Text: Matthew 6:19-24
FCF: We often catch ourselves seeking fulfillment in things that fade and fail.
Prop: What you pursue shows who we worship, so we must put our highest priority on seeking God and His Kingdom.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 6. The section of scripture we are going to look at this morning is not exclusively in the book of Matthew. We also find it in Luke 11, 12 and 16. Luke uses these sayings in different contexts and at chronologically different times in Jesus’ ministry. As such, many have concluded that Matthew pieced together this sermon from various points of Jesus’ teachings, making this less of a sermon with a main point and more like a grouping of proverbial phrases and lessons from several points in Jesus’ ministry. There is a much simpler explanation of course. Most likely, since we know that Jesus was an itinerate preacher meaning that he spoke in various places; we assume that He no doubt repeated the content of his messages. Therefore we don’t have to assume that Matthew doctored up this sermon or that Luke ripped it apart. Instead it is simply that Jesus repeated himself, even to teach a different point. But what is Jesus teaching here? He just finished talking about our motives being important in our piety. And three times he said that God would reward things done in secret if we don’t pursue man’s honor. But what is that reward? Treasure? Wisdom? Security? That is probably what prompts Jesus to talk about the lasting treasure of the Kingdom of God. I’m in verse 19 of Matthew chapter 6. I’ll be reading from the New King James Version but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
[Slide 2] Have you ever thought about how ridiculous eating for pleasure is? No seriously. Think about it. What is food for? To provide fuel to our bodies so that we can continue. Right? So why does it matter whether it is Tofu or a steak? Why does it matter if it is Brussels sprouts or pizza? Why do we have so many variants of so many types of food? How many types of fuel do you put into your car? I’m not talking brands, but types. You don’t put in gas one week and dirt the next right? Why don’t we just eat gruel for every meal? It would sustain us right? We’d have fuel. But no. Today we have the food network. Today we have apps designed to find different places to eat based on the type of food you are looking to eat. There are people out there known as foodies. Maybe you are one of them. Basically they are super picky about their food because they can “taste the difference”. Now I’m not saying we should go to gruel every day. I love the variety God has given us, but have you ever stopped to wonder why we spend so much time, money, and energy pursuing food? Especially when you know that in 8 hours or less it will, how do I say this, no longer be with you. That is a pretty short relationship right? 8 hours. Can you imagine if we moved on from relationships that fast? And yet, we pursue what we like, what we crave even.
Unfortunately, food is not the only thing we pursue in life that ultimately fades or fails us. In fact, I’d challenge you to think of something on this rock that we pursue that doesn’t fade or fail us. And just like some people are foodies, others are work alcoholics. Some are Facebookers. Others are Sales gurus. Others are defined by who they are dating or what their gamerscore is. Some have higher ambition like being a family man, or being a church goer or ministry helper. But at the end of the day… everything I have mentioned up to this point is like grass. It withers and it fades. Even ministry can quickly become unnecessary or unbiblical. Even churches can close their doors. Even families can crumble. In fact there is one common thread in everything we have discussed. It all burns. It is all fleeting and fading. It is volatile and it is fragile.
[Slide 3] So, what Chris, it’s suddenly it is wrong to be a family man? That isn’t what I said. But with great subtlety, we are so easily veered off our heading ever so slightly. So that even good actions with good intentions can quickly steal our aim away from that which is most important.
Jesus will tell us today, in no uncertain terms, that what we pursue betrays the truth of what we love with your whole heart. What we pursue tips our hand as to what cards we are holding.
So then, rather than pursuing the infinite number of things that we could… let us put our highest priority, our one aim, our focused chase, on seeking the King and His Kingdom first.
[Slide 4] In verses 19-21 Jesus will tell us that the things that we consider of greatest value show what we love in the deepest recesses of our hearts. And when I say love, I mean unconditional, unwavering, love. Perhaps a better word would be, worship. What we value most reveals what we worship.
I.) The Kingdom’s treasure is eternal and this world’s treasure is not, so we must put our highest priority as seeking the Kingdom. (19-21)
a. [Slide 5] – 19 - Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth
i. To lay up means to heap or store.
ii. for yourselves indicates the purpose of the store housing of wealth or valuables. It is purely self-gratification.
iii. on earth clearly forms the ongoing dichotomy between the world’s philosophy and the Kingdom’s philosophy.
iv. Just as Jesus endeavored to destroy the system of gathering honor for yourself through piety so he endeavors to destroy the system of gathering and hoarding material possessions for yourself.
b. Where moth and rust destroy
i. On earth things decay
ii. As a ramification of the curse, all things break down
iii. Moth destroys organic matter
iv. Rust destroys metal.
c. and where thieves break in and steal
i. What cannot be destroyed easily, also cannot be protected easily.
ii. Usually what is difficult to destroy is valuable. (except maybe the cockroach)
d. [Slide 6] – 20 - but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven
i. instead of thinking this way, selfishly heaping up wealth and possessions for yourself as you would have heaped up honor for yourself
ii. rather – heap up wealth or things of value in heaven.
iii. What is meant by treasures in heaven? Before we answer that, let’s see if the context helps us.
e. where neither moth nor rust destroys
i. Treasures in heaven, things that are valuable in heaven cannot be destroyed.
ii. There is no way for them to decay or fade.
iii. They are eternal. They are like God. In fact, they are no doubt woven to His character somehow.
f. and where thieves do not break in and steal
i. Heaven is absolutely secure against incursion.
ii. The only things that pass through the gates are things that God permits to pass through.
iii. It is, therefore, impossible for thieves to break in and steal what is of value in heaven.
nbsp; iv. So what is valuable in heaven is woven to the character and nature of God.
v. This will help us to understand what exactly is of value in the Kingdom. The short answer is, anything that is like God is of value. So when we obey, when we think like God, feel like God, live like God, speak like God – when we are like Him, we are accumulating treasures in heaven. We are furthering the Kingdom.
g. [Slide 7] – 21 - for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
i. Jesus switches to a singular pronoun here. Up to this point he was saying you all. Don’t you all heap up treasures now. J Now Jesus is pointing the finger at each person individually. He is communicating a universal truth that is the same for every person regardless of background. What is this truth?
ii. What you value communicates who you are at the very core of your being.
iii. That is not to say that the path to changing who you are is by changing what you value.
iv. It is not a statement of cause but of affect. Your heart is a certain way and that affects what you value.
v. So how does one change their heart? Well that is what Jesus is trying to get across to these folks. That they can’t change their heart.
h. [Slide 8] To summarize what Jesus is saying here, it is that the world’s most valuable things are temporary and fleeting. Even the world’s definition of love, family and success are all fleeting. What is valuable in God’s Kingdom are things related to God’s nature. And they are everlasting. So pursue Him, and you will heap up things that are truly valuable, and can never be taken away.
[Slide 9] Jesus continues by telling us that what we perceive to be true about this life betrays the truth about how dark our hearts truly are.
II.) The Kingdom’s Light allows us to see clearly while the world’s Light (actually darkness) blinds us, so we must put our highest priority as seeking the Kingdom (22-23)
a. [Slide 10] – 22 - The lamp of the body is the eye
i. Light enables us to see things that are hidden. It allows us to navigate and find our way. If you do not understand, go on a deserted country road and turn off your headlights and attempt to drive.
ii. Don’t actually do that… but you get my point.
iii. So like light guides us and enables us to see clearly, imagine that the eye is a lamp.
iv. Our eyes guide us. Without them we would be in darkness.
b. If therefore your eye is good
i. They eye becomes a metaphor for the spiritual side of our natures.
ii. The word for good here is difficult to translate.
iii. It means sound or fortified. Certain derivatives of the word also mean clear, healthy, or even generous.
iv. Jesus probably employed the use of this word to present a double meaning.
1. He most certainly means generosity as it is a passage with obvious material overtones.
2. But another layer of truth is beginning to emerge and will continue to do so until we reach the end of chapter 6.
3. Saying that your eye is good would indicate that you are focused, clear, and healthy. It means that you have the right priorities and you see the world the way God sees the world. It means that your passion, your pursuit, your aim is fixed on God. This of course would lead a person to be generous since they view the things of this world as temporary; therefore they aren’t to be heaped up for a selfish purpose.
c. your whole body will be full of light
i. So just as a person who’s eye is functioning properly can see clearly to judge distance and avoid obstacles
ii. So also a person who is focused on God and generous is a person who sees the world as it is and can operate correctly to avoid false assumptions and idolatry.
d. [Slide 11] – 23 - But if your eye is bad
i. Bad here is the word traditionally used for evil, but can also be used as someone who is a miser or greedy.
ii. Again, we see what is probably an intentional word play happening.
1. Where Jesus is both meaning the general concept of being out of step with how God sees the world and God’s prioritization of the world and all that is in it
2. and also specifically how that would apply to wealth in that a person hoards material things because they do not see the world the way God does.
e. your whole body will be full of darkness
i. As an affect of having a focus out of step with God’s to the extent that you hoard possessions for this temporary and fleeting life
ii. the cause is that you have a body that is full of darkness.
iii. You see the if phrase here is not causative but affective. Your eye is bad because you have a body full of darkness.
iv. Both this comment on darkness and the comment on light reveal the same truth that verse 21 did. That what we treasure reveals where our heart is, so also, how we perceive the world reveals the true nature of our spiritual condition.
f. if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
i. So if you perceive the world to the extent that what you value and what you pursue is miserly and out of step with God, yet you claim to be of the light, you claim to be religious, you claim to be God’s people
ii. Then how great is the darkness of your heart in that you have so desperately been deceived to think that you are good, when you are in fact quite the opposite.
iii. Jesus’ argument is an argument that Matthew will repeat over and over and over again. It is the idea that those who are closest to the truth, yet do not have saving and changing faith, are the most lost among us.
iv. Do you realize what that means? It means that prostitutes, thieves, drug addicts and serial killers have a greater chance for light in their hearts than those who sit in church every Sunday but do not have saving faith. And as James says, saving faith is a faith that changes us.
v. This is not the first bomb that Jesus drops on empty religion and ineffective faith, but it is certainly the most potent thus far. But did the people around Him understand? I don’t think they did. If they did… there most certainly would have been an uproar. But the plane stayed silent as he continued to teach.
vi. And if you are not careful, you too will stand silent before what Jesus is teaching you today. That if you are able to sit through the gospel being preached to you, and you have a faith that isn’t changing you to be like Christ, if your faith has been ineffective to cause you to grow to any real degree in the last week, month, year or decade, then you are in greater darkness than a witch doctor in an unreached tribal community on an island that no one has ever heard of. The darkness in your heart is so thick, that it would take something cataclysmic to get through. That if Jesus came today instead of in the 1st century, his harshest words would have been reserved for you, the modern Pharisee.
vii. If that is you… If you are a Christian by name, but have seen no effects of your faith – perhaps the Spirit is speaking to you now. If so – don’t wait for the end of the service. Don’t wait for the end of the sermon. I know that a deacon here would love to talk to you about your spiritual future. Just get up and pull them aside – deacons who are ready to talk to these folks can you raise your hands? There they are… don’t wait, heed Jesus’ warning. It is not enough to be religious… you must be in Christ. You must have a faith that is alive.
g. [Slide 12] So to summarize what Jesus is saying here, he is saying that God’s light, God’s perspective on the world and all that is in it is the correct perspective and the only one that allows us to see clearly because it is light. The world’s light is actually darkness and emanates from within us. If then, we are seeing clearly, we will be generous. If we see the world the way God does, we will be generous.
[Slide 13] Finally Jesus reveals that the thing that we passionately and tirelessly work to accomplish reveals the real master that we serve.
III.) The Kingdom’s Master is in direct conflict with every other would be master, so we must put our highest priority as seeking the Kingdom (24)
a. [Slide 14] – 24 - No one can serve two masters
i. Masters here are slave owners.
ii. Being a slave was a full-time commitment. It was not even a full-time job – it was greater than that.
iii. You were at the beckon call of the master at all times. You became part of the family, but you certainly were property.
iv. To think that you could potentially have two masters as a slave is ridiculous. They are simply incompatible.
v. Therefore Jesus’ statement is not a command, as in don’t serve two, but a certainty of fact, as in, it is impossible to serve two.
b. for either he will hate the one and love the other
i. Love and hate is a rhetorical tool. It is not meant to convey the actual emotions or choices of love and hate. Especially since last week we learned we were not justified to hate anyone.
ii. Hate here instead is an object of comparison. The rhetorical tool being employed is primarily to show the absolute incompatibility between the two masters. They are in such opposite directions that to choose to go east, is to choose to never go west. To choose to love one, would be considered an act of war against the other.
c. or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other
i. Same concept only spelled out a little differently.
ii. To choose to be loyal to one is to be disloyal to another. If one person says to go to Lansing and the other says to go to Sarnia, how do you accomplish both of those? You don’t. You choose to be loyal to one and choose to betray the another.
d. You cannot serve God and mammon.
i. Mammon is an old word. Probably from Chaldean, meaning it was around when Daniel was in Babylon.
ii. The word used to mean to entrust. It was a banking term when you entrusted someone with your possessions. Eventually the word came to mean where you place your confidence.
iii. It is obvious by Jesus’ time that the world came to mean wealth or money and the way it came to that meaning is easy to see. Men often place their confidence in money or possessions.
iv. Knowing the backdrop of this word and the double meaning and spiritual meanings that Jesus is weaving into this, it makes me curious as to whether Jesus used this word specifically to illicit a multilayered meaning.
v. There were other Greek words that Matthew could have used to translate Jesus’ Aramaic if the word Jesus intended was wealth or money or riches. Which leads me to wonder why he chose this old word instead.
vi. Perhaps Jesus is building an argument. That all the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
vii. Perhaps Jesus is saying that all things you place confidence in besides God are foreign masters that are darkness and fading treasures.
viii. Money is absolutely one of them and a specific application that is evident in this text. But perhaps… there is more to Jesus’ argument here than simply possessions.
e. [Slide 15] So to summarize Jesus’ words he is saying that God is the only master that we can have and no other will provide the light and treasure that are pure and lead to life. Whether that be wealth and possessions or anything at all that is of this world and not of the Kingdom.
[Slide 16 (blank)] So what can we take away from this passage of scripture today? What can we learn? How do we respond?
[Slide 17] The things we consider of greatest value show what we love in the deepest corners of our hearts.
What we perceive to be true about this life betrays the truth about how dark our hearts truly are.
The thing that we passionately and tirelessly work to accomplish reveals the real master that we serve.
[Slide 18] In short, what we pursue shows what we worship.
There is a world that has been built up in every culture of every age of every land. It is a world that serves to distract, blind, confuse and distort reality. It is a false world. A façade. A phony. But we have been immersed in it, raised in it, exposed to it and saturated with it. Since our birth it is all we have ever known. And since it is all we have ever known, it is what we think is truth. As with any good lie, this world possesses elements of truth. The misinformation is not overt. So small is the lie that without digging it would be impossible to find. And why dig to find it when you have been told that everything we need is on the surface?
The sermon on the mount as a whole has been building an irrefutable argument. One that cannot be cast aside. And up to today you might have missed it. But today Jesus makes it abundantly clear. The world you know is a lie. It is a clever ruse to throw you off the scent of the truth.
Jesus first attempts to communicate that to them by telling them what Kingdom citizens look like. Which all of them should have been scratching their heads and thinking, well that is impossible.
Then Jesus attempts to show them what Kingdom citizens do. A clear dichotomy is being formed between the Kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. Not only are they not the same, but they are in direct conflict.
Then Jesus attempts to show them the law of the Kingdom and to their dismay it is the same law, fully enforced that they have been failing for thousands of years. God has not changed, His standard is still perfection, because He is perfect.
Then Jesus attempts to show them that their pursuit of honor will only produce their shame. But their pursuit of no honor will give them honor from God. This is the first hyper-practical illustration that the world they know is backward and upside down. It is a distorted reality. It is a lie. A ruse. A hookwink.
And here today in this passage Jesus clearly clues them in on how to know they have been duped.
What do you consider of greatest value? To what philosophies and ideologies do you cling? What do you passionately and tirelessly work to accomplish? That is what you love. That is who you serve. That is what you worship. THAT is your god.
And if that answer is family, career, love, honor, wealth, power, peace, happiness, pleasure, friends, girlfriends, knowledge, hope, self or anything but God than you are serving a master that is not God. You have a light that is actually darkness. You have a treasure that will wither and fade.
To the 1st Century Jew Jesus’ message is clear. The world is not the way it seems. God’s perspective is the only reality. All else is cleverly devised lie.
The Kingdom of heaven, AKA how God sees the world which is how the world actually is, functions backward and upside down to the way we would assume it would.
Does your treasure rust, fade, tarnish or die? Do your perceptions on life lead you to mistakes, or fail you? Do your pursuits and accomplishments leave you empty and have you sacrificing what God says is more important? Than your treasure is not really treasure, your light is actually darkness, and the god you serve is not the God of the bible.
As 1st Century Jews they needed this truth ramrodded into them because they thought they had it down. They thought that since they were Jews they were untouchable.
There was a TV show back in the late 80s and early 90s where one of the characters demonstrated a similar attitude that the Jews did. The character on the TV show had a son who wanted to be a priest. After she gave him some money to go and buy a nice suit for entering the priesthood she started treating people very poorly. She actually stated in the show that because her son was going to be a priest that God couldn’t punish her for any of her nasty pranks she played on people. Of course her son, as fickled young people often do, changed his mind. Suddenly she was terror struck for all the bad she did that God now would hold her accountable for.
Her theology was bad but her attitude was not uncommon. The Jews thought that since they were God’s chosen people… God’s hands were tied. What was He going to do? He chose them, now He was stuck with them. Jesus comes on the scene and basically just dismantles all of that. You aren’t safe from God… in fact you may be more blind than those who have never heard about Him at all.
To 21st century people we need to understand that God is not looking for a part time relationship. He is looking for you to reject everything to follow Him. Not because He is selfish but because there is only 1 thing of value worth pursuing, There is only 1 perception of this world that is real and there is only 1 thing worth tirelessly working for and that is Him.
There are no doubt some among us today that have never made an initial decision to reject that fantasy world we are describing. Perhaps you never thought the world was a lie before today. Maybe right now you are thinking to yourself, it sounds like the plot of a movie I once saw. I won’t disagree with you, but it doesn’t make it less concerning for you. Because if this world is a lie. If it’s values, direction, culture, and goals are all distorted and skewed – would you ever consider that it was? What I mean is, if had always seen life through a window, and someone came up to you and said, that window is tinted, would you believe them? Probably not. You’d probably say – Your window is too bright, or has been tampered with to be brighter than reality. Well today Jesus is telling you, your window is tinted. You are seeing the world through a glass that is dark and is hiding the truth. What Jesus is offering, is to see the world as it actually is. To remove the lies and see clearly. How do you do that? Well on a window, you’d smash the old one and put a new one in, and keep it clean to make sure no smudges ended up doing the same thing the tint did. In the same way, reject your former way of viewing the world – and depend on Jesus and His view of the world. I’d love to talk to you more about that after the service if this is you.
To others here, myself included, this passage serves as a stark reminder that there is only one God. Now you might be wondering where exactly I am going with this.
I was at a Pastor’s prayer meeting earlier this week and in one of the prayers, one pastor confessed his propensity to serve multiple gods. Not that he rejected God as one that he worshipped, but rather that he would add other gods that were not gods at all, that would give him comfort. Things that would give him hope. Things that would give him peace. Things that would give him satisfaction. Things that would give him direction. My heart grieved with his, for I too am guilty of this. Of course by doing this I am willingly adding something imperfect to something perfect. I am adding a second master and by doing so am moving away from the first.
So for those who have already smashed that tinted window and replaced it with God’s clear one… this message is simply a treasure check. It is an idol finder. Is God your only God? And if He wasn’t, how would you know? He already told us.
What do you pursue? How do you spend your time? To what do you run when times get hard? When life is good and everything is going well – what captures your attention?
If the answer to all of those questions is anything but a passionate pursuit of God – then you, like me, are a Polytheist. What does that mean?
Polytheism is the belief that there are many gods but some are more powerful than others.
So you may think that the God of the bible is the greatest – but when we pursue something that is not Him –it reveals that there are idols in our hearts.
And let me tell you some of those idols are entrenched so deep within us that we have grown so accustomed to them being there that until the Word of God shows us, we don’t even know they exist. In fact, many of them tend to be things that are good but we have put them out of balance. Relationships, food, happiness and money for example.
And speaking of money, as Christ is here – it is one of the biggest idols of our hearts. And let me tell you something, you don’t have to have a lot of it to be its slave.
Paupers to Kings and everything between have been slaves to wealth. If you constantly are thinking that if you only had a better job, or a raise that life would get easier. If your go to solution for a problem is to throw money at it. if you have tons of money in your bank account and no living heirs. If you have two of everything. If you live in America… you might just be serving the god of materialism and wealth. Because we live in such an affluent culture that money has become a great crutch for us. We depend on it completely.
Our country is 20 trillion dollars in debt.
We throw away more than 40% of the food we produce in this nation.
The average income for an American Household is $65,000 while the average debt for an American household is $90,000
What does all this tell us? That America is hopelessly enslaved to material things. Our hope is built on nothing less than lotto balls and wealthiness. We pursue it. We live by it. We die by it. If we have a problem we purchase the answer.
But as Christians we have been given the eyes of God. His Word washes our eyes to see that all of this. Every dime. Every car. Every house. It will all burn. And when our souls live on and our wealth is gone… we’ll have played the fool to cling to such fragile things.
Jesus’ message to us is very simple to see, but not so simple to do… identify and destroy using the Words of God, all that is cheap imitation and replace it with that which cannot fade, and can never be stolen. The character of God in us.
What would happen if all of us had our priorities in order? What would happen if we all valued above all else what God valued? What would happen if we all saw the world as God sees the world? What would happen if we tirelessly labored for God and nothing else?
We would finally be focused. We’d finally be united. We’d finally be affective.
The church that passionately pursues God is the church that the gates of hell cannot stop. When we cast aside the chains that so easily weigh us down and look to Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, we are then free to be ambassadors of God. And We’d be unstoppable.
We’d be turning down higher paying jobs to have more time discipling our kids. We’d trust God even when we were without work. We’d obey God even when it cost us money, time, energy or comfort. We’d date differently, spend differently, love differently and live differently.
We’d be so weird. Jesus was weird. We’d be like Jesus. We’d be salt in a world of putrefaction and decay. We’d be light in a world stumbling in darkness.
God help us to cast aside our idols. Pull down our Asherah poles. Help us to live for the only God worth living for… You.