Calvary Road Baptist Church

“Where Moth And Rust Doth Corrupt, And Where Thieves Break Through And Steal”

Matthew 6.19

 

Record setting fluctuations in stock markets around the world. Banks and lending institutions going bankrupt or being nationalized in many advanced nations. The island nation of Iceland, a banking haven in the North Atlantic, having to declare bankruptcy. Imagine! A country declaring bankruptcy.

It is bad for everyone, is it not? The oil cartel has scheduled an emergency meeting because they are losing money, now that the price of oil has dropped, though the price of gas at the pump is still astronomical for those of us who pumped gas for 17.9 cents a gallon back in the 60s. Mortgage holders are losing money, and will lose more once homeowners come to realize that all they have to do is fall behind on their monthly house payments before the government will step in and call for a court decreed renegotiation of the mortgage principle and interest rate. However, my great fear is that will only serve to make home ownership a worse investment than it is already is.

Hey, my friends, it seems like it is a different planet than the world our moms and dads grew up in, where you could work for a company for thirty years and then retire and live off a pension throughout your golden years. Our world is now like the world our grandparents and great grandparents lived in, which was a place of no guarantees, no pensions, few government regulations, and definitely let the buyer beware when he bought something.

How are we to explain this seeming reversion? Let me suggest that you turn to Matthew 6.19, where we find the Lord Jesus Christ in the middle of His famous sermon on the mount. Rather than read the entire verse, I would like you to stand when you find the passage, and read silently with me from the word earth: “. . . earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

My friends, the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to a massive gathering of eager listeners when He uttered those words. Although He spoke 2,000 years ago, our Lord was uttering timeless truths when He said those, and other, things to the people. What I want you to focus your attention on with me this morning is our Lord’s description of the conditions we live in here on earth. Conditions that were taken for granted by the people of His day, but which seem so foreign to anyone who was born and grew up here in the United States in the last half of the twentieth century. This is what it is like. It has always been this way, and it will always be this way, so long as this old earth exists. You see, this earth is a place where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. In First Timothy 6.17, the Apostle Paul makes reference to Timothy to “uncertain riches.” In Hebrews 13.5, we are told that our conduct should be devoid of covetousness, and that we should be content with the things we have, probably because riches are so uncertain.

Perhaps the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ was thinking about the Savior’s words when he wrote these words, in James 5.1-3:

 

1      Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

2      Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

3      Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

 

Whatever the case may be, the sooner you learn that there is no security in this world, and no security of this world, the better off you will be. To be sure, things were so good in the USA during the last half of the 20th century that a great many people were fooled. However, things are now returning to normal after a half century of great and profoundly unusual material abundance.

For the next few minutes, walk with me down reality road. Stroll alongside as we catch a glimpse of this world the way it has always been, even though the abundance our country has enjoyed the last fifty years has lulled a great many people into thinking otherwise. I would like you to consider with me what happens to those things thought to be treasures in this world, things so many Americans used to believe provided security, things so many Americans once thought they could trust in. Again, our text reads, “. . . earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

There are two things we see from our Lord’s words:

 

First, WE SEE THAT THERE IS CORRUPTION FROM WITHIN

 

“where moth and rust doth corrupt”

 

You might also think of this as a comment addressing how perishable are garments and grains.

The reference to moths corrupting is a definite reference to clothing. Back in the day, they wore no clothes made from synthetic materials, since synthetic materials are typically the result of refining petroleum products. Thus, just about everything worn by the poor in those days was made of wool, while some garments worn by the wealthy were made from silk. Cotton was also grown in the region in Jesus’ day.[1] People are not usually aware that most adult varieties of moths do not eat at all, but use energy gained during the larva stage to mate and then lay eggs to propagate the species. Instead, when the female lays her eggs, it is the hatched larva that does the damage to clothing.[2] Therefore, whether you were rich or poor, clothes were subject to being eaten. In a very short time, even the most expensive garments could quickly be reduced to useless cloth suitable only to be used as cleaning rags.

The reference to rust corrupting is a reference to grains. The word translated “rust” is the Greek word brwsiV, which can mean either eating or causing deterioration by consuming, depending on the context.[3] Again, back in the day, you did not go to the store to buy a loaf of bread. Neither did you go to the store to buy a sack of flour with which to make bread. Instead, if you lived in a city or a village, you purchased your wheat or barley grain and stored it in sacks, baskets, or pottery pots or vases. The problem, of course, was that any food you stored was not only food for you, but was also food for rodents and insects, and even birds on occasion. What the birds could not get into the mice could feast on. In addition, what the mice could not get into would mean that all the more was left for the insects to gorge themselves on. The point the Lord Jesus Christ was making to His audience concerning their clothing and their food, in a day when most people had at most two changes of clothes and barely enough food to get by, and as such both clothes and food were treasured far more than they are in these days of relative plenty, is that you could lose it and lose it quickly to varmints and critters. When that happened, what would you do? A person could not always just go out and buy grain. There were times when no grain was available for sale. As well, to replace clothing you had to buy cloth from someone, or spin your own yarn and weave the cloth for yourself that you would use, for sewing new garments to wear. Therefore, you see, everyone was subject to violence from within. The rich and the poor faced the loss of grain and garments, from the normal creature activity of varmints and critters. That is just the way it is in this world we live in.

 

Next, THERE IS VIOLENCE FROM WITHOUT

 

“and where thieves break through and steal.”

 

Two lines of thought here:

First, there is this notion of breaking through. Keeping in mind that we live in a technologically advanced era, and that means some of the illustrations used by the Lord Jesus Christ would seem at first glance to be outdated. However, once you recognize the principles He makes use of to communicate wisdom to His audience, you will quickly see that nothing He says is irrelevant and without application to our day. The Greek word is diorussw, meaning to dig through, to break in. The word for thief is klepthV, from which the English word kleptomaniac is derived.[4] Again, back in the day, when homes in villages and cities were built with common walls on each side, and so close together that no one could enter through the front door without being seen by someone, thieves would get into your home by digging through the back wall. Not terribly difficult to do when so many homes were constructed of clay bricks, but somewhat harder to do when houses such as those in Galilee were built of large stones. The point that is being made, in any case, is that thieves must necessarily cause damage in order to violate the sanctity of your home. They have to bust in somehow. Now, if you are resistant to a modern day application of our Lord’s words, consider how thieves break into your life these days, by hacking computers that are tied into unsecured wireless networks, by cleverly capturing credit card data, by obtaining information from your incoming or outgoing mail, or rummaging through your trash. Don’t you see? The thieves these days don’t have to dig through a mud hut wall. That is too much hard work for the thief. Now days he sits in an air conditioned office and persuades Yahoo to give you someone else’s account password, or he pilfers some executive’s laptop containing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of people on it.

Once the break in has been accomplished, the theft takes place. The unsophisticated and stupid thieves will break into your house and steal the money you leave out, or the jewelry you leave lying around, or try to figure out a way to drag your safe off somewhere. The more violent thieves will bust in with weapons and threaten your life in return for your valuables or hijack your car. Then there are the brighter thieves, who steal your identity once they have broken through your computer security, or who use your credit card information to run up charges from far away locations. During our election cycle, we have even taken note of large-scale identity theft to register voters and to even cast absentee ballots using other people’s identities. However, it happens, you can see that the principle underlying the Lord Jesus Christ’s warning about this world still applies.

 

Do you think that because you do not live in a hut constructed from mud bricks you have greater security than folks did in Jesus’ day? Think again.

There used to be a day when folks in Harlem could sleep on their front porch at night, and never locked their doors. There used to be a day when many Americans left their keys in their cars wherever they parked them, and when virtually no one locked their cars or their front doors at night. Now, however, we have reverted to the way things have been throughout the profoundly insecure history of mankind. That time of blessed exceptionalism, when folks in the English-speaking world whose lives had been greatly affected by the ministry of God’s Word could anticipate and expect decent treatment from our fellow man, has passed.

Recent events serve to bear out the truth that there is no real security in this world. From the words of our text, we see our Lord’s pronouncement that there is no material security in this world. It was important to point this out, since there are so many today whose god is their belly and whose great love is money.[5] Additionally, some of you in this room can bear witness to the fact that there is no real family security in this world. At any time, one or more members of your family can be suddenly overtaken by the lures and enticements of this God-hating world, and wreck your family beyond recognition or repair. How about your physical well-being and longevity, and the promise that you will have a tomorrow? Keep in mind what James wrote in 4.14 of his small epistle: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Thus, there is no security for your life, no security for your health, no security for your family, no proof is needed concerning job insecurity, and our text today reveals there is no security when it comes to material possessions and earthly treasures, which either deteriorate in value in various ways, or can be stolen right out from under your nose. In short, there is no real security in this life or in this place. However, that does not mean there is no security to be had. It just means there is no security provided in the here and the now, and there never will be.

If you will look at the verse following our text, Matthew 6.20, you will see where there is security. Notice, it is only in heaven that security is found, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. How is it possible for security to be found in heaven, even though no security can be found here on earth? Let me answer that question with two comments: First, heaven is a special place prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ for His Own, John 14.2, where Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Would it not be good to make sure that what Jesus said applies to you?

Even in heaven, your security, the safety of your eternal and undying soul, is not guaranteed by that special location (as wonderful as it will be), but by the protection provided for His Own by the Lord Jesus Christ, Who watches over His sheep as the Chief Shepherd of God’s flock. Again, does that have anything to do with you? Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life.”[6] Are you a sheep in His flock? Do you hear His voice? Do you follow Him? Has He given unto you eternal life? If not, you are not one of Christ’s own.

Security with respect to material possessions, relationships, personal health and vigor, and even our physical span of life, is impossible here on earth. This is the great lesson Jesus would have us to learn. The only real security and safety from harm is for the soul of a man, and even then there is no security and safety for every man’s soul. Those only are secure whose safety and security comes from Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls.

I close with this illustration taken from the life of John Wesley, as he sailed for the New World as an unsaved Church of England missionary. When the ship he was sailing in was caught up in a terrible storm Wesley, obviously in great fear of losing his life, was approached by a Moravian Christian, who asked him if he knew Jesus as his Savior (a bold question to ask a man dressed in Church of England attire). Wesley’s response was that, indeed, Jesus was the Savior of the world. The Moravian then asked, “But is He your personal Savior?” That question haunted Wesley all the way to the New World and then back across the ocean to London, until he came to know Jesus as his personal Savior. It was not fear of lost wealth or food that concerned Wesley, but insecurity about the loss of his life that gave him away. What is it for you? We live in uncertain times, but all times are uncertain. We live without security, but there is no such thing as real security, except for the security of the soul that comes to one who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ.

My friend, this matter of your soul’s security is too important a matter to leave unattended. I urge you to find the time to speak to your pastor about the salvation and safety of your eternal and undying soul.



[1] Fauna And Flora Of The Bible, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), pages 111-112.

[2] Ibid., pages 55-56.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 184-185.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 18.

[5] Philippians 3.19; 1 Timothy 6.10

[6] John 10.27-28



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org