In this sermon, Jesus has already addressed three specific spiritual disciplines: giving, prayer, and fasting. He says these things are matters of the heart. Only someone who is shaped by Christ from the inside out can let go of the things of this world and trust Him to provide. Jesus continues to press into these matters of the heart.
Jesus states, very plainly, in verse 19: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal..." Talking about money makes many Christians uncomfortable. But Jesus talked about money more than anyone else in the Bible! He obviously thought it was a necessary issue to address. Most of us like the positive statement that follows in verse 20 (about laying up treasures in heaven), but we tend to avoid the negative part of the command in verse 19. We find all kinds of excuses in order to justify our desire to hold onto the things we have (I know I do!). But what if we just simply took Jesus at His word? What if we believed the crazy notion to give away the things we have and instead build up treasures in heaven? May we look to the reward that is to come by giving away what we have for the sake of the gospel!
He continues in verse 21: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Oftentimes when quoting this verse, we tend to say it like this: "where your heart is, there your treasure will be also." But notice that it does not put it in that order. "Treasure" comes before "heart." In other words, the things that we place value on will be the things we love and give our life to. Do we value money or Jesus? What are we giving our lives to? This is an essential question that we must all ask. D.A. Carson gives a very convicting statement on this passage:
"It is a poor bargain which exchanges the eternal for the temporal."
Verses 22-23 seem confusing at first glance, given the placement in the sermon's section on money, until we really begin to ponder the words. The "eye" in the Bible "is a lamp that reveals the quality of a person's inner life" (ESV Study Bible). A "good eye" has a singular devotion. A "bad eye" is one of moral corruption, loving darkness rather than the light (see John 3:19-21). Because of where Jesus puts this statement, we can assume He is still talking about serving money or God. Where is our devotion? Do we devote our lives to the pursuit of wealth? Or to the pursuit of the glory of Christ (which is also building up treasures in heaven)?
Verse 24 states, "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." This continues the illustration of the eye as the lamp of the body. A "good eye" is a singular focus on serving God and His kingdom. Either we are building up treasures in heaven or we are building up treasures on earth. We cannot do both. For too long Christians have tried to do both of these things. And we end up deceiving ourselves, thinking we are serving God, all the while having our affections stirred for the possessions of the world. The issue is not so much of what we have (though this may be an indicator of our hearts), but what we love, what drives us to do what we do.
I leave you with one final question:
Who are you serving, God or money?