10. "Treasure Keeping"
Today, Pastor Scott Scruggs shows how, in Matthew 6:19–24, Jesus challenges his disciples to have single-minded devotion to God. Since Jesus had single-minded devotion to his heavenly Father, it only makes sense that we, his disciples, would learn to do similarly. God says, “I am the Lord Your God. You shall have no others.” That's a commandment that we must obey!
We must also decide whether we’re disciples or just admirers of Jesus, if we don’t become like him in single-minded devotion to God.
Possessions or Wealth
Matthew 6:19–21 [Click to open, re-click to close, this and all other links.]
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
During our past three meetings, we discussed how Jesus had spoken at length about (1) the foolishness of practicing one’s piety in front of others and (2) the need to remember that God is a Father who is present and ready to reward those who come to him.
Today, we see Jesus turn to another focus on which we often seek to receive our affirmation, our value, and our identity. His focus is on possessions or wealth.
You can know what you treasure by considering what you think about, hope for, dream of, and spend time working towards owning or keeping. In this opening passage, Jesus contrasts storing up "the treasures on earth" with "the treasures that are in heaven." What does it mean in verse 20 to “store up for yourselves treasures”? It might mean to think highly of, to focus on, to worship, to believe that this thing, whatever it is, is crucial to your livelihood and happiness.
Your Treasures, Here on Earth
What are some of the things you're tempted to worship on earth? Might one or two worshipped treasures be: a valuable home or property? Success with your investments? An easy retirement? Your lowest golf score? That big bass boat? Power and control over others or our circumstances? If you store up treasure for yourself, you have your affections, your passions, and your heart set on it. Its presence in your life is of supreme importance to you. You'll put a lot of time and effort into acquiring, maintaining, and keeping that treasure(s).
How does Jesus appeal to his audience when he tells them not to personally treasure earthly treasures? He reminds them of the temporary and corruptible nature of all earthly treasure. Earthly treasure, whether it's wealth, comfort, or power, is transient and susceptible to change. When Jesus tells his listeners and us this truth, he's reminding them and us of what's already known: Our wealth doesn't guarantee happiness, security, or long life.
What Are We to Treasure?
Rather than discouraging his listeners from treasuring anything, Jesus tells them to care for, treasure, love, desire, and work for heavenly treasures. Earth and heaven both have treasures. Jesus points out the superiority of heavenly treasures and so encourages us to set our hearts on those.
Well, what are the heavenly treasures Jesus wants us to store up for ourselves? Jesus has already talked about these treasures in the Beatitudes. The treasures that God has for us are the well-being of peacefulness; knowing ourselves as his true children; and inheriting the earth. In short, it's all about having a share in the very life and love of the triune God. And, Jesus reminds us, these treasures are permanent, eternal. It would be wise for us to store up these treasures because they'll never fail us as earthly treasures will.
What Jesus is telling his listeners in these three infamous verses is that we should not treasure, worship, or give our best to that which isn't worthy. Because we're fallen human beings, we give our best, and therefore our lives, to that which cannot give life or satisfy this deep longing in us to store up numerous earthly treasures. How sad it is to worship that which can only break the heart of the worshiper!
God, in his overflowing love, created us to have a vital share in his triune life. He wants us to have a meaningful, personal relationship with him, nothing less. He also wants us to know ourselves, finally and truly, as his children, brothers and sisters of the Son, Jesus. He gives us a share in his life, love, joy, peace, blessing, and creativity.
Wow! No wonder that our desire to store up, worship, and treasure is so deep and consuming. When we see who he is and what he desires for us, we see how puny our longings are for earthly objects. In the end, Jesus doesn't tell us it's wrong to treasure something for ourselves. Rather, he warns us that our hearts must only treasure our Lord God, who deserves our complete worship and can fulfill our true longings.
Earthly Treasures Can Break the Heart
Matthew 6:22–24 [Click to open, re-click to close, this and all other links.]
22"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24"No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money."
Jesus continues to warn us about the danger of making earthly treasures the object of our devotion, our longing, and ultimately our worship. All earthly treasures (a.k.a., idols) will, in the end, break the hearts of their worshippers. In vv. 22 and 23, Jesus continues his warning with two more images: (1) a healthy vs. an unhealthy eye and (2) trying to serve two masters.
Jesus uses the analogy of the eye and the light that it lets into your body to highlight the darkness that we live in when we treasure what isn't God and what isn't eternal. He's saying that the eye is the gateway to light for the entire body. So, to have unhealthy eyes would have a profound effect on one’s entire life.
On What Treasure Should We Set Our Eyes?
Since this "eye is the light" image immediately follows Jesus’ speaking about what we treasure and set our hearts on, it makes sense to see that a healthy and sound eye enables us to visualize what we've decided to treasure. After all, we “set our eyes” on what we truly treasure.
This means that if we treasure, worship, and receive God first in our lives, this "sheds light on" or makes us wise about everything else in our lives. However, when we store up and treasure earthly treasures, our entire life becomes dark. We cling to, depend upon, and give our best to earthly treasures, ultimately ending up worshipping our earthly relationships, possessions, causes, and so on.
Serve No More than One Master!
Jesus concludes this teaching with these words from v. 24, "No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money." We cannot, Jesus is saying, have two things vying for first place in our life as the focus of our eye. Doing this will make each of us a divided person, unable to be whole in the relationships and activities of our life.
Bottom line: We must not set our eyes on two things or focus on two “treasures” to which we devote ourselves. If we do that, our entire life will be filled with darkness, not just our eyes! Jesus directs us to the one and only source of true blessing and true life, both here and now and for eternity. He calls us to "surrender in trust to the Living God" who is always present, always offering himself to us: Jesus Christ.