Summary: If we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness – if we seek first to be in his kingdom, and if we seek first to live for his kingdom and as citizens of his kingdom, well, the rest works out.
Matthew 6:19-34 True Treasure
6/27/10e D. Marion Clark
Earlier today we presented Phil and Lisa Ryken with an original painting by artist Makoto Fujimura. On that painting the artist wrote in gold lettering the very passage we are considering tonight, up to verse part of verse 26, when he ran out of room.
Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 6 set the context for our passage. It reads: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
“Hypocrites” display publicly their so-called righteousness in order to be seen and then to be praised by others. They make a show of giving alms to the poor. They pray in public places. When they fast, they put on gloomy expressions to show their solemn devoutness and sacrifice. What they really reveal is that what they value as treasure is the regard of man as opposed to the regard of God. Righteousness – i.e. performing the duties of religion – becomes a means to win worldly treasure.
Jesus admonishes his hearers not to fall into such a perversion of righteousness. Verse 19-20: "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.”
Notice already the value of the true treasure in heaven. The treasures laid up on earth are susceptible to lost. Nature – catastrophic, as we have had late reminders, or natural processes – commonly harm physical possessions. Homes and other possessions can be destroyed by fire or flood or earthquake or tornado. Valuable information can go down with a computer crash. Not only do we have ordinary thieves who break into our homes, we now have cyber thieves to steal our valuables through the internet. Treasure on earth, because it is on earth, is losable.
The treasures in heaven, on the contrary, are secure. No climate activity can affect them. No thieves can sneak in. No lost of identity. Their owners can go about life in peace knowing that when the time comes to cash in, the treasures will be waiting. They will not receive a message, “We’re sorry, there is no record of you having a deposit with us.”
But there is a deeper issue. Look at verse 21: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. People are willing to take risks for treasure for which they are true believers, treasure that has captured their hearts. And that is the danger, not risk-taking, but setting one’s heart on the wrong treasure. What happens when one eyes the wrong treasure?
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!
Whatever catches your eye, whatever it is that you perceive as great treasure – that so-called treasure will penetrate into your life and, according to Jesus, will either, because it is good, be light that brings life and vitality, or, because it is bad, will fill you with darkness. Not that you will necessarily know. The body includes the mind, and if the mind is darkened, it may well believe it is in the light. It may believe the impossible is exactly what it can accomplish.
And so Jesus goes on: 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.”
Recall the hypocrites Jesus spoke of, the ones making a show of religiosity so as to win worldly favor. These hypocrites have actually fooled themselves. Though in reality they are serving the master of earthly treasure, they have convinced themselves that they are serving God.
How do they do that? Their very pious acts allow them to be blind to their hearts. They think to themselves, “How can one who gives to the poor, who prays regularly, and who even fasts regularly be worldly minded? My heart must be filled with light.” Recall the Pharisee’s prayer to God in Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11). See his reasoning? The hypocritical Pharisee gives due credit to God. He looks at the tax collector and says, “There but by the grace of God go I. I would be like that man who is in darkness, but obviously I am not because I do these pious things. All is right between God and me.” Jesus says he may go to his home in contentment, but he is not justified before God. How great is his darkness!