Luke 12:16-21 | Matthew 6:1-20

Get your act together.

People spend a lot of time getting their act together. They work and save and invest, all to gather enough money to “live comfortably”. But what good does it really do them?

Then Jesus told them a story. He said, “A certain rich man’s land produced a very large crop. […] Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. I will store my extra grain in them. I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain stored away for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink and have a good time.” ’

Luke 12:16,18-19 NLT

At this point in the above scripture, you might think, “He made it! He’s living the dream!” Keep reading…

“But God said to him, ‘You foolish man! Tonight I will take your life away from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”

Luke 12:20 NLT

Boom! He’s dead. Jesus does not tell us this story to make us cynical, or to discourage us from working hard, saving, or investing. Those are all good things.

And yet, Jesus looks past them. Why are you doing those good things? Are you trying to get rich so you won’t have to depend on God?

“That is how it will be for whoever stores things away for themselves but is not rich in the sight of God.”

Luke 12:21 NLT

That would not be a good thing. Jesus says to be rich in God’s sight, because that is true wealth–permanent wealth.  

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:19-20 NLT

Heaven is the ultimate storage site for anything you want to keep forever–no insects, perfect climate control. But there is a hitch: you can only store spiritual rewards there. 

How do you get spiritual rewards? God gives them. And when you compare them to the rewards you get here on earth–money, admiration, etc.–you can see why Jesus endorses them.

Earthly Rewards may offer instant delivery, but they suffer from limited durability and portability. You get them right away, but they wear out. And ‘you can’t take it with you…’ as the old expression goes. 

Heavenly Rewards take much longer to arrive, so be prepared to wait. They also cost more. On the other hand, they are good forever and they stay with you wherever–and whenever–you go. 

According to Jesus, good things like giving, prayer, and fasting offer the option of heavenly rewards OR earthly rewards. But not both.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 6:1 NLT

You can do your giving for everyone to admire, and their admiration will be your only reward. The same goes for prayer–saying loud, eloquent, showy prayers will earn you the praise of your congregation, but nothing from God (Matthew 6:7-8). And for fasting–looking tired-and-hungry-but-hopeful might win you church points, but you’ll still see a goose egg on God’s scoreboard (Matthew 6:16).

“Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:4 NLT

Don’t let your good things go bad by doing them for the wrong reasons. You may get something for your efforts, but it won’t last. Instead, do them for God and enjoy rewards that last forever. 

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Is helping someone for the wrong reasons a good thing or bad thing? Why? Doesn’t the person get helped either way? Could it be good for the helpee, but bad for the helper?
  • Is it selfish to pray, fast, or give to people who need it if you do so with eternal rewards in mind? How wide is the target here? Does it count if you’re thinking about storing up treasures in heaven as you do it? Is that just another form of selfishness?
  • What are some other good things that can go bad? What causes them to go bad?
  • Can you think of something that is always bad, no matter what?
  • Can you think of something that is always good, no matter what? Is it good even if you do it a lot, or have a lot of it? Is it good even when your motives are off?

Challenge: Reconcilable Differences

Did Jesus tell us to do one thing, only to change his mind a chapter later? That doesn’t sound like him. 

Some people say the Bible is full of contradictions. Others say that if you read it closely enough, even these apparent contradictions agree–with each other, and with the whole of scripture. We believe the latter opinion.

Your challenge is to read the following pair of scriptures–both are quotes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount–and explain how they are consistent with each other and the rest of scripture. 

  1. Read Matthew 5:16…

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 5:16 NLT
  1. Read Matthew 6:1…

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.” 

Matthew 6:1 NLT
  1. Explain how these two seemingly contradictory verses can exist together in the same teaching.
  • Consider the context. To do so, you should read at least Matthew 5 and 6 in their entirety. Think about what is said before and after each verse in question, and their roles in the thread of the discourse.
  • Use your resources. It is not cheating to consult a Bible commentary. You can find these, in print form, in the margins or footnotes of a study Bible. Online, you can find them at Bible resource sites like As you read commentary, consider who wrote it. The commentator’s biases and beliefs are sure to influence their writing. You need to read commentary from a trusted source. If you are unsure, Matthew Henry’s commentary is a good place to start.
  • Write out your key points. As you do, be sure to include supporting scriptures.