God and Possessions – Matthew 6:19-24
Part fourteen in my series on the Sermon on the Mount looks at Jesus instructing the disciples on where to place their trust and priority regarding the use of their resources, whether financial or other resources.
Matthew 6:19-24 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are not able to serve God and money. (HCSB)
This passage is connected with Matthew 6:1-18. In the earlier passage, there is a contrast between the temporal rewards and attention of men and the permanence of heavenly rewards. Here, Jesus is drawing the same distinction but using earthly wealth and heavenly wealth, one temporal and one permanent.
History, including Scripture, contains numerous examples of people who allowed the love of money to ruin their spirituality and negate their witness.
- Solomon allowed the love of money and women to ruin his spiritual life.
- Ananias and Sapphira lied about the sale price and were struck dead.
The Bible does not teach that money is evil. Money and possessions don’t create evil; it’s the people who misuse them that creates the evil.
Jesus is not speaking against possessions; He was teaching against an unhealthy preoccupation with them.
Verses 19-21 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In the ancient world, wealth didn’t appear in the same form as we understand it today. Often it consisted of precious metals or cloth. Moths would eat away at the fabric, and rust could destroy precious metals. Theft is a timeless danger in a fallen world. All three indicate a form of wealth destruction regarding temporal treasure.
This passage does not imply that Christians can’t be wealthy. It does mean that riches bring serious dangers ranging from theft to destruction over time. Christians must be characterized by being generous givers and careful stewardship in using their resources for Kingdom work.
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, danger in the modern Western church is the lure of materialism with our affluent culture. This is especially true for those that have been seduced by the prosperity gospel lie. Often those who “minister” push this false teaching are driving six-figure cars, wearing designer clothes, and living in lavish houses. The amount of money that was misused for those luxuries could be used to impact communities either in-country or for those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries.
Here Jesus is warning against three kinds of pleasures/possessions.
- Those that will wear out like old clothes.
- Those that can be eroded.
- Those that can be stolen.
Jesus is painting a contrast between earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. This is an important distinction as it is an indicator of the heart and values of a person. The heart represents the core of a person’s being, the true inner self. What a person values and demonstrates with their life is shaped and driven by their heart.
Verse 22-23 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
The reference to the eyes is a metaphor here. In Jewish literature, there is a close connection between the heart and the eye. Eyes enable the whole person to see. Good and bad eyes are a reference to a good and bad heart and where our treasure is stored. It is also a metaphor regarding our perspective on wealth. A person who has a healthy and generous attitude towards their wealth is full of light. A person who has a selfish or covetous attitude is filled with darkness.
Verse 24 No one is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are not able to serve God and money.
A proper understanding of the terms “master” and “serve” is required to properly understand this verse. Master is referring to someone or something that requires total allegiance. The Greek word for serve, douleuo, indicates work done by a slave and not an employee. The master requires exclusive service from their slaves. It is a choice between two competing loyalties that are not compatible. We can’t serve two masters in the same way that we can work multiple jobs or even support multiple sports teams.
“Love” and “hate” in Semitic thinking are equivalent to “choose” and “not choose.” When we choose not to hate money, we are, by the cultural standards of Jesus’ time, choosing to love money. When we neglect God, we are, in Jesus’ understanding, choosing to hate God.
Jesus is saying that it is not possible to serve God and money at the same time. The term “money” is from the Aramaic word mamon, which means wealth or property. It is anything that a person places their confidence in and controls the person’s actions. If a person puts their trust in money, that will control their actions making it impossible to serve God in a selfless manner. However, placing their trust in God will allow them to serve generously regardless of how much money or resources they have. They will use the money and resources for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
- Examine how you treat money and possessions in your life. Do they control you, or are you in control of them? Are you generous, or are you selfish? Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you in this area of your life.
- Are you always looking for your next “toy” to purchase? Often, we are blinded by our wants when we should be concentrating on our needs. It is not wrong to treat ourselves occasionally. However, big purchases or continuously treating yourself is a sign that mamon is in control of you.
- Are your eyes a portal to light or darkness? This requires an honest, and often uncomfortable, self-examination. Pray for conviction and revelation in this area, knowing that confessing and repenting lead to forgiveness.
- Do you understand that not choosing to follow God in any area of biblical guidance is the same as choosing to hate God? These are not my words; they are the words of Jesus.