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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Treasure

Matthew 6:19-34

Lesson audio

If is a curious thing: the richest people in the world, the citizens of America, seem obsessed with the idea that they do not have enough. Enough what? Enough of anything of value at all. It is with some trepidation, then, that we present an opposing view:

Mat 6:19-24 NIV "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, 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. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. (23) But 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.

Treasure in heaven

As my wife’s father advances in age, we have found it increasingly difficult to explain to him why we don’t chase money the way he does. In money he finds his life’s worth; therefore, the only form of charity which is acceptable is giving money. There can be no value in living in holiness (poverty or not); only in wealth. Why do we chase this thing called money?

  • For some of us, it’s a matter of security. We want to be OK now, but especially OK for the future. We have nightmares of starving at the county poor house. More commonly, we have visions of being dependent upon our adult children. For some, that’s an issue of security; for others, pride.
  • For others, it is a tool of vainglory. It is how I show my neighbors which of us has arrived. I suspect that better than half of all full size pickups are purchased for that reason. As one car salesman explained it to me, they come in, they see it and they buy it as quickly as possible – before reality sets in.

The problem for the Christian is the impact this desire has upon the devotion needed to be a real Christian. We want to compartmentalize our lives – but then we find that all the compartments are part of the same ship.

The light of the eye

This particular expression needs some explanation. In Greek thought of the time (which would have been commonplace to Christ’s hearers) seeing was done by the eye projecting a ray into the darkness. So the listener would have understood this to be a metaphor for spiritual sight.

  • To the pure, all things are pure.[1] So it is that they see clearly in matters spiritual.
  • The spiritually corrupt are always looking for a loophole, or a hidden meaning, or some sort of fraud. Since the Gospel is “too good to be true” they’re sure it isn’t.

Do you see, however, that the difference here is NOT the Gospel – but the perception of the individual? If your view is warped by the love of money and obedience to its dictates, things soon look out of shape. That’s why the Scripture is so often described as bring light.[2]

In modern thinking, two problems arise which might not have been apparent at the time of Christ:

  • First, is it possible to change my view of the world at all? Isn’t it something which is just “there?” The answer is yes – but sometimes requires a twelve step program.[3]
  • Second, can I have a world view which is different from everybody else? It’s a problem the Christian faces in a number of places; for example, there are still Christians who believe that divorce is, in general, morally wrong.
Two masters

There is an important insight here: if you have the mind set on things above, the spiritual mind, it will free your body from sin. But the love of money breaks that mind, trying to get you to serve both God and money. Satan knows you can’t do that; he knows that you cannot serve two masters. He just wants to be the one you will serve.

Note, please, that the mere possession of money is not what is at issue. You can have very little money and pursue it greatly – which still makes you greedy.

There is one thought for you: if you think money has not mastered you, what is your reaction to the next giving opportunity? Do you find yourself making excuses about why you can’t give, or praising God for the chance to give?

Do Not Worry

Mat 6:25-34 NIV "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (27) Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[2]? (28) "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (30) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (31) So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Getting priorities straight

In an absolute sense, food and clothing (and other things) are a necessity. You don’t want to be running around in a Wisconsin winter with no clothing; crossing Death Valley, you’d probably want to pack food and water.

But notice something: most of us don’t buy “food.” We may buy Buster’s Amazing Potato Chips, however. We don’t buy “clothes.” We may buy the elegant tuxedo recently marked down to 29¢. So when we complain that we don’t have the money to (for example) give, we are actually saying that we don’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to do so.

I submit that the reason our priorities in giving are so badly in disarray is that we are making the wrong comparisons. We are contrasting “food” and tithing when the true comparison is potatoes chips and tithing. We are contrasting “clothing” and evangelism when the true comparison is the fashion designer suit and evangelism.

Most often, the problem is not that we have our priorities askew – it’s that we never set any, at least not regarding the spiritual realm. The reason we don’t want to set them is fear – we don’t want to test our faith against the harsh realities of this world. We have, in short, no confidence in the providence of God.

God’s providence

Reciting all the times in Scripture in which God provides by his providence would make a long list. The thought that God would provide for His own work was a commonplace among our ancestors, at least through the 1950’s. Today, no one speaks of it. Then we shall speak of it now.

There are three general types of providence by which God brings about His will:

·         Direct providence – as when God fed Elijah by the ravens – is one in which it is easy to see the source of the providence. This is probably the least common.

·         Instant providence – just when it seems everything’s falling apart, God provides. It’s not miraculous – but the timing is extremely significant.

·         Overriding providence – it looked like Joseph would end his days as the lowest of slaves. There was no hope, except in God. God overrode the world’s intention.

Can God – or will God?

OK, He can do it. But will He? Why is it that my life is not littered with such providences? Is it not due to your unbelief? For this Christ tells the crowd to open their eyes. They are quite aware of the birds and the grass; they just haven’t drawn the proper conclusions.

We have, in effect, set up our own barrier to God’s providence. We will not trust Him. Why not? Because we are busily trusting our money. We have taken two masters, and we are stretching ourselves down two different paths. Sooner or later, we must decide which leg hurts the most. How much better, then, to make that decision consciously in calm waters than at sea in the storm!

Seek first the kingdom

Christ promises us, in effect, that our needs will be met if we make the decision to follow him. This does not mean I’ll get a new sports car. It means, “needs.” Indeed, it is not unknown to Christendom to have those who intentionally enter “holy poverty.” But that is not the normal method; if we get our priorities straight, we shall find ourselves with no lack of what we need. So what should our priorities be?

·         Seek first the kingdom, He tells us. Seek to understand; seek to enter; seek to participate (that will require obedience!); seek to serve. You can’t store a touchdown if you’re not on the team.

·         Then seek God’s righteousness. Do what is just and fair; stand up for those who cry for justice to wooden ears; be honest in all your dealings. This will do for a start, but we all know what the completion of righteousness is: the blood of Christ. If you’re in, you need to be in 100%.

Do not worry

It is a command of your Lord: don’t worry about it. He gives us two varieties of “non-worry.”

·         First is in the matter of material things. Did you think God Himself does not know our needs? When you were a little child, did you have to write out the grocery list? Nor do you need now to write out your list of worries and wants; He already knows you need same. Trust Him for it.

·         Next – and by far the more pernicious – is worrying about tomorrow. Worrying about your daily bread is a rather limited focus; worrying about what “might be” in the future is much greater. After all, there are only two outcomes for the bread – yes and no. Tomorrow contains far more to worry about.

All we have is the present

We cannot change the past; we can only repeat its mistakes or repent of them. God has not privileged us to go back and clean up our mistakes. As Stalin once said, “The past is history – and history belongs to God.”

We cannot really control the future; only the now. You think not? If you have stocks you are likely to have a stock broker. This is a person whose working hours are dedicated to choosing stocks for her clients; yet even with the best of advice the market will often just do as it pleases. You can control what you invest in now – but not the price of the stock tomorrow.

All we have is the present, where time and eternity meet. Today is the day, now is the hour. Therefore “take no thought for the morrow” – because you’ve got enough troubles today.


[1] Titus 1:15

[2] Psalm 119:105

[3] I have yet to see such a program dealing with greed.

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