The Rich Stuff
When I was about 14 or 15 years old, a farmer in the church I grew up in caught me one Sunday morning after the worship service wrapped up and asked me if I’d like to earn a few extra bucks. Now, I don’t know too many teenagers that will ever pass up the chance to make a little money, so I told him, “Yes.” And he told me that he’d see me bright and early next Saturday.
Now, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but a farmer’s definition of bright and early is a little different than a teenager's definition of bright and early. So I started to wonder if I had made a big mistake offering to help this farmer out when I had to roll out of bed before the sun started to rise. And things only got worse when I made it out to his farm and found out what I was going to be doing.
He asked me to come out to his farm to help with the first hay harvest of the year. And that meant that I spent all morning out in one of his fields lifting and throwing fifty-pound squares bales of hay onto the back of a wagon. So by the time we took our lunch break, and the farmer handed me a bologna sandwich and a warm can of Sprite, I was really starting to question my life choices.
I mean, I was dusty and dirty. My arms were covered with the little cuts you get when you’re working in hay. And, even though I’d been wearing gloves all day, my hands were covered with blisters that were just waiting to pop.
So by the time I finished drinking my last drop of Sprite, I was ready to quit. But when this farmer – who was at least forty years older than I was – hopped up and said it was time to get back to work, my pride wouldn’t let me quit. I thought that if this old guy could do it then I could do it too.
Well, as you can probably imagine, it didn’t take me long to regret that decision either. Because, that afternoon we didn’t head back out into the fields to load more hay onto wagons. No, we spent the afternoon unloading the wagons we filled that morning into one of the farmer’s barns. So I spent the next five hours stacking hay inside a barn with a metal roof and no breeze whatsoever.
By the end of the day, all the dust and dirt I got on me out in the fields had turned into mud. The little cuts that covered my arms had started to bleed. And my fingers felt raw from lifting more bales of hay that day than I really want to remember. And, as I climbed down from the top of the mountain of hay we stacked, I vowed that I would never, ever do it again.
But then that little old farmer pulled out his checkbook, and he gave me a check for a hundred bucks. And even though my fingers were too sore to shake his hand, I told him I’d come back to help him any time he needed it. Because when he handed me that check, I felt like I was rich.
Now, you have to remember that when I was a kid my dad was in the military and my mom worked as a teacher’s assistant. So my family wasn’t exactly rolling in money. The truth is that a hundred dollars was more money than I had ever seen at one time in my entire life up to that point. A hundred bucks meant that I could go out to the movies with my friends every weekend all summer long. It meant that I could visit Barnes & Noble and add a few more books to my collection. It meant that I could say, “Yes,” when the cashier at McDonald’s asked me if I wanted to supersize my order.
Now, in spite of how I felt after that farmer paid me, there probably aren’t too many people worshiping with us right now that are over the age of about twelve that would say that having a hundred bucks makes you rich. But that does beg the question: what does it mean to be rich?
What does it mean to be rich?
I want you to think about that for just a minute. Is there a certain dollar amount in your mind that makes someone rich? Is it about earning a six-figure salary every year? Is it about being able to afford a luxury car or a house in a gated community? Are you rich if you never have to worry about having enough money in your bank account to pay your bills? In your opinion, what does it mean to be rich?
Now, I have no idea how you would answer that question. But I do know that when the investment company, Charles Schwab, conducted their annual wealth survey earlier this year, they found that Americans as a whole believe that if someone has a net worth of $2.2 million that makes them rich.
And $2.2 million is a lot of money. If you had $2.2 million, not only would you be able to afford to go to the movies every weekend, but you could go to the movies every single day for the next 576 years…and still have some money left over to buy popcorn. If you spent $2.2 million on books, it would take you about 3,000 years to finish your To Be Read List. And if you spent $2.2 million at McDonald’s, you could buy everyone in Louisville a large order of fries.
So $2.2 million is a lot of money…but is that really what it means to be rich?
This question, what it really means to be rich, is at the heart of the movie that we’re going to be talking about today as we continue on in our “God on Film” sermon series. And throughout this series, we’ve been taking a look at blockbuster movies to see what different films can teach us about our faith. And the movie that we’re looking at today can teach us a lot about what it really means to be rich.
So what movie are we talking about today? We’re talking about The Goonies. Now, for those of you who haven’t seen this movie, The Goonies is about a group of friends who have grown up together in the Goon Docks neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon. But all of that is about to change. Their neighborhood is about to be bought by land developers who are going to demolish all their homes to build a golf course.
So the Goonies' only hope of being able to stay together is to somehow come up with enough money to buy the entire neighborhood themselves. But unless they can just stumble on a buried treasure, there’s basically no chance that a bunch of middle schoolers are ever going to come up with that kind of cash. But during their last weekend together, that’s exactly what happens. The Goonies find a map that will lead them to the infamous pirate, One-Eyed Willy’s, treasure.
Now, as the movie plays out, we see the lengths that this group of friends will go to in order to find what one of the Goonies calls “the rich stuff.” They have to wander through underground passages, avoid booby traps, and solve puzzles to eventually find the cavern where One-Eyed Willy’s ship has been hiding.
But not long after they finally find the treasure that could keep them all together, the cavern starts to collapse. With rocks falling around them, the Goonies face a choice that is perfectly summed up in two lines of dialogue.
The leader of the Goonies – a kid named Mikey – looks back at the pirate ship and asks, “What about the loot?” His older brother Brand responds, “What about our lives?”
And in that moment the Goonies realize that some things are worth more than money.
Some things are worth more than money.
And this is the exact same lesson that Jesus teaches us in the scripture passage I want us to take a closer look at today. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it, and turn to Matthew 6. And, as you’re finding Matthew 6, I just want to remind you that the book of Matthew is basically a biography of Jesus. So in the book of Matthew, you can read about Jesus’ birth and his baptism, you can read about Jesus’ ministry and the miracles that he performed, you can read about Jesus’ crucifixion and his resurrection. And in Matthew 6, you can read part of the longest-recorded sermon that Jesus ever preached.
So let’s take a look at Matthew 6 together, and let’s see what Jesus has to say about what it means to be rich. We’ll start reading in verse 19, which says:
19 “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. 20 Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. 21 Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 (Common English Bible)
Now, when we first read this passage, it’s not hard to understand what Jesus is telling us. Jesus is telling us that we don’t need to worry about storing up treasures on earth instead, we need to focus on collecting treasures in heaven. But what does that really mean? Well, let’s dig a little deeper into what Jesus is saying here.
So, in verse 19, Jesus starts out by telling us to stop collecting treasures on earth. And then he explains what these earthly treasures are. He tells us that earthly treasures are things that moths can eat, or rust can destroy, or thieves can steal. Earthly treasures are things that can be taken away in an instant.
But even though these early treasures can be taken away in an instant, a lot of us are still willing to go to incredible lengths to acquire material possessions. I was willing to go to incredible lengths to make a hundred bucks when I was a teenager.
And, in The Goonies, the kids were willing to risk their lives navigating underground passages, and evading booby traps, and solving puzzles just to try to find One-Eyed Willy’s treasure. And once they found One-Eyed Willy’s ship, it looked like the Goonies were going to get all the treasure they could ever want. It looked like they were going to be rich beyond their wildest dreams. But, as they were stuffing their pockets full of gold and jewels, the cavern started to collapse. And, in that moment, they realized that what Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount was absolutely true. And that’s that money doesn’t make you rich.
Money doesn’t make you rich.
That’s what Jesus was telling us when he said that we shouldn’t seek treasures that moths can eat, that rust can destroy, and that thieves can steal. Jesus wants us to understand that money isn’t what makes us rich.
But that’s not all that Jesus was trying to do in Matthew 6. He wasn’t just trying to teach us that money doesn’t make us rich. Jesus was also challenging us to really think about what we value.
And Jesus does that by shifting our focus away from earthly wealth to heavenly wealth. And, when Jesus talks about storing up "treasures in heaven," he’s talking about storing up treasures that cannot be stolen or destroyed. Jesus is talking about storing up treasures that will last forever.
So what are these treasures that will last forever? To be completely honest with you, Jesus doesn’t specifically tell us in this passage. But he gives us hints at the kind of things that will last forever a little earlier in Matthew 6.
In Matthew 6:3-4, Jesus tells us:
3…when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:3-4 (Common English Bible)
In verse 6, he tells us:
6…when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:6 (Common English Bible)
And in verse 17 and 18, Jesus tells us:
17 When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. 18 Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:17-18 (Common English Bible)
So what is Jesus talking about when he tells us to store up treasures in heaven? He’s telling us that when we help other people without expecting anything in return, we’re storing up treasures in heaven. He tells us that when we worship God without expecting a pat on the back, we’re storing up treasures in heaven. He tells us that when we rely on God more than anything else, that we’re storing up treasures in heaven.
And a little bit later on in the book of Matthew, Jesus is going to make it even clearer to us. A little later on, when Jesus is asked “What is the greatest commandment?” he responds by saying love God and love other people.
If you love God and you love other people then you are storing up treasures that will last forever. Or, to put it another way for you: Money doesn’t make you rich. Love makes you rich.
Money doesn’t make you rich. Love makes you rich.
Then Jesus finishes up this passage by telling us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So, let me ask you, where is your treasure? Where is your heart?
Are you pouring your energy, your time, your resources into accumulating things that won't last? Or are you investing in eternal treasures by loving God and loving others?
Remember that wealth is not defined by the size of your bank account it’s defined by the size of your heart. Riches are not about the abundance of possessions, but the abundance of love.
That’s what the Goonies realized as they left One-Eyed Willy’s treasure behind. They realized that even though their pockets were filled with all that “rich stuff” their hearts were filled with love for each other. And even if their neighborhood was destroyed and they weren’t always able to be together, nothing could change that. Their love for each other was worth more than anything else in the world.
We need to realize the same thing. So this week, I want to challenge you to spend some time thinking about what you really value. I want you to think about where your heart is. I want you to realize that money doesn’t make you rich, love does.