Leo Tolstoy wrote a famous story called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” It’s the story of a rich man who was never satisfied. He always wanted more and more. He heard of a wonderful chance to get more land. For a thousand rubles he could have all that he could walk around in a single day. But he had to make it back to the starting point by sundown or he would lose it all.
He got up early in the morning and set out. He walked on and on, thinking that he could get just a little more land if he kept going. But he went so far that he realised he’d have to walk very fast if he was to get back to the start by sundown. As the afternoon wore on he quickened his pace faster and faster, until he began to run. As he came within sight of the starting place, seeing that the sun was about to set, he summoned his last energies and sprinted, until he plunged over the line, fell to the ground and collapsed. A stream of blood poured out of his mouth and he lay dead. His servant took a shovel and dug a grave. He made it just long enough and just wide enough and buried him.
Remember the story was called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, and Tolstoy concluded the story with the answer: “Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”
I’m teaching a series in our church on Sunday mornings right now on the subject of stewardship. We’re looking at what the Bible has to say about our attitudes to money, possessions and eternity.
In Matthew 6:21 Jesus said those words, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Wherever we accumulate is where we focus. So many Christians today are heavily invested in life on this planet, and so there is a noteable lack of interest in going to Heaven any time soon. (When was the last time you heard a sermon on the Second Coming, the great hope of the Church?)
But Jesus words are loaded with another idea as well. Where our treasures are REVEAL things about the condition of our hearts. It’s true that you can learn something about what you really believe and think by examining your check book and your credit card statements. By taking an inventory of the toys and luxuries you surround yourself with in comparison with what you are investing in the Kingdom of God.
Is it getting hot in here?
The gospels preserve for us 4 fascinating stories of People that Jesus Met. Read them together sometime. The common thread you’ll find in all of them is the link that Jesus taught us between our attitude to our stuff and what’s in our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23).
Story #1 Zacchaeus (Luke 19)
Luke 19:8-9 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house,”
The story of Zacchaeus reveals a CHANGED heart.
Story #2 The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10)
Mark 10:21-23 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
The story of this rich young ruler reveals a BOUND heart.
Story #3 The Poor Widow (Luke 21)
Luke 21:2-4 … and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
The story of this poor widow reveals a DEVOTED heart.
Story #4 The Rich Fool (Luke 12)
(Actually this picture is not, so far as we know, a literal meeting that esus had with someone, but a parable he told. But we’ve probably ALL met this guy at one time or another. The world is filled with men like him.)
Luke 12:19-20 “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
The story of this rich fool reveals a DECEIVED heart.
Each of these stories shows us that we can examine our hearts by looking at how we think of and deal with money and possessions. Where am I at today? What about you? A changed and devoted heart? Or a bound and deceived heart?
John D Rockefeller was one of the richest men who ever lived. After he died a reporter asked his accountant “how much did he leave?” And his accountant replied: “ALL OF IT.”