Be Careful with Your Treasures

April 15, 2012

For those of you who have been living under a rock or in a cave for the past month or so today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  And because of our Halifax connection most of us are familiar with the story of the Titanic and feel a certain link with the tragedy.  And while it is probably the most well-known ship wreck  today it is by no means the largest.  1,523 people lost their lives when the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank 100 years ago and while that is a incredible tragedy it pales in comparison to the 9,500 who lost their lives on the Wilhelm Gustloff when it was sunk by the soviets in January of 1945 or even the loss of 4375 lives when the MV Doña Paz collided with an oil tanker in the Philippines and sank in December of 1987. 
Others contend that the Titanic was the greatest sea tragedy up to the point in history but on February 06 1822 the ocean going junk Tek Sing hit a reef off of Indonesia and went down with all 200 crew members and 1600 passengers. The SS Sultana was a Mississippi River steamboat paddle wheeler that exploded on April 27, 1865 with a loss of over 1600 lives.
Perhaps it is simply the story of the tragedy, the hype that had gone into promoting the ship as the greatest ship to ever sail the ocean and the fact that it happened on her maiden voyage that makes it so memorable. 
 A little Titanic trivia for those who are into that type of thing.  The ship took three years to build and cost 7,500,000.00 which in today’s dollars would be $400,000,000.00  She was at the time the largest ship ever built, The Titanic was 882 feet and 8 inches long (268 meters) and her gross tonnage was over 46,000 tons, which had nothing to do with her weight and instead was a measurement of her overall internal volume. The ship was approximately 11 stories high.  And for 1912 the size of the Titanic was almost unimaginable, but compare her to the Oasis of the Sea today, which is 300 foot longer and her gross tonnage is 225,282 tons.  Which is almost 5 times that of the Titanic.
The statement that the Titanic was unsinkable and “Not even God could sink this ship” appear to be just a myth and there are no records of either of those statements having been made before the tragedy. 
The cause of the Titanic tragedy has been debated for 10 decades but the reality is she was travelling at high speed and hit and iceberg.  Had she been carrying her full complement of lifeboats the death toll would have been far less but executives at White Star felt that the 32 lifeboats recommended made her look too ungainly and used up too much deck space.
For one hundred years there has been speculation about the amount of treasure that was aboard the Titanic when she sank.  There have been rumours of Gold and Jewels and we all know about the “Heart of the Ocean” the blue diamond that was featured in the movie.  Listen carefully, there was no Rose, there was no Jack and there was no blue diamond, it was just a movie.
With the discovery of the wreckage in 1994 and the subsequent exploration there have always been those who have anticipated the discovery of millions of dollars in treasure.  But apparently that wasn’t the reality.  According to the cargo manifests there was no treasure aboard the Titanic, it was a passenger ship and carried minimal cargo and what she did carry was just every day stuff.
This morning I want to tell you about two men who sailed and died on the Titanic that day. 
Now even though the Titanic wasn’t carrying a cargo of gold that is not to say that there weren’t several personal fortunes aboard, the list of first class passengers read like a “Who’s who” of 1912.  Business men, owners of companies, movie actresses and the like.  It was the greatest ship to ever sail the ocean, her owner “The White Star Line”  had made sure the entire world knew what a privilege it would be to sail on the Maiden Voyage of the Titanic.  The first class passengers included some of the most prominent members of the American social elite. 
The list included industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim; Macy’s department store owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida;( a little side note, it is reported that when the crew tried to get Ida to board a life boat she refused to leave her husband’s side saying “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together.” There was George Dennick Wick, the founder and president of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company; streetcar magnate George Dunton Widener; Pennsylvania Railroad executive John Thayer, Charles Hays who was president of Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway and we shouldn’t forget George Wright, a developer from Halifax.
And being in first class wasn’t a bad place to be on the Titanic, The cost of the First Class Parlour Suite in 2012 dollars would be in excess of $83,000.00 while a first class room would cost you the equivalent of $3,000.00 per person about the same price as a balcony room on the Queen Mary 2 would cost you today for the same trip.  But along with the nicer room and better food was the greater chance of survival in first Class.  60% of the first class passengers, including 94 % of the women and children survived compared with 44% of the second class passengers and only 25% of the third class passengers.
It is interesting that the wealthiest men in first class went down with the ship and perhaps that was part of the personality that had allowed them to reach that place in the financial world.
But regardless of how much these men were worth on April 14th 1912 on April 15th 1912 all they were they were left holding was who they were and not what they had. 
Let’s go back to the scripture that was read earlier  Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” 
Understand that I am in no way making a judgment on the people who died that day on the Titanic other than to say that in their lives and deaths we have an illustration of how fleeting life actually is.   
1) There Was a Man With Earthly Treasures According to all reports the richest man on the Titanic that day was 47 year old John Jacob Astor IV  who was travelling to NY with his second wife 18 year old Madeline.   Divorce and re-marriage were frowned upon in the circles that Astors were part of especially when your second wife is just a year younger than your son.  And so John and Madeline had spent their Honeymoon travelling overseas and were now returning to the US for the birth of their first child.  
John Astor had gotten his money the old fashioned way, he had inherited it, but he turned a small fortune into a large fortune.  He was an inventor and an investor, and on April 14th it is estimated that John Astor’s personal fortune was in excess of  $150 million.  Now that doesn’t seem like much today but in 2012 dollars it is estimated that it would be worth in excess of $119 billion, that’s serious change. 

But that was April 14th, on April 15th John Astor held no more in his hands then did 46 year old George Bailey who was a stoker in the ship’s engine room. 
In vs. 19 Christ warns us about storing up treasures that can be lost.  Now what Jesus was talking about were things that could rust, rot or get ripped off. Today you don’t have to wait that long for things to become worthless, only until the warranty runs out. There is nothing in this life that is invincible, nothing that cannot be worn out, broke or stolen.
Everything we earn, everything we buy everything we collect is susceptible to damage.  And Christ is basically telling us that if if that is where your treasures are then you are doomed to disappointment.  In Christ’s day people associated material blessings with God’s blessings.  Now that’s silly isn’t it, I mean we would never be guilty of that would we? 
In other words if’n you could buy a new chariot every year then people would be convinced that God was rewarding you for something or because of how good or righteous you were. 
Now I don’t believe that Christians ought to be destitute.  You see I believe that we are children of the King, and as such we are not to inherit poverty.  On the other hand I don’t necessarily agree with the Prosperity theology that is swept through the Evangelical Church a few years back.  It been referred to as a cargo cult and that is pretty close to the truth.  I’ve met some devote Holy Spirit anointed Christians who can pray heaven down, but who have really done no more than exist financially over the years.
And I get real concerned when I see Christians getting caught up in the world’s philosophy that more is better.
Think about it how often do we buy toys just to have toys? My daddy used to warn me about, “Spend money you ain’t got to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.” Think about it, you may be able to buy it but you can’t keep it.
Now if that’s bad enough may I remind you that even if you do keep it, if it doesn’t rot, rust or get ripped off, even if it don’t die the day after the warranty runs out, friends listen up because this is important, friends some day you gonna die and they’re gonna put you in a hole in the ground and throw dirt in your face, and then your kids are gonna go back to the house and fight over everything you left behind.
Because as Job said, Job 1:21 He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.”  Billy Graham said something very similar when he said, “There won’t be a u-haul following your hearse.”  And Edmund Burke said, “everything you own will at the end of your life belong to somebody else.” friends you can’t keep what you have, the only thing that will be yours for eternity is what you are.
Or as Colonel Sanders the founder of KFC said “There’s no good reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.”  
The things of this earth aren’t the treasures you are supposed to be concerned about; they are not the best investments.  You may not lose your shirt but there is a pretty good chance that you might lose your soul.
In Luke 12 Jesus tells a story about a man very much like John Astor, a man who had accumulated so much he had no idea how to spend it and Jesus finishes his story with these words  Luke 12:20 But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” Don’t you just hate it when he says stuff like that? 
In John Astor’s case the answer was most of his fortune went to his son Vincent.  To his wife Madeleine, he left the use of a 5 million dollar trust fund and an annual paycheck of $500,000, as well as use of his New York mansion and his Newport mansion and all of its furnishings, the pick of whichever luxury limo she wanted from his collection and 5 of his prized horses – as long as she did not remarry.  
It’s real easy though to come to depend on our financial resources instead of our spiritual resources, to trust in our money more then our God.  But if what we possess in this life is earthly treasure and doesn’t last then what is the secret?  How do we obtain that heavenly treasure? 
Jesus goes on to tell us in Matthew 6:20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
Let’s get on with the story.
2) There Was a Man With Heavenly Treasures   There was another John sailing on the Titanic on her maiden voyage. His name was John Harper and he wasn’t travelling first class he was travelling second class, his ticket would have cost the $60.00 or about $690.00 in today’s money. 
John Harper was the Rev. John Harper originally from Scotland.  Harper was a 39 year old widower travelling with his six-year-old daughter, Anna and his niece Jessie W. Leitch.  The reason they were making the trip?  John Harper was the pastor of Walworth Road Baptist Church in London and he had been invited to Chicago to preach for several weeks at the Moody Church. 
So why do we remember John Harper?  If you Google his name you get hundreds of hits, ranging from today’s Wikipedia references to Newspaper accounts from a hundred years ago.  So what made him different.  The accounts tell us that he made sure that his daughter and niece were safely aboard a life boat, but that was done by scores of men, many didn’t have a choice, the rules very much were “Women and children first.”
Various accounts tell us that it was John Harper who convinced the band to play “Nearer my God to Thee.”  We are told that Harper was heard to rally people toward the life boats shouting “Women, children and the unsaved into the lifeboats!”
And there are accounts from survivors that to the end, even when he was in the ocean that John Harper was presenting people with the claims of Christ and the offer of Salvation, using the words of Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”  We are told that when he asked one man if he was a Christ Follower and the man said no that Harper took off his life belt and gave it to the man saying “You need this more than I do.”
There are even accounts of a man coming forward and claiming to be John Harper’s last convert. 
I truly believe that on April 15, 1912 that John Harper was greeted in heaven with the words “Well done my good and faithful servant.”   
One other interesting bit of Trivia, Harper’s daughter “Anna” died in 1986 at the age of 80.  She died on April 10th the anniversary of the sailing of the Titanic and was buried five days later on April 15th. 
And Jesus continued his thoughts in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
In the big scheme of things it doesn’t really matter what John Astor did with his treasure or what John Harper did with his treasure.  The question that matters is 3) Where are Your Treasures.  Our as one with wrote  “It’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’r be your lot, but what you are doing at present with the buck and a quarter you got.”
You will never be held accountable for what I have been entrusted with, and I will never be held accountable for what you have been entrusted with.  But whatever it is that we have, there is only room in your life for one #1 priority, and if that isn’t Jesus Christ, then no matter how good and noble that #1 priority is it is the wrong one.
The whole issue is not so much a question of wealth as it is a question of loyalty.  What demands a greater degree of loyalty in your life? And if it’s Christ then there will be times that that need to be demonstrated.
Now then in saying all of that let me say this, one of the places that believers need to invest their heavenly treasure is the local church.  You see throughout the New Testament and throughout history the church has been God’s agency for change in the world.   The very first account of the church of Christ is found in Acts 2:44-45 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
The early Christians made an investment into that which would change the world and would ultimately affect the eternal destiny for literally Billions of people.  And your investment into Cornerstone Wesleyan Church will have eternal ramifications.  If the church can offer a further reaching ministry through your giving and a thousand people get saved it was a worthy investment, if a hundred people get saved it was a worthy investment, if ten people get saved it was a worthy investment.  As a matter of fact if one person gets saved because of a sacrificial investment made by you wouldn’t  the investment be worth the return? It would be if it was your child or your spouse.
Every area of our church’s ministry cost something, sometimes it’s money and sometimes it is time but every ministry we offer cost somebody something.  And every one of us has to be willing to share the cost.  But not every one of us has to give the same, I believe in the concept of not equal giving but equal sacrifice.  If your giving to the kingdom is going to be worth anything it will need to cost you something.
What is a sacrifice to me may not be anything to you on the other hand it may be way out of your reach, only you and God know what entails a sacrifice for you, right. 
And we are going to need a commitment from everyone in the church if we are going to fulfil our mission. 
The choice my friends lies with each one of you.  You can invest your time and money in things that won’t last, and will at the end of your life belong to somebody else or you can invest them into those things which will last for eternity.
In two weeks each of you will be asked to fill out a commitment card and we will be asking that you prayerfully consider filling it out. 
This is how we arrive at our annual budget at Cornerstone, we don’t just pull a figure out of the air we ask you; what type of church you would like Cornerstone to be? What type of ministries would you like us to offer for the community and for your family.   What type of impact would you like us to have on the world. 
I think we do it well; I don’t try to guilt you into what you should give, or at least not a lot.  And there is a line on the bottom of the card that says if you need to change your commitment through the year you can, just let us know.  I would like to think that this is the most important Sunday in the year because it really does give each one of us the opportunity to say “This is my church”