WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS
Matthew 6:19-24 NET
19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and 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 then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “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.
Jesus wants us all to obey his commands and teach others to do so. So far, in Matthew six, we have seen Jesus highlight three commands. By following these three commands, we display the righteousness associated with the kingdom of which Jesus is the king. When we display that righteousness, we show that we are sons of the Father in heaven. We can also influence the world around us to join the kingdom.
Unfortunately, the hypocrites have hijacked each of these commands. They give to the needy, not because they have the Father’s compassion for the needy. No, they give so that they can be praised by others. They give in order to get a reputation for being generous. They also pray — or at least look like they are praying. They give long, repetitive public prayers. Their motivation for praying is the same as their motivation for charitable giving. They pray in order to be seen praying. Their words are designed to impress the human ears who hear them. The hypocrites even fast in order to impress other human beings with their humility. They are proud of their fasting because it makes them look so spiritual.
Now, the reason that I gave that summary of the first eighteen verses of Matthew six is that Jesus is continuing the same line of thought in this section of his sermon. He is not introducing a new subject. He is still talking about those hypocrites. He is still warning us not to do what they are doing. Every good deed they do is for their own personal enrichment.
You know what a hoarder is. A hoarder collects stuff. He has piles of stuff in his garage, in his closets, and stacked all over his house. Wherever he goes, he gets more stuff. He is obsessed with accumulating stuff. He’s not collecting this stuff for someone else. He is hoarding it for himself. He can’t seem to give away any of his stuff. It’s not for the needy, his stuff is for himself.
The hypocrites were hoarders. Their motivation was always self. Even the things that people are supposed to do for God, these hypocrites insisted on doing for themselves. All their daily decisions were being made on the basis of how it could benefit them personally. When they gave to others, it was to benefit themselves. When they prayed and fasted, it was for their benefit. God had nothing to do with it.
All the stuff done for self is temporary (19-21).
Jesus is not just talking about collecting money here. But he uses that language because what happens when people just want to get richer and richer is a perfect example of what he is talking about. If you spend all your time and make all your decision based on how big it is going to make your bank account, the best thing that can happen is that you keep most of your money until you die.
Jesus warns his apostles not to accumulate for themselves treasures on earth. Back in Jesus’ day, people did not put their money in banks. They invested it in things that they could store in their houses, or in money they would hide in their houses. But the moths got to the stuff, causing it to become worthless. The stuff would decay, causing it to become worthless.
If the moths and rust did not get to it, the thieves would. Thieves would break into your house at night and find where you have hidden your stash. Then all that work would be for nothing. If it wasn’t thieves, it would be unemployment, bad investments, sickness, or family needs, or the government. Either way, that stash was not going to last.
But Jesus recommended laying up treasures in heaven. He was not talking about tithing as such, although tithing is not wrong. He was talking about all the things you can do to serve God and honor him. Some people take this passage to mean that all the money you invest in God is being reserved for you up there. That’s ridiculous. When Jesus returns, all the money in the world is going to be worthless. Money is for this age, not the next one.
I’m reminded of that story of the rich man who had a wheelbarrow full of gold bars, and he asked permission to bring it with him into the new Jerusalem. The Lord gave him permission, but then all the people gathered around him. They wanted to know what he planned to do with all those paving stones. The streets were already paved with gold!
All the stuff done for self turns your light into darkness (22-23; cf. 5:14-16).
Jesus had already taught his apostles that they are the light of the world. He said that a city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, he said, let your light shine before people so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
Now, he is returning to that subject. He tells the apostles that their eye is the lamp of the body. If then their eye is healthy, their whole body will be full of light. But if their eye is diseased, their whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
We see through our eyes. If something interferes with our eyes and keeps them from seeing, it will not be just our eyes that are turned dark. Our whole person will be blinded.
The word translated “diseased” in verse 23 is the Greek word πονηρὸς, which is just a generic word for “bad.” An eye can be bad if it is diseased, but it can also be bad if its owner chooses to focus on the wrong thing. If you are driving and you choose to focus on your cell phone instead of the road, it doesn’t matter how well you see. A bad eye is one that is focused on the wrong thing.
What Jesus is telling us is that if we are not being the light of the world as he called us to be, then the world will not have any light, and neither will we. Selfishness puts out our light. The light is God’s love. When we show God’s love by giving to the needy, God’s light shines through us. When we choose to hold on to our hoarded stash, the light goes out.
It is not just giving though. All the stuff done for yourself turns your light into darkness. Praying to be seen, fasting to be seen, everything we do for ourselves is flicking the switch.
Your eye is the lamp of your life. If it focuses on your stuff, then all that stuff will block the light. If your light does not shine, then people who need the Father will not find him
All the stuff done for yourself can prevent you from serving God (24).
Jesus says “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.”
The word translated money here is μαμωνᾷ, the name of the Syrian god Mammon. It represents stuff people waste their lives on. The word sounded like the Aramaic for “what (ma) you trust in (amõn).” In the end, we serve what we trust in. Jesus warns his disciples that trusting in a closet full of treasures is a stupid thing to do. Trusting in a reputation for good deeds is a stupid thing to do. Trusting in a reputation of spirituality is a stupid thing to do.
You may join a church, and call yourself a Christian, but your daily decisions are based on your loyalty to your real master. We accumulate treasures in heaven every time we love others with God’s love and compassion, putting their needs above our own. We accumulate treasures in heaven every time we seek God in prayer when nobody else is watching. We accumulate treasures in heaven every time we give up what we want in favor of getting what God wants.
What we have to understand is that when we signed on to be part of Christ’s coming kingdom, we declared that from now on, Jesus is going to be our king. We have no other master. We may have a whole bunch of bosses, but we can only have one master. Previously, the self was on the throne. Now, there’s a new king.
Our master is the one that we are serving. Every choice we make has to be informed by his wishes — his commands. We can obey the laws of the land — as long as those laws do not contradict his law. We can please our families as long as our families do not demand that we disobey him.
If we try to live for and serve two masters, we are always going to fail. This is especially true if the other master is essentially ourselves. Mammon — what we trust in — is a terrible master. It will force you to betray Christ. It will make you a hypocrite like it did the Pharisees. It will make you spend your entire life accumulating worthless stuff that has no eternal value.
But we do not have to live like that. We can choose to obey Jesus with every choice we make. We can choose to deny ourselves and take up our crosses, following him. Every step we take in following Christ gets us closer to our eternal inheritance. That is what it means to accumulate treasures in heaven.
“If he is single-minded, of ‘sound eye,’ he will choose rightly” (Albright, William F, David N. Freedman, and Christopher S. Mann. The Anchor Bible: 26. New-York: Doubleday, 1971., p. 82).
“A person decides what constitutes a treasure in life, and the heart and energies of that person will soon follow” (Anderson, William A. Gospel of Matthew. Place of publication not identified: Liguori Pubns, 1999., p. 26).
“Heavenly wealth (fellowship with God and the service of God) is incorruptible, and very different from the amassing of earthly riches, which so far from decreasing worry about the future, actually increase worry lest they be stolen or perish” (Argyle, A W. The Gospel According to Matthew: Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979., p. 58).
““Mammon” is a Chaldean word for the money-god. It is a word which speaks of the systems of materialism which are so very dominant in human experience. The disciple is to give undivided loyalty to the Master; mammon is to take a very inferior place” (Augsburger, Myron S. Matthew. , 1982., p. 92).
“The reference here is to the man who had hoarded up in his house a little store of gold, only to find, when he comes home one day, that the burglars have dug through his flimsy walls and that his treasure is gone. There is no permanency about a treasure which is at the mercy of any enterprising thief” (Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew. , 1958., p. 242).
“Thieves ‘break through (and steal)’—literally ‘dig through’—either by digging up a pot of coins that has been buried in the soil (a common way of safeguarding money; cf. Mt.13:44), or (more likely) by digging under the wall of the house. All this is cast in terms of the ways of the ancient world, where there were no safe deposit boxes and no police forces; everyone had to take his own precautions for protecting his goods. Often enough, all such precautions are vain; one way or another, the hoarded treasure is apt to disappear” (Beare, Francis W. The Gospel According to Matthew: Translation, Introduction, and Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982., p. 182).
“Mamona is not inherently unrighteous; but it acquires this character when it is enthroned as a god, and receives monotheistic worship from those who possess it, who crave it (1 Tim. 6:9) and who steal it. Jesus later warns that ‘the deceitfulness of wealth [ploutou] will choke the word’ of the kingdom (Matt. 13:22) by convincing people that they will prosper more under wealth’s rule than under God’s. While love for God results in many a good (22:37-40), ‘the love of money [hé philargyria] is a root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Tim. 6:10; cf. 2 Tim. 3:2-4: [philargyroi, ‘lovers of money,’ versus philotheoi, ‘lovers of God’] and 1 Tim. 3:3 and Hebrews 13:5 [aphilargyros, ‘not loving money’]. (In Luke 16:14, immediately after the parallel to Matthew 6:24, Jesus calls the Pharisees philargyroi, ‘lovers of money’: which suggests that one important respect in which disciples’ righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees [Matt. 5:20] is their attitude toward wealth” (Chamblin, J K. Matthew: A Mentor Commentary. Fearn, Tain: Christian Focus Pub, 2010., pp. 442-443).
“Like the happiness it brings, earthly treasure is only for a season; it is destined to pass away” (Davies, W D, and Dale C. Allison. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Volume I: Introduction and Commentary on Matthew I-Vii. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988., p. 629).
“What a person covets or lusts after shapes his or her life” (Fair, Ian A, Stephen Leston, and Mark L. Strauss. Matthew & Mark: Good News for Everyone. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub, 2008., p.39).
“the single eye corresponding to the single (undivided) heart (v. 21)” (Green, H B. The Gospel According to Matthew in the Revised Standard Version: Introduction and Commentary. Oxford: University Press, 1975., p. 93).
“depending on where we put our hearts, we can become people of light before God or we can become useless people. When we devote our hearts to God, we can be useful people to God and other people” (Jong, Paul C. The Gospel of Matthew: I. Seoul, Korea: Hephzibah Pub. House, 2005., p. 197).
“Treasure on earth, such as clothing and linens, can be consumed by moths or insects or stolen by thieves. They also consume one’s attention and one’s heart. The lasting treasure is the heart centered on God, which cannot be dislodged” (Reid, Barbara E. The Gospel According to Matthew. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2005., p. 46).
“Matthew uses “treasure” as a metaphor for that which commands the allegiance of one’s “heart”” (Senior, Donald. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011., p. 87).