If someone looked at your bank and credit card statements this year, would they see Jesus‘ kingdom as the one thing you treasure the most?
Our investigation into ‘faith’ has taken the following shape.
- FAITH… is being sure of what we believe
- FAITH… is observable (faith produces works)
- FAITH… is about entry into Jesus’ kingdom (works don’t save)
- FAITH… is accompanied with love on the basis of what God is like, not on the basis of what humans like.
We have two more studies on the topic of faith but it is good to reflect on where we have come from in order to see how central this word is to Christians. Jesus is at the centre of it all. But we don’t worship a Jesus who is ‘out there’ away from us, but God who became man so that we can be relieved of our anxiety and doubt about our existence and eternal future. Faith is not a magical word that takes away suffering and pain – but gives us the foundation (our sure hope and trust in God) to lean into suffering and know that it is all in God’s hands.
This week, we turn to Jesus’ own words in Matthew Chapter 6 and see how far we ought to lean into faith. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Read Matthew 6:19-24
Matthew 6:19-24 are a series of short sayings which are our focus in this study. Matthew 6:25-34 continue with the same message and are an extended argument on the same theme. You may extend the study through to verse 34 but I won’t fill these notes with explanation.
- 19-21 – The logic of faith
- 22-23 – A lesson on clarity
- 24 – An ultimatum
19-21 – The logic of faith
“…treasures on earth…” Jesus identifies the treasures in the broad sense of anything that can be stolen by human or rodent. Food and money fit clearly into these categories. Two things are paramount about what he says: Firstly, they are called ‘treasures’ and secondly that he is warning against storing up. These are investment terms where we are thinking about our future. He reminds us that there is no eternal future for these things. So, we can gather daily for our needs and we can be prudent about forward thinking but he tells us that our investments will be stolen from us. We cannot build a security system that will defend our wealth against the thieves of the next generation. That is, we must eventually give up everything for the living.
“…treasures in heaven…” But there are treasures which are untouchable by vermin and thieves. Here is good economical advice. What is the ultimate retirement plan? The question to ask of this passage (or of Jesus) is: what is this treasure? It is not heaven because the treasure is in heaven. The answer is not a place but a person: God himself. A person who gathers treasure around them is seeking to make themselves king. But a person who recognises Jesus as king and knows that he is a generous and gracious king will learn to stop hoarding, and striving for self reliance and trust God with everything. We don’t need to wait for heaven to come in order to enjoy the kingdom of God now. Matthew 6:32 concludes this whole theme on possessions and tells us to possess God above everything else.
“…where your treasure is…” Jesus finishes this first section with the question: what is it that you treasure. You will sacrifice things for whatever it is that you treasure. If you spend on X, you are not spending that amount of money on Y and Z. That’s just maths. If the spending is money, that’s clear. But the spending could be your time, energy, sleeplessness, mental focus. What is it that we are actually striving for? Jesus wants to know if you want to be in his kingdom or not? If you do, do you treasure it?
Side note: The word for treasure in the Greek is Thesauros. Firstly, isn’t it great that when we need to use an alternate word for something, we can go to a great treasure store of words in a thesaurus – but secondly, our local finance advisors who are gospel minded with their thinking on money have called their company Thesauros Consulting. They were interviewed this year on The Pastor’s Heart and you can see this excellent 30 minute presentation here: https://www.thepastorsheart.net/podcast/where-your-money-is
22-23 – A lesson on clarity
“…the lamp of the body…” I would treat these verses a little like a riddle from Jesus. It is less like an easy illustration and more like an “aha” moment when you finally understand what he is saying. The eyes of a person who treasures the kingdom of God above all else has healthy eyes and their body is healthy. But if you have an eye for God and an eye for the things of this world, then you are darkening the health of your body and, as Jesus describes it, the darkness is strong! He uses the eye because it describes the direction of our attention. He is not talking about how we actually use our eyes but where our focus is. I was learning about dogs recently, and how the dog brain works, and the first thing you need to know about dogs is that their sense of smell is amazing! They use their noses, like we use our eyes. Where their nose is at, that is what they are focused on. They observe the world and interact with the world through their nose. We, on the other hand, have our eyes as the key input device for our minds. Even when we have them closed, we think about our desires in visual ways – through our mind’s eye! So, Jesus is asking us to be a one-eyed-supporter or lover of God’s kingdom.
24 – An ultimatum
“No one can serve two masters.” Jesus gives us a third way of thinking about our hearts. The first was about what we treasure the most. The second was about what we are focused on. The third is about slavery. What or who are we a slave to. If we are a slave to money then that is our god. If we are a slave to God, it does not follow that we will give away all of our money, but it will not be our master – we shall master it for the glory of God.
“…hate…love…devote…despise…” We might fool ourselves to think that we can do God well and do this world well also. Jesus says, choose. You may have heard something like this, “you can have heaven now or heaven later, but you can’t have both.” That’s not bad if it works to motivate you. The question of ‘what do you treasure’ comes back again: is it God or is it not God. Can you drop everything and commit your life to God? Or is he contingent on whether you are doing well elsewhere first? Is security in this world your goal? And God gets a say when everything else is sorted. Or can you sacrifice everything else for the sake of following Christ? Put this another way: what are you unable to remove from the grip of your hand, no matter what?
My hope is that Christ and his kingdom is what we desire, love and are devoted to. I confess that this is tested in me regularly – and I fail. I want to despise the things of this world because of my love for God and his glory. I need forgiveness. I ask for it and I get it and I keep working on making eye healthy.
Jesus calls us to look out our hearts, our eyes and our master. Food and money can become tools for us if we learn to treasure God above all else. Our spiritual health can be measured on the things that we pursue, the way we spend our money and the focus of our mind and energy. We are all slave to something. If it is money and pleasure, repent and turn to Christ. Jesus offers us the kingdom of God – do you want to settle for less?
Application A: Consider what your treasure is. The starting point of application to this study is understanding what you consider as treasure. In other words: what do you pursue in life? What shapes your decisions – big and small – on how you spend your time, talents, and treasure? If it’s God and his desires, then you are investing well.
If it’s not, then you are pursuing treasures that will have no value when you meet Jesus face to face in eternity. It’s like knowing that your shed will be bulldozed next month but you keep buying more and more stuff and storing them in the shed.
Application B: Putting money in its place. Watching the interview with Kevin and Arya would be very helpful as a starting point on working out how to think about the money you handle and your own personal growth in faith. Here is the link again: https://www.thepastorsheart.net/podcast/where-your-money-is Who can you talk to about how you are going with your money? Managing your money is about telling your money what to do. It ought to be directed by your faith and not the other way around.
Applications C: Matthew 6:33 is a wonderful summary statement of Jesus’ point. Make this a memory verse.