19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 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!
24 “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. 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
In the first half of Matthew 6, Jesus described the believer’s private life (giving, praying, fasting); in the second half, he was concerned with our public life (questions of money, possessions, food, drink, clothing, and ambition). Jesus made it clear that you cannot serve God and anything else. Evaluate the use of your time, talent, and treasure to evaluate what is truly on the throne of your life; see and smash any idols you have placed there.
1. The Treasure
2. The Eye
3. The Servant
The doctrinal theme of this section of the Sermon on the Mount has to do with the orientation of the Christian’s heart. It is helpful to consider the doctrine of regeneration, which states that God removes the corrupted, sin-dead hearts of stone and replaces them with a heart of flesh. This is all of grace and it is the sinner’s only hope. This new Spirit enlivened heart is oriented toward worshipping its Creator and Redeemer. Jesus exhorted his listeners to labor toward things of eternal value, not temporal; to hold loosely to the things of this world because they are passing away; and to choose whom they will serve. Those who are born-again hear the words of Jesus and desire to obey. Those who have not been born-again hear his words and revile.
Those whom God has rescued from sin and death live a new life before the face of God. They are under His sovereign rule and live to love, serve, and worship him. Their rescue was carried out by God’s will and Jesus of Nazareth’s perfect obedience unto death on a wooden cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem. God’s good work toward his children has everything to do with Christ. Not just in their saving, but also in their sanctifying. He who began a good work in Christians will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6).
When Christians seek the kind of treasure that endures into eternity, hold loosely to the things of this world, and serve the one true and living God with an undivided heart then they beautifully adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in the habit of drawing people to Jesus Christ through the word and works of faithful, humble, worshipping servants.
God is worthy of undivided worship and full devotion. Christians not only render this kind of worship to God, but they also pray for his fame to spread so that more and more people might worship in this way. Christians go across the street, state, and seas to tell of the glorious gospel so that they might be used of God to save the lost.
What makes a person rich? Imagine that you have a distant cousin who contacts you and asks you to come to his house as soon as possible. When you arrive, he explains that it’s time he put his affairs in order. He explains that he doesn’t have any children and so he has decided to leave his fortune to you. Every bit of it. You can hardly believe what you are hearing. You begin mentally planning what debts you can pay off, what vacations you can take your family on, and how to invest in the future.
As he leads you down into his basement, he tells you that he has been saving for decades. Then, he opens the door and proudly proclaims, “It’s all yours!” You can’t believe your eyes. Milk cartons, newspapers, plastic grocery bags, and coffee containers are stacked almost to the ceiling. You inherited a basement full of things your cousin thought could be useful one day.
Even though a man may have a shipload of it, trash is still trash. Amassing worthless goods doesn’t convert them to something of value. We have to ask ourselves what is truly valuable. What makes a man rich? A worldly person counts himself rich when he has stored up for himself money, stocks, properties, and businesses. Just as a child collects marbles, rocks, bugs, and toys because these things suit his maturity and childish desires. The Chrisitan, however, counts himself rich when he has God for his portion, Christ as his advocate, and the Spirit as his helper.
In Matthew 6:19–24 Jesus taught his followers to use an accurate scale to weigh the value of things. He called his disciples to understand and recognize the treasures of those whose only hope is found here on earth are susceptible to rust and moth. Christians must audit their storehouses and examine whether or not they have been thoroughly accurate in their accounting. In other words, does your life and what you are laboring toward really matter? Does it have eternal value?
As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount we would do well to remember that Jesus was accomplishing two goals with one sermon. First and foremost he is speaking to his disciples, those that love him and trust him. He was encouraging them to remember their future hope and blessed present as they seek to walk in obedience to the word of God while clinging to Christ. For the auditors who are attending the sermon but are not trusting in Christ, the sermon holds a mirror up so that they may see just how desperately wicked and helpless they are.
In this section, Jesus described the orientation of the heart of the Christian. The heart in this sense refers to a person’s devotion, loyalty, and affection. Jesus exposed the hearts of his hearers through a series of contrasts.
1. The Treasure (Matthew 6:19–21)
In this first section, Christ contrasts two kinds of treasure.
There are two commands in verses 19–21. What are they?
The commands are actually the positive and negative of the same command. In verse 19 we read “Don’t lay up” and then in verse 20, “But lay up.” This is a command for Christians to labor diligently. Christians are called to produce fruit while they sojourn in this foreign land. When God rescues a lost soul his purposes go beyond saving him from the penalty of sin and eternity in hell. God’s great rescue of sinners is a starting point of a life of joyful service to the King until death. That’s why Paul told the Ephesians that they were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10).
True Christians can’t remain idle or lazy. They are compelled by the grace and command of God to labor faithfully. They put in long hours without concern for their own agendas. They live for the pleasure and will of the one true and living God. Their work is different from the work of the world, however, because their labor is rooted in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. They don’t labor under the cloud of the curse, but in the power of the Spirit with full assurance that all of their work done in faith, according to the Scriptures will be fruitful in its time.
What kind of person has no inclination to store up treasure for heaven according to God’s word?
Jesus commanded his followers to labor for treasure. Christians who aren’t storing up for themselves treasure are being disobedient. Furthermore, Christians who are storing up treasure for themselves here on earth are also breaking the commands of Christ. Christians aren’t called to simply work for work’s sake, but they are to labor for treasure. Further, they ought not to labor for just any treasure, but the kind of treasure that gets stored up in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy.
Does this seem stifling to you? Does it seem constrictive that Christians are not free to labor to whatever end they desire? If this truth is a bitter pill to try to choke down, it is because of one of two possible reasons. First, Christians who are immature in their faith will continue to kick against the goads until such a time that they are brought under greater lordship of their God. Like a rebellious child who believes that he knows better than the parent, Christians must be taught to see that they are ignorant and foolish and that their hearts, ambitions, emotions, and dreams must become subservient to the revealed will of God.
The second option is that, despite what you may believe about yourself, you are not a Christian at all. As we have discussed before those who profess Christ ought to examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith. A person who has no interest in submitting to God’s purposes in their lives and continues in that hard-headedness with no repentance or desire to obey God’s Word can have no assurance of salvation, regardless of any other Christian memorabilia they may have collected through the years.
What should Christians do that results in treasures in heaven?
Christians labor for that which God determines to be valuable, not what the world pursues. We can discover what God finds valuable and how we are to go about storing those things up by diligently searching the Scriptures. The good works that we are called to do are plainly laid out in God’s Word. An excellent place to start is by looking at the commands and commissions of Christ. Jesus told his followers to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15), be baptized (Matt 28:19), participate in the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:19–20), pray (Matt 6:9), give (Matt 23:23–24), love God and neighbor (Matt 22:37–40), and teach others to obey the words of Christ (Matt 28:19–20) to name a few.
Application Question: Are you storing up treasure for heaven or earthly treasure? What changes do you need to make concerning your work?
2. The Eye (Matthew 6:22–23)
In this section, we find a potentially confusing teaching of Christ. This is because the teaching was grounded in cultural idioms that have not been passed along to us. We need to dig a bit deeper to better understand the intention of Jesus. In ancient Israel, the idea of having a healthy eye was a reference to someone who was generous. A person who was generous and not stingy was full of light. The person who hoarded his goods and was unwilling to share was full of darkness.
What does generosity have to do with storing up treasures in heaven? How are these two sections connected?
When Christians labor to store up treasures in heaven, then they aren’t holding on tightly to the treasures of this world. Though followers of Jesus may be entrusted with many temporal resources to steward, they don’t horde these things up for their own good and glory giving no thought to what the actual Owner may have in mind. Remember, Christians are stewards, not owners.
A person who is primarily concerned with obeying the Scriptures to honor God and store up treasures in heaven will have more to share with those in need because he is not fretting over storing up treasures on earth
What could possibly motivate a person to give of his material resources freely and sacrificially for the work of the ministry and for the good of his neighbor?
Some people give money to atone for their sins. This, of course, is a foolish reason to give money because the forgiveness of God isn’t for sale. God’s judgment against sin cannot be placated with money. It is only the perfect and sufficient sacrifice of God the Son that can pay for sin. Nothing else.
Born-again Christians give for a totally different reason. Followers of Jesus don’t hold tightly to material things because the mercies of God make the heart generous. When a farmer lays out more cost upon a plot of earth, it bears a better crop. In the same way, a rescued soul honors the Lord with his devotion, love, and obedience. Furthermore, that devotion, love, and obedience translate into kindness, love, and generosity toward his neighbor.
Application Question: Are you a generous person? Do you think that others view you as being a joyful giver or a worried keeper?
3. The Servant (Matthew 6:24)
Finally, Jesus went to the heart of the message of this passage by pointing out the real potential for money and possessions to become idol worship. People can only serve one master and it is only fitting for Christians to serve God as their Master.
Why can’t people serve two masters? Why are we unable to serve both God and money?
Jesus finally named the thing that this whole section centers around, money. He had not been attempting to hide his intention, the meaning of his words would have been very clear to the ancient Israelite ear up until this point. But, just in case there were any who were still confused about what he was saying Jesus came right and said that they must either serve God or money, but they can’t serve both.
Christians are unable to serve both God and money because they will hate one and love the other. They will despise one and be devoted to the other. In other words, the human heart isn’t designed or able to worship in two distinct directions at the same time. The worship that God demands is characterized by whole-hearted devotion. Anything less is taking the name of the Lord in vain.
Does this mean that money is evil? Is Jesus prohibiting Christians from having anything to do with money? Should Christians view it as a necessary evil?
Money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim 6:10), but it isn’t inherently evil. Money is a product of functioning human societies and can be used for many kingdom-advancing purposes. Money also serves to ferret out the facts about one’s heart. In these verses, Jesus makes it clear that there is a proper place for money and it isn’t on the throne of one’s heart. Christians should see money as belonging to God. They are simply stewards of it. And because it belongs to God it is to be stewarded according to his purposes and his will.
The human soul wasn’t crafted to cling to money or any other created thing, even though they may give the appearance of peace and protection. No, the human soul is meant to adore, praise, exalt, rejoice in, cling to, trust in, and love the one true and living God in Christ and nothing else. When a person’s affections and devotion are fully oriented toward the Triune God, then all other issues of life fall into place. But, one thing is for certain, Christians cannot serve God and money.
Application Question: Has there ever been a time in your life when money became an idol to you? How did you smash that idol?
No one envies the man who is feasting on lobster tail, filet mignon, or some other delicacy when it has been provided to him as his last meal before taking his seat in the electric chair. Nor is anyone jealous of the mirth and laughter of the man dancing below the gallows. Their momentary pleasure is soon to be snuffed out by a permanent curse.
Christians don’t envy the unpardoned sinner but pity him. The person who has had his sins forgiven stores up treasures for himself in heaven. He doesn’t hold tightly to the things of this world because they are passing away. The Christian knows that only one Master is worthy of his undivided devotion and he will live before the face of God with thanksgiving, repentance, love, fear, and joy. He will seek to live a life rendering worship to the one true and living God.
- What is your greatest treasure? What would those who see your life day in and day out say your treasure is?
- What possessions do you have that you are simply unwilling to let go of? Is there anything that you might be holding onto with too tight of a fist?
- Are you a generous person? Why or why not?
- Do you believe that an itemized list of all of your expenditures over the last year would clearly show that you serve God above all?
- If you are a Christian, would you say that you serve God above all? What are some ways that your life bears that out? What sacrifices have you made in order to worship and obey God?
Prayer of Response
Begin your time of prayer adoring the Triune God for who he is and what he has done. Ask for the discernment to examine your own heart and life, especially your relationship to money.