February 24, 2020

Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(v.22-23)

24 “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.

We skipped verses 22 and 23 of Matthew 6. With those verses removed, the passage above makes perfect sense. Earthly treasure = money. Heavenly treasure = God. You can’t serve both. End of story.  But now let’s take a look at the missing verses

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 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!

These four sentences seem shoe-horned into what is otherwise a very clear passage and concept. Lamps? Eyes? I thought we were talking about money. Why would Jesus put this metaphor in the middle of a thought about money? There’s some argument that Jesus is playing with the metaphor of “the evil eye” and what it meant as it relates to generosity. But that’s far beyond the scope of what we can easily digest right now. A simpler lesson that encompasses all three sections of this passage is that small choices carry eternal consequences.

It might seem a small thing to focus on storing up earthly treasures—an ever increasing savings account balance, a string of letters after our name, a new job title, the home of our dreams—but Jesus says that the consequences of those pursuits will actually shift the metaphorical location of our heart from heaven, to here on earth. Even more dangerous, we take the care of our heart out of God’s hands and place it where it is in constant danger of rot, vermin, and thieves. 

From this framework, verses 22 and 23 make more sense. How we see the world, either through “healthy” eyes that look towards the light of God, or unhealthy eyes of darkness, changes the very composition of our internal life. I’m not advocating for rose colored glasses in pursuit of holiness. In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about our sin being illuminated by the light. But our outward perspective—to see what is happening around us bathed in the light of God—does have eternal and internal benefits. That includes our sorrow, pain, and sin—not only our joy and blessing.

And finally, to raise the stakes even more, verse 24 warns that serving money doesn’t merely put our heart in danger, it will lead to hating and despising God! In case it’s not obvious, you don’t have to have a lot of money to be guilty of serving it. Small choices made in the pursuit of money, or sacrifices made to get just a little bit more, can have a devastating effect on our spiritual lives.

These reflections make us uncomfortable because we are so easily swayed into making small steps in an earthly direction: a couple extra hours of overtime at the expense of a relationship; selfish choices that are easily justified by our fatigue or sense of entitlement; assuming the worst of a friend or family member instead of letting the conflict sit under the light of God’s attention and affection.

Today, try to see opportunities in the smallest of choices. Ask God to shine his light on things you have placed above him in your heart. And most importantly, invite him to give you insight into how your decisions can turn your heart back towards him.