Storing up treasure
Thus far on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been talking about the actions of religious life. Now he begins to talk about the actions of common life and he talks about money and possessions. Just as there is a right and a wrong way to do religious things like giving and praying and fasting, there is a right and a wrong way to approach our business life, the accumulation of wealth, the storing up of treasure. We can pursue our business/work so that we are puffed up in the world or we can pursue our business life so that God is glorified. Vs 22 is the key. Different translations put it differently: if your eyes are good or if your eyes are sound or if your eyes are pure. The King James Version has: if your eye is single.
What does Jesus mean? Well…….the eye symbolises intention or motive. What the eye is to the body, deciding where to go, what route to follow, intention/motive is to the soul. As your eye directs your path, so your motives direct your soul.
I can’t keep my eye fixed on the organist and hope to get safely to the door. My eye must be single, focused on what I am doing. It must be looking in the direction that I am heading. Your eye must be single. In other words, your motives, your intentions must be single, they must be fixed on God. Then your whole body will be filled with light: your desires, your tempers, your thoughts, your words, your actions ….. will be filled with light. We lose this light if we seek or desire anything other than God, or contrary to God. Then our foolish hearts become darkened. Then clouds will begin to rest on the soul and doubts and fears and worries will overwhelm us. The more you look to God, the more you look to Christ and to him alone, the more you will be filled with his light and his mind. Your soul will be renewed in the image of the one who created it.
Vs 23, “If your eye is bad”. Friends if we aim at anything other than God, then the whole body will be filled with darkness. Notice for Jesus there is no middle ground. You can’t be focused on two things at once. Are your eyes good and pure, single? Are your intentions/motives good, pure, single? What is your focus? What is it that drives you? What are you focused on in your work life, your family life, your social life, your school life?
Jesus goes on, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”. Don’t let that be what your eyes, what you….. are focused on, building up treasure on earth. What can we do as far as money, possessions and treasures go? What is allowed in terms of accumulating and making money? Well, Scripture teaches that we are called to work and to earn enough money to pay our debts. That’s certainly a starting place. Earn enough to provide what is needed for your body, for example, food and clothes, in order to not be a burden on others for these things. Earn enough to provide for your family. Provide for the necessities of life, no more and no less. If you are in a business, store up what is necessary for that business to run efficiently. This is all part of a Biblical work ethic.
So much for what we can do in terms of money and possessions. What is forbidden in this area? Well, laboring for more wealth than the above-mentioned things require. Let no one who has what they need seek more. Jesus will later teach that we must beware of riches. In Matthew 19:23, he will say it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven so don’t desire to become rich, don’t let that motivate you, don’t fix your eye on that, don’t let that be what drives you. Now riches in themselves are not evil and some people are very rich by the grace of God. The danger is to desire or seek to be rich. Riches, dangerous as they are, do not always destroy people. No, it is the desire for riches that does that. Jesus teaches that those who deliberately seek riches obtain the world but they lose their souls. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth,” says Jesus. This is a command, isn’t it? Just as, “Do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not murder,” are commands, “do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth” is a command!
So what must I do with my excess wealth? Must I throw it away? Must I go and bury it in the ground? No, that would be bad stewardship and Jesus condemns bad stewardship. You must invest it. Where must I invest it? Well, here’s Jesus’ investment tip. Some people pay other people lots of money to get their investment tips about investing in this or that. Here is an investment for you, for today and always:
In vs 20, “Store it up in heaven.” Store up your treasure in the bank of heaven and God will give you what you need in your time of need. I would imagine that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Heaven is probably God himself. Wouldn’t it be nice to invest your money there? To put it in his hand, as it were, and to know that if you need it, he’ll give it back. Jesus commands us to store up treasure in heaven. How do I obey that command? You know, we can really be tempted to think, when we read this verse, this is airy-fairy stuff, this is spiritual stuff that doesn’t make earthly sense, give me something concrete and down to earth. What kind of investment tip is that – store it up in heaven? How do I do that? Is there a simple answer to that question, Cedric?
There is. It’s found in Proverbs 19:17, the Good News Bible puts it like this: “When you give to the poor it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.” Do you believe that? Do you have faith in God and his promises? You might remember that that is what the Sermon on the Mount is for, it is for us to see if we really do have faith. The King James Version puts it like this: “He who has pity on the poor, lends it to the Lord, and God will pay him back what he has given.”
“Cedric you have R10 000 right now that you don’t need. Invest it in heaven by giving it to the poor. When you need it I will give it back to you.” That either sounds like incredible wisdom or it sounds like absolute foolishness. And remember from our introduction, Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount by asking us to recognize whether we are wise or foolish.
Jesus gives two commands and a statement of divine truth in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.
Command No 1: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Command No 2: Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
Statement of truth: Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is.
Remember, Jesus is after your heart and He says here, “I don’t have to cut open your chest to see where your heart is, I just have to look at where your treasure is. And it’s either in the kingdom of heaven or its in the kingdom of this world.”
Where is your heart?