to the section where he talks about money and what it has to do with how we live our lives as followers of Jesus.
Today we begin a new four-part series about finding financial security.
And, as we have seen through the last three or four years, financial security can be very elusive when the economy is hitting the skids. But the Bible says that even in a shaky economy, we can find security. How? That’s what we’re going to be talking about over the next four weeks as we examine what Jesus says in the second half of Matthew chapter 6.
We’re going to talk about four biblical principles that lead to security in a shaky economy.
Today we start with the first. Jesus says that if you want to find financial security, then it’s important that you choose the right bank.
Just what does that mean? He isn’t talking about the difference between parking your money at Citibank and investing in Prudential. Jesus teaches us that there are basically only two places where you can invest your capital—two places where you can try to build security for the future.
And you have a choice.
The first choice is “The World Bank”. By that, I mean all the financial institutions, all the corporations, all the investment opportunities and all the assets that belong to this world. The World Bank includes everything that we can see and touch and use. It includes everything you own and every penny you have in every account you hold. The World Bank is all the “stuff” that belongs to this world—everything that belongs to this lifetime.
Jesus says something very simple, but very profound, about the World Bank.
All your assets, all your holdings…evaporate. And eventually they vanish into thin air. Everything…in the World Bank. Here’s what Jesus says,
[Matthew 6:19] (NIV) Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
The way this sentence is written in Greek, it literally means, “Stop! Stop hoarding treasures here on earth.” Stop making deposits to the World Bank. Those deposits are not guaranteed. No matter what you do, they cannot be protected or preserved.
We all know the ravages of time on our assets. Markets fall, the stock exchange drops. Keep the money in your sock drawer and inflation slowly steals away its value. The IRS wants a piece. The banks want a piece. It costs money to acquire money, it costs money to own money and it even costs money to spend money. Mistakes cost money. And bad luck. And then, whatever money you have left, everyone wants it. Some people will try to steal it. Some people will try to trick you out of it. Some people will just bombard you with advertising or solicitations until you finally surrender it. But however it happens, the money disappears.
This verse mentions specifically that the things we treasure here on earth are subject to moth and rust and thieves. The word translated “rust” is literally “eating”. All the assets of the world get consumed and eaten away. They corrode, mildew, disintegrate, break down, and fall apart. Everything we own. Everything we’ve ever bought. It all crumbles toward chaos. This principle is so well known that scientists actually have a law of thermodynamics to describe it. They call it entropy. Everything in the universe moves towards disorder.
We’ve all seen entropy at work. A car is always better, shinier, brighter, faster, more efficient and nicer-smelling when you first buy it, right? As time goes on, does your car get cleaner? Does it smell better, look better or operate better as it gets older? No. As soon as you drive that thing off the lot, you couldn’t sell it for what it cost you, because already it’s started to lose value. Already your deposit in the World Bank has started to disappear.
When your kids play with your computer or fiddle with your stereo or “borrow” your tools, do they unintentionally fix them? “Oops, uh, sorry, Dad. I was using your, uh, thing, and I, uh, accidentally improved it. It’s actually better know than before I borrowed it.” Is that what happens at your house? It doesn’t work that way at mine. The deposits in the World Bank tend to disappear.
Every homeowner knows what entropy is all about. You buy a house and suddenly it takes time and money and attention just to keep the walls from falling down around you. Let’s take a minute to watch Tom Hanks discover entropy. In this clip from The Money Pit, he and Shelly Long have just purchased a beautiful country home for $400,000.
Folks, that’s entropy. By their very nature, all assets in the World Bank disappear. By its very nature, money disappears. That’s the whole idea of the World Bank. Its assets are temporary, transient, unstable and unreliable. It cannot be trusted. It is not secure. And so we cannot find financial security by making deposits in the World Bank.
There is no investment, no occupation, no strategy, no portfolio in this world that you can rely on. It is all unpredictable and insecure.
We think that for the last few years we’ve been living in a shaky economy. You know what? The truth is that we always live in a shaky economy. It’s just that sometimes we notice it and sometimes we don’t.
So, Jesus says, “Stop making deposits in the World Bank.”
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t own anything or that you shouldn’t have a savings account or an insurance policy or an investment. We cannot live without money and without assets. As the great theologian, Jimmy Stewart once said about money, “It sure comes in handy around here, Bub!” 2 Corinthians 12:14 teaches that parents should save up for their children. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, that “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t condemn storing things in general, but storing them for yourselves. We cannot live without money. We cannot live without stuff.
What this does mean is that all these things in the World Bank—the money, the assets, the savings, the investments—they are all only temporary. You have to use them, but you don’t have to trust them. They may be able to meet some of our needs, in the short run but they cannot provide security. The World Bank may claim to offer that service, but it just can’t produce any lasting results. So don’t believe the hype. Don’t trust the World Bank to give you security.
That’s why Paul says in
1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV) Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.
The deposits in the World Bank disappear right before our eyes,
just as we go about living our life.
But as unreliable as these assets are in present, the future is even more disastrous.
One day, everybody dies. And, as we all know, you can’t take any of this stuff with you. There’s no trailer hitch on a hearse. The Bible says in
Psalm 49:16-17 (New Living Translation) Don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich, and their homes become ever more splendid. …
For when they die, they carry nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.
And even whatever we leave behind for our children or our great-great grandchildren—even that is destined to become completely worthless.
One day, everything—everything on earth is going to burn.
2 Peter 3:10-12 (Contemporary English Version) The day of the Lord’s return will surprise us like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the heat will melt the whole universe.
Then the earth and everything on it will go up in flames. Everything will be destroyed. On that day the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and everything else will melt in the heat.
That is the destiny of the World Bank. It’s all going to burn. We might need to keep our account there open, while we’re still alive and need to use money and own stuff and even save for the future. But Jesus says that we should never forget that it’s all temporary. It’s all short-term. It’s unstable, unpredictable and unreliable. So don’t trust it. You cannot find security by making deposits to the World Bank.
1. Fortunately, there is another option. You have another choice, another bank where you can make deposits that will not disappear.
A place where you can build a portfolio that will last forever and survive every disaster and every eventuality. That place is the Bank of Heaven, Spiritual Trust & Savings. And
Jesus says, don’t store up treasures for yourselves on earth,
[Matthew 6:20] (NIV) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
We have another option besides the World Bank. Instead of accumulating more and more here on earth, we can forward assets to our future address.
We can make some deposits now in a heavenly account that are not subject to the ravages of taxes or entropy or disaster or misfortune. And when we die, and we arrive in heaven, our treasures will be there waiting for us, never diminishing, never stolen, never lost, never corrupted.
How do we make deposits to that account in Spiritual Trust & Savings? Here’s how you can tell. Think about the things that last forever. Those are the things that you can deposit in Spiritual Trust & Savings.
For example, people last forever. Time and effort and assets that go into helping people become followers of Jesus and into building those people up—that is an investment in eternity. Sharing your faith with a friend, supporting a missionary, giving a believer dinner to encourage him—all those are deposits into your account at Spiritual Trust & Savings. Sometimes it may seem like you wasted your time, because people did not respond, or because you couldn’t see a difference in their lives. But time spent as an investment in eternity is never a waste.
The character qualities that you develop will last forever. Time and effort and assets that go into becoming more like Christ and into helping you and helping others to grow spiritually—that is an investment in eternity. So supporting your church and other ministries, investing in Bible Study books and tools, using your time to develop patience and love—all those are deposits into your account at Spiritual Trust & Savings.
God’s Kingdom will last forever. So time and effort and assets that go into promoting, advancing and serving God’s Kingdom—that is an investment in eternity. So praising God, worship, prayer, giving, fasting, obeying God’s instructions, losing money because you were following the teachings of the Bible—all those are deposits into your account at Spiritual Trust & Savings.
Love lasts forever. So time and effort and assets that are used to express real love to God and to people—that is an investment in eternity. So acts of kindness, mercy, and generosity—all those are deposits into your account at Spiritual Trust & Savings.
And all those deposits are guaranteed to last forever.
The Bible says in
1 Peter 1:4 (New Living Translation) God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
The assets that we sock away in heaven cannot be lost. That’s why it’s so important that we keep our eye on that bank account and set our priority to make deposits in that account.
2 Corinthians 4:18 (New Century Version) We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.
For every asset we control—whether it’s time, talent or money—we have a choice of where it will be deposited. We cannot avoid using some of it just to live life, but what really matters is what will last forever.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV) Each one should be careful how he builds. …  fire will test the quality of each man's work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss.
The amazing thing to realize is that we can transfer our balance from one account to another. We can actually take cold, hard, temporary, unreliable cash and turn it into something that will last forever. Think of it as a type of currency exchange. Here’s how Jesus described it:
Luke 16:9 (New Living Translation) Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.
The “friends” he’s talking about are people that come into a relationship Jesus because you spent some of your worldly assets helping them to get to know Him. You successfully transferred your assets from one account to another. You exchanged currency.
We have a choice. We all have something to put in the bank. The question is, which bank will you choose to hold your assets.
Deposits to the World Bank are disappearing and one day they will be completely gone. Deposits to Spiritual Trust & Savings will last forever. The path to financial security lies in choosing the right bank whenever we’re making deposits.
Each one of us has an account at each of these institutions. Have you looked at your passbook recently? What’s the balance in your accounts?
This is a constant process.
My Dad came from a fairly wealthy family. He inherited some pretty good money from his parents. He went to medical school and became a surgeon, capable of pulling down a great salary. He invested his inheritance in real estate, building offices, motels, and even a hospital.
But when I was 18, ready to go to college, the oldest of seven children bound for college over the coming seven years, my Dad declared bankruptcy. My Dad was honest and a hard worker. It wasn’t what he deserved. It was entropy. Deposits in the World Bank are unstable and unreliable. They cannot be trusted. They disappear.
1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV) For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV) Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Proverbs 11:4 (NIV) Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
1 Copyright © 2004 by Lewis B. Bell III. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 1 in the Kingdom Economy series delivered by Chip Bell at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho in Dallas, TX on September 12, 2004. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with credit.