Matthew 6:19-24 (15)
Since our religious duties, giving, praying and fasting, are to be done with a right heart before God, our heavenly Father, then our heart (treasure) needs to be in the right place. It used to be the custom for young ladies to have a ‘bottom drawer’. It contained items for their future home, a place they were preparing to live after their wedding. Jesus is telling the kingdom citizen`s to do the same and gives very good reasons why they should.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21)
‘Treasure’ is something precious or valuable which we accumulate or save for future use. Almost every week we get letters from insurance companies urging us to protect our valuables with their insurance cover. Have you noticed, in the case of a car, when we claim, we don`t always get what we expect? The insurer`s call it ‘Depreciation’, or as Jesus said, “moth and rust destroy”, this is the case with every ‘earthly treasure’. Even if we manage to keep all our possessions what good will they do us in eternity? Here are two stories showing the fruitlessness of earthly treasure.
‘A very rich man, famous for his magnificent collection of art treasures, antiques and silver, died. After the funeral, a journalist asked the vicar, ‘How much did he leave?’ ‘Everything,’ said the vicar.’
‘When workers were digging to lay a foundation for a new building outside the city of Pompeii, they discovered another victim of the disastrous volcanic eruption from Vesuvius. They found the body of a woman who must have been fleeing the eruption but got caught in the rain of hot ashes. What was so strange about this discovery was that the woman`s hands were filled with jewels. The hands clutched gems preserved in excellent condition: rings, necklaces, amulets, bracelets, and an especially stunning pair of earrings (pearls set in gold). Someone dead grasping onto earth`s treasures.’
For the ancients, money, was like sea water, the more you drank of it the thirstier you got. Even though the treasures of the world never satisfy people will go to untold lengths to acquire more. No wonder Paul wrote, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim 6:10) Having been told by Jesus that, “One`s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (Luke 12:15) and testifying with the hymn writer, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’, why do we, as kingdom citizens, still pursue earthly treasure? ‘What are the vast majority of professing Christians round us doing? “They are laying up treasure on earth:” There can be no mistake about it; there tastes, their ways, their habits, tell a fearful tale. They are not “laying up treasure in heaven.”’ (J C Ryle)
The only answer, it seems to me, is that we have not set our hearts heavenward but are living as though everything depended on what we have today. It was not the case with the early church. They looked forward to their heavenly heritage. Paul, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” (Phil 3:13) and Peter who was looking to “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Pet 1:4) No “moth and rust” to “destroy” there.
What is this treasure? It contrasts with earthly treasure in that it does not benefit us directly. It is what pleases our heavenly Father and is often gained by sacrifice as Jesus next phrase about the eye shows us.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt 6:22-23)
It seems as if Jesus makes a sudden change of emphasis at this point but the Greek shows that it is more likely that he is clarifying what he means about our heart`s focus being in the right place. The word the NIV translates “healthy”, means ‘good’ (literally single). ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ both have a financial nuance in Greek. ‘Single’ means generous, open-hearted, arm. ‘Bad’ means miserly, niggardly.
Since “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”, (1 John 5:19) and “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19), then if we are constantly seeking worldly things we are effectively seeking darkness. ‘The man who thinks he is godly because he talks about God, and says he believes in God, and goes to a place of worship occasionally, but is really living for certain earthly things–how great is that mans darkness!’ (D M Lloyd-Jones). The key is ‘what we are living for’. Jesus had shown the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who thought they could see everything so clearly yet Jesus called them ‘blind-guides’. The light we profess to have must be real. ‘If our faith is presumption, our zeal selfishness, our prayer formality, our hope a delusion, our experience infatuation, the darkness is so great that even our Lord holds up his hands in astonishment and says–”How great is that darkness!”’ (C H Spurgeon)
How are we to make sure that our ‘eye’ is good? Quite simply, if you want to see, walk in the light! Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He didn`t seek worldly wealth, prestige or acclaim but only to do his Father`s will. We should be doing the same. Since our home is not earthly let our attitude to the things we have be how can we share, give and bless others. “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt 6:24)
Jesus finishes this section off, before telling us not to worry, by showing that we can have only one master. The word ‘money’ (NIV) is sometimes translated ‘Mammon’ (KJV) which perhaps is better because it is not only money which can master us. A career or status can easily become our master. Jesus language here is very strong, ‘love’ and ‘hate’, ‘devoted’ and ‘despise’ and yet how often have we tried to do that which he said is impossible. ‘Material gain and godliness cannot both be masters of our souls: we can serve two, but not “two masters”.’ (C H Spurgeon) When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) God has saved us through His Son and made us inheritors of the kingdom so He rightly deserves “ALL” our love. He will, however, not force us to love Him but has given us free-will.
As kingdom citizens we have a heavenly father who holds our treasure and our eye Is firmly fixed upon Him so should we want to serve another master? I think not!