Sermon on Mount 8
Sermon on the Mount
"Money, Worry, and a Bad Eye"
Last time we talked about the Greatest Prayer Ever Prayed, the Lord's Prayer. We saw that the Lord's Prayer covers every need we might experience in life. And the Lord's Prayer is tucked away right in-between what Jesus had to say about giving, praying, and fasting.
Following these topics, Jesus transitions into a discussion on money, worry, and a bad eye, which are all connected to one another. First, the Lord deals with what our primary pursuit in life will be. Are we going to be primarily focused on getting money, on possessions, on material stuff, or are we going to be focused on the Kingdom of God.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal..." (6:20).
Let's stop right here and talk about what Jesus knew to be true. We all have a primary pursuit in life. Every human being out there carries a treasure in their heart--that thing or things that they value most. For some it's money. For others it's fame. Still others awake to pursue some addiction. And still others are all about some life-long dream that might be a career, or being with some particular person, or achieving some cherished goal.
And there's nothing wrong with most of these things, so long as they are subservient to God's will. It is when they take the place of God, or even become our god, that they are wrong and out of balance.
Now, Jesus deals in this passage with money, because he ties it to that which we look to for security rather than God. The pursuit of money is what most people turn to in order to feel secure.
Jesus is going to show us later that the pursuit of money and possessions is the default choice of the entire world. "For after all these things do the Gentiles seek" (Matt. 6:32). The Lord gives us a better way.
"...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
I like to say that you can't take anything with you to heaven, but you CAN send some things ahead! Jesus is making an amazing statement here. Though our lives on earth are short--a blink sandwiched between two eternities--yet this lifetime is the only time we have to store up riches we will enjoy for eternity in glory.
This is why the Lord in His parable of the rich man called him a fool for not having been "rich toward God" throughout his lifetime. Everything he had done was for himself, with no thought whatsoever about God or eternity.
Luke 12:20-21 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."
Jesus knew human nature like no one else, so He fully understood that our heart will be invested in whatever our treasure happens to be. Our affections always cleave to what we value most.
This means that if our primary treasure is something in this world, this will decide what we pursue in life. And whatever you pursue in life will decide what you hold in your hands at the end of your life! Will it be money, fame, career....or will it be a lifetime's worth of kingdom fruit?
The rich man in Jesus' parable ended up with so much money and possessions he had to build bigger barns to hold it all! Yet Jesus called him a fool! Why? Because he couldn't take one grain of wheat with him into eternity, and all that he had saved up would be given away to people that hadn't even worked for it. The rich man's thinking went like this:
Luke 12:18-19 "Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. 19 I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."
If you stop and think about it, this is the way most Americans believe life should go. You work till you're in your 60's, then you retire, get your gold watch, take your nest egg, move to a dreamed of location, and play golf. "Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself!" he said.
But what the rich man didn't take into account was that he had no guarantee of tomorrow. "God said to him, 'Fool! tonight you will die!" This is exactly Jesus' point in the Sermon on the Mount.
He advises, "Don't allow your heart to chase after things that can be so easily stolen, here today, gone tomorrow. Focus instead on pursuing the Kingdom of God! For kingdom treasures cannot be corrupted or stolen."
So Jesus taught that a life lived to the glory of God with the Kingdom of God as our primary pursuit stores up indescribable treasures in the life to come. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard..."
Conversely, the person who lives for self, who remains in sin, and cares nothing for God in this life also stores up for the day to come, but not what they will want!
"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).
Then next, Jesus talks about a good eye and a bad eye. The "bad eye" refers to the person who pursues riches for riches' sake. He said, "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good (clear, healthy), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (vs.23)
Jesus is again addressing the importance of our focus in life. Are we focused on the Kingdom of God, on Christ Himself; is our primary, inward gaze directed toward the things of God, or is it directed toward the fleeting treasures of this world?
Whatever our primary focus is will either fill our lives with light, or plunge them into darkness. This is why we are so often encouraged in Scripture to look up, to fix our gaze on things above.
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is....set your mind (same thing as the "eye" of your soul) on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2-3).
If the eye of our soul is turned primarily toward the things of this world, our soul will be flooded with darkness from vain pursuits, and all kinds of lusts and soul-traps. The Apostle Paul warned young Timothy,
"Those who want to get rich (those whose primary pursuit is earthly riches) fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction" (1 Tim. 6:9).
Jesus next tells us something about human nature, about the way we're wired by God that is inescapable--"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (6:24).
Whatever you decide to chase in life, God or riches, one thing you will not successfully do is chase both. You can't "have your cake and eat it too." We are not designed by God to be duplicitous. He created us to serve Him. "You are to have no other gods besides Me" (Deut. 5:7) is the first of the 10 Commandments.
FACT: Each and every person on earth will reach the end of their days having exclusively served one god above all others--the true and living God, or the idolatrous god of our choosing.
But getting right down to it, what is one of the great reasons people continuously pursue wealth? Material security? The accumulation of stuff? The answer is WORRY. And Jesus knew this. That's why verse 25 begins with a "therefore."
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"
I love the way the LB puts it, “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear."
"Worry" comes from a Gk. word meaning "drawn in opposite directions; divided into parts"; so literally "to go to pieces" because pulled apart.
We worry we won't have enough. We worry about where our next dollar will come from. We worry about the basic necessities of life all the time, and that is what pushes us to pursue material things.
Jesus wants to deliver us from this by doing away with worry. I imagine here that He and the disciples are walking down some dusty country road when Jesus points to the sky and says:
"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow (seeds for a crop) nor reap (a harvest for food) nor store away (extra food) in barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (vs.26)
Since they have no harvest of food, or barns in which to store extra food, birds depend on daily provision from God. Jesus says, God feeds them. He takes care of the tiniest sparrow.
Four chapters later He says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:29-31).
On the heels of this, the Lord informs us of the utter uselessness of worry. "Which of you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?" (vs.27) Worrying solves nothing. I like to say, "Worry is like a darkroom where negatives are developed." Worry robs your sleep, steals your joy, subtracts from your life, and solves nothing.
Then next the Lord turns from the sky to the nearby field and points at the flowers blooming there. "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil (work) nor spin (clothing); and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these" (28-29).
Here's the bottom line of the Lord's message on worry: God in His gracious Providence takes care of the most insignificant of His creation; therefore He will take care of you!
In verse 31 He says for the second time, "Therefore do not worry....saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek" (31-32). The entire world, worried about basic necessities, is worry driven, rather than faith driven.
Jesus assures us, "For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." And since we know that God will take care of us, it frees us from worry that we might seek first His kingdom. He advises, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (food, drink, clothing) shall be added to you" (vs. 33).
Then the Lord closes out chapter 6 with another "therefore." "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (vs.34).
Jesus has told us not to worry about our life, about basic necessities, or about tomorrow. God will provide our necessities, and He already inhabits our tomorrows!
Next Time: The Most Misunderstood, Misquoted Verse in the entire SOM.