Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (New International Version)
Nobody can pursue two diametrically opposed commitments.
Trying to live in both worlds of pursuing earthly treasure and heavenly treasure is not possible.
Jesus has no place for any of his followers to ride the fence between those two worlds.
We cannot practice God’s will, and at the same time have a moonlighting job with the world.
As followers of God, we must have a single-minded loyalty to kingdom values.
We are to do the will of God, from a right and sincere heart, and follow Christ’s teaching alone.
We may give of ourselves, and give of our money, with sincerity, but if we walk away from that and believe the rest of my money, time, talents, and resources are mine to use as I want (since I fulfilled my duty) then we have a divided loyalty between the kingdom of God and the domain of darkness.
Jesus, as he typically does in the Gospels, used metaphors to communicate that we must have an unswerving loyalty to God’s kingdom values.
The Treasure Metaphor
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. So, what are earthly treasures?
Stuff, money, possessions, control, power, position, and recognition from others.
You may rightly ask in response, “Is any of that really, in and of itself, wrong?”
No. However, that’s not the real issue. The real question is this:
Do we use our earthly treasure to build heavenly treasure, or do we hoard earthly treasure for our own purposes apart from Christ’s kingdom values?
A man in a crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died.”
Jesus answered, “Who gave me the right to settle arguments between you and your brother?”
Then he said to the crowd, “Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.”
So, Jesus told them this story:
A rich man’s farm produced a big crop, and he said to himself, “What can I do? I don’t have a place large enough to store everything.”
Later, he said, “Now I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’ ”
But God said to him, “You fool! Tonight, you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?”
“This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves but are poor in the sight of God.” (Luke 12:13-21, CEV)
Earthly possessions are tools to be used. Jesus warns that we must not accumulate personal wealth, esteem, and success for the sake of placing ultimate security in money, but for advancing God’s kingdom values.
Why do that?
Because earthly treasure is temporary, and heavenly treasure is permanent.
Heavenly treasure is righteousness; it’s right and just relationships. Humility, peace, grace, mercy, purity, and forgiveness are all relational values. The only thing that we will take with us when we die is relationships; it’s the only thing that’s permanent.
If I am genuinely committed to God’s kingdom, my most cherished values will be established by God.
Whatever it is that we value, those values consume our thoughts and our efforts. In other words, what’s truly in our hearts directs our work.
And what we value derives from how we perceive our identity. For many Americans, we are defined primarily not as citizens or workers, but consumers. Jesus is neither advocating that we take vows of poverty, nor that we ought not to enjoy the good things in life. Rather, Jesus wants us to define where our loyalties truly lie.
The Light Metaphor
In the ancient world, the eye represented what you fixed your gaze on, or what your focus was. In our culture, we could replace the word “eye” with the word “goal.” The word “body” represents the entirety of one’s life. So, we may interpret Christ’s words in this way:
A goal is the focus of a life. If your goals are good, your whole life will be full of proper focus. But if your goals are bad, your whole life will be full of blindness. If then, the focus within you is only really blindness, how great is that darkness!
If the goals and dreams of life are toward earthly treasure, you will blindly move in that direction and your life will end up in disordered love and misplaced values. At death, you will have nothing to take with you because all the eggs have been put in the temporal basket.
The Slavery Metaphor
Jesus flatly stated that we cannot simultaneously serve God and money. Pick and choose. You must go one way or the other; there is no middle ground.
The question Jesus is posing is: “Who’s your Master?”
- When deciding between two jobs, or two homes, or how to spend your time or your money, what set of values comes into play?… values that define me as a follower of Jesus?… or values that define me as an American consumer?
- Will I be a bondservant of Jesus, or a slave to credit card debt?
- Will I serve God, or serve the lifestyle that I believe I deserve?
None of us are immune from the temptations of all the world’s shiny things, of ambling into misdirected goals. If you find that you are slave to the wrong god, then there is good news: There is an infinite storehouse of grace that flows from the very heart of God through Jesus Christ.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 John 1:9, CEB)
Choose this day whom you will serve.
Our Father in heaven,
may your name always be kept holy.
May your kingdom come
and what you want, be done,
here on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us the food we need for each day.
Forgive us for our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
And do not cause us to be tempted,
but save us from the Evil One.
The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13, NCV)