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Slavery is alive and well...

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Who (God or worldly wealth) we serve ultimately determines what we treasure and how we see life.

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Slavery is alive and well

The United States outlawed the slavery 150 years ago with the 13th Amendment and we finally opened the door to true racial equality here roughly 55 years ago with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While there is still a lot of work to do in that area - that’s not the kind of slavery I’m talking about.
You and I are slaves! We live in constant bondage to something or Someone. Our every decision is guided by our allegiance to a master. Who do you serve? Who do I serve?
As we continue in the sermon on the mount, Jesus has been challenging the hypocritical practices of doing acts of righteousness for public acclaim or personal gain. You see, when we give to the poor - we can do it because we see a need - and quite possibly, we can do it without recognition. When it comes to praying - we can pray - or least we can try to pray on our own for an audience of One - we might have some selfish desire in it, we can still pray. When it comes to fasting - if we even fast at all - we can give it a shot for a time or two - giving up something for a short time.
But when Jesus gets to this issue of mastery and slavery - he moves from preaching to meddling. He hits us where it hurts - a lot. He is ultimately asking the question - are you a slave to worldly wealth (money) or are you a slave to God?
Now - we all know the right answer - but is that really the truth?
In , Jesus talks about more tangible elements of our lives.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“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 Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
Look at the last verse there in the NLT:
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
The whole point to this passage seems to be addressed in the last verse. You see Who or what we serve as master of our lives determines what we value and how we see everything. Today, we’re going to take a few minutes to contemplate those two points - what we value and how we see.
To begin with, we must come to grips with the fact that...

My master determines what I treasure (19-21) -

Jesus begins this segment with a negative command - “do not treasure earthly treasures...”
Because of his overall premise of our slavery to a master - either worldly wealth or God - Jesus commands his followers not to store up or to treasure things of this world.
If I make worldly wealth my master - then I will value the things that this world offers. My motto might be “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” Actually, the phrase should probably state - “the one who dies with the most toys still dies.”

So what are earthly treasures? (19)

In many ways, this is an easy question to answer - these are those things that we can see, touch, buy, use. Jesus qualifies them as things that moths can eat or things that can decay or disappear over time. These are things that can be stolen.
(this might be a good place for pictures) This is stuff.
Fluffy stuff like stuffed animals.
This is soft stuff like clothing or blankets.
This is plastic and metal stuff like toys or tools.
This cheap stuff like dollar store trinkets and McDonald’s toys.
This is expensive stuff like
cars
Fancy cars
Old cars (in fact as I was preparing this - there was a beautiful black with white stripes classic Olds Cutlass convertible 442 sitting right outside the office window),
New cars
Trucks
More expensive stuff like houses (now houses are difficult so steal - unless it’s a tiny house, but they do seem to deteriorate over time),
jewelry,
musical instruments,
art,
computers.
Meaningful things like heirlooms, books, photos.
Money, fame, power, prestige
Stuff, stuff, stuff.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to give you all a hard time, leaving myself out of this. All of these things are things that I have now or had in the past. I have more guitars than I can play at once - I don’t even like playing some of them and don’t have the electronic goodies to make one of them sound good. I have more tools than I know how to fully use, enough books that would fill a room, clothes that don’t fit in my closet or drawers. As we prepare to move into town, the idea of a purge is both refreshing and daunting. We have a lot of stuff. We have too much.
But what do we value? Are the things that you and I have defining our identity? Are we enslaved to maintaining the stuff that we have? Sometimes I feel like it.
The Greek word that gets translated “lay up” or “store” - “refers to the activity of stockpiling for reserve or later use.”
refers to the activity of stockpiling for reserve or later use
(Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005. Print. New International Greek Testament Commentary.)
And yet the bible seems to also talk about the fact that it is wise to set aside something for the future - even providing an inheritance to a couple of generations (). What is the right balance? Should we save for a rainy day or for retirement or for future generations? Is that wrong?
In when responding to someone who wanted him to tell his brother to separate an inheritance - Jesus said:
In when responding to someone who wanted him to tell his brother to separate an inheritance - Jesus said:
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
Tyndale House Publishers. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013. Print.
Do we see our possessions as gifts/blessings from God and tools to be used to bless others? Do we live as though our things are only ours or do we live with an open hand?
Do we see our possessions as gifts from God and tools to be used to bless others or be a blessing to us from God?
The challenge with all of these earthly possessions is that they disappear, break, walk away, fade, etc.
So Jesus urges us to not value those things - and yet we need them - or at least some of them. Some of them are good and useful.
Then Jesus make counter argument by stating:
lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
Which raises the question...

What are heavenly treasures? (20)

Heavenly things are not things at all. Heavenly treasures can’t be eaten up by moths. They can’t be corroded by decay. They can’t be stolen by thieves. But what are they?
The challenge with heavenly treasures is that they are intangible. We can’t necessarily see or touch them - though we do feel their effects.
I think heavenly treasures are those lasting impact things - the conversation with someone who is lonely, serving someone in need, sharing the gospel with your words and your life, forgiving that person who offended you, delighting in God and spending time with Him.
Heavenly treasures are those things we do (giving, praying, fasting, etc) in secret - and being rewarded by God because of them.
In reality...

What we treasure is a matter of the heart (21)

What keeps you up at night? Are there things that seem to be front and center on your mind, constantly? I think Jesus is going to help us think about some of those things next week as we look at the idea of worry and anxiety. What do you and I focus on?
If God were to lay us out and do open-soul or open-heart surgery, what would He find? I fear that for me he would find a mixed bag. I think He might find some things that are of lasting value - at least I would hope so. Times like this - getting to worship with people I love, times when I’ve spent seeking Him, learning about Him and His will, serving Him in a variety of ways.
But, I think that God would find a lot of earthly plaque on my soul - thoughts and time lost thinking about houses - where will we move, will it be nice enough, too nice. Time spent acquiring things that I won’t or can’t use - even if they are free. Time lost away from family and friends - working extra to make money to provide for my family, but not actually being with them.
Getting back to Jesus’ main point - our master makes all the difference in the world - or should I say - in eternity. Worldly wealth is a fickle master - enticing us to gather things that fade. If our heart’s inclination is toward acquiring worldly good, then we will end up chasing things that will ultimately end up in the “Beauty Spot” (the dump).
N
Not only does Jesus say that my master determines what I treasure, but He says that...

My master determines how I see (22-23)

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
Our eyes are amazing instruments. When healthy, they allow us to see clearly and in vivid color. It is through your eyes that your mind allows you to process things around you. Ancient cultures thought that the eye was “literally a source of light” (NIGTC).
My eyes are bad. I’m extremely near-sighted. Without glasses or contacts, my ability to see clearly is limited to about six inches. Everything else is a blur of muted colors and fuzzy shapes.
A friend of mine did not realize how bad his eyes were until he finally got glasses. He remarked to me that he didn’t realize just how beautiful his wife was until he got his vision corrected.
Another friend of mine - who lives here in town - lost her sight as a teenager. She had a tumor near her optic nerve. When the tumor was removed, her ability to see clearly went away. She has told me that she can see in faint shapes and shadows. What is fascinating is that when you talk to her - it almost seems like she is looking you in the eye. If you drive her around - she’ll be able to point out all of the speed cameras - even though she can’t see them. Her lack of vision has not held her back - but is has impacted her perception on reality.
Because most people have some ability to see, Jesus introduced this illustration as a powerful object lesson. Let’s take what Jesus says, but in reverse.
Keep in mind - He is challenging us to consider the question of mastery - who is our master?
Picture 1 (dark): If our eye is “evil” or bad - our ability to see things is distorted. Like this picture. We don’t really know how bad it is. The filter on our vision is impacting our ability to perceive reality.
If worldly wealth is our master (or money or mammon as some translations say), then our ability to see things is distorted through a filter of money, possessions, stuff. Everything will have a dollar sign, everything will be filtered through the lens of material possessions. We won’t know how bad things are or how good they are. What we have will never be enough.
Have you ever noticed that some people with some of the greatest material success have some of the worst family stories? Their priorities get out of wack. Now I know, there are plenty of Christian marriages that have been broken up by misplaced priorities and faulty vision. We all mess up and get things out of order, but our commercialistic culture is deceiving us into thinking that life is defined by what we have.
Picture 2 (lighter): Let’s say you begin to get disillusioned by the lies of materialism, your filter might gradually change and adjust. You may begin to see a bit more clearly. Your grip on material possessions begins to loosen.
Picture 3 (lighter still): Let’s say you’re introduced to the gospel and the thought that there is way more to this life than just the here and now. You begin to gain an eternal perspective. You begin to submit more and more to the mastery or Lordship of God, then life becomes even more clear.
Picture 4 (clearest): Finally, as you allow Him more and more control in your life, you see things more like He does. Material things become less and less important, your life’s vision is clearer. You see his hand in the trials that you face. You can trace his will in the circumstances of life. The “things of earth will grow strangely dim” because your vision is singularly focused on the eternal.
There is a manner in which we are gradually transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. As we submit to His will and working in our lives, we will see more clearly. There will be a gradually change. But, we need to keep in mind that when it comes to Lordship - it’s either one or the other. We must willingly submit or we will be deceived.
What does this truly look like? How is this lived out? I think we’ll get to that as we consider one final point. You see if my master determines what I treasure and how I see, then I have to realize that...
Eight months before Danielle and I going to get married, Fletcher got laid off. The company that he had worked for had down sized and Fletcher’s job was one of the casualties. Over the previous couple of years, God had opened up a door for him to do some consulting as a means of paying for college for Danielle and her next youngest sister. That side income became his primary income for a few months - college and christian school tuition, groceries, mortgage, and a wedding - God provided through that season. Shortly after we got married, God opened a full-time position in another company.
About 10 years later, as the economy was beginning to shift, Fletcher was downsized again. He and Nancy had just built a new home. For the next 2 years, Fletcher did a lot of short term contracting, substitute teaching and more. In his words, “he was eating out of the hand of God.” He fasted and prayed constantly and was willing to give up his home if needed. God ultimately provided some full time work in the Peace Corp and eventually the Department of Energy and ultimately Office of Personnel Management - in fields for which he has a passion.
I think what I love about Fletcher is that everything in life for him is part of his assignment from God - his home is a tool in God’s hand, his job is an assignment for ministry, his hand is open - as God allows money and resources in his life, Fletcher makes it available to be used by God in whatever way God sees fit. He and his wife have a beautiful relationship. He is loved by his four daughters, respected by his four sons-in-law, and adored by his 10 grand kids.
I tell you all that in order to paint a picture of someone who sees life from God’s perspective. He has a big, beautiful home, two nice cars and a beater truck that is used by everyone in the county. Home Depot is his favorite store and he has a garage full of tools to show for it. But

I can only serve one master (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 Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
Let’s think practically about this - from the view of slavery. In the ancient world, someone could sell themselves or be sold as a slave to another person. On occasion, a slave owner who was less wealthy might enter into a sharing agreement with someone else. If I’m then the slave of two different people, how do I reconcile contrasting commands? How do I know who I should listen to? To some degree - we all experience this practically - not as slaves, but as people who are subordinate to others.
You might work in a complex work environment where you’re reporting to different people who may have differing goals - there is a challenge in that.
Children - how do you balance when one parent asks you to clean your room and the other asks you to do your homework? Who do you listen to?
Students - how do you manage conflicting homework assignments? - well never mind, that’s done for the summer! But seriously - your teachers have expectations and demands that may contradict - and yet you must get the work done.
Look at what Jesus says - either we will “hate the one and love the other” or we will “hold on to one and despise” or look down on the other. We will constantly be battling loyalty if we don’t solve this master matter.
Let me illustrate this another way. My parents instilled in me from an early age the value of tithing - giving God the first 10% of what comes in. Now we could debate as to whether a tithe is a Christian thing or not, but that’s for another time. As we set up our budget (ideally each month), we look at our gross pay, take 10% of that for the church and then budget the rest for our needs. We do try to support missionaries and other charitable things as well, but the first 10% for us goes to the church - it has for years. I mentioned before that we’ve been looking to move here into town. We’re not sure about the timeline - because we need to sell our house first, but it’s all on the horizon. As I’ve been looking at homes online and contemplating where we can move and what we can afford, the thought has crossed my mind that “well if we didn’t tithe or give as much..., we could afford more.” What’s waging war in me is that master matter. Is God truly my master or is money?

Concluding Thoughts

Considering this passage is one of those passages that is both easy and difficult to preach. It’s easy because it’s full of clear visual illustrations, it’s tangible, it even has three sections - and everyone knows that every sermon must have three points. But it’s super difficult to preach - because when pondered deeply, this is a constant struggle. We are bombarded with the allure of worldly wealth all around us - the next model of car, the perfect activity for our kids, the designer kitchen, new clothes. Madonna once said that we live in a “material world.” Yet we have to realize that we are spiritual beings living in our Father’s world. He is the one who made it. He is the one who is sovereign over it. He is the one who allows us free will to choose to live according to HIs master plan or the self-deceived plan that our society brings up.
How do we view the possessions we have? Are they blessings from God or are they our god? Do they serve us or do we serve them?
I realize that there are elements of this that are very difficult to truly wrestle with, so as we close, I want to help you see this in a tangible way.
(Picture?)
I know some of you had a chance to meet my father in law at the installation service. Fletcher is one of the most godly, generous men that I know. He and his wife Nancy have constantly opened their home to people in need - single moms, elderly women, an Iranian couple, even a woman who’s husband was in prison - and then her husband too, when he was released. They have consistently budgeted the largest single part of their budget to giving (tithes, missions, etc.) - for many years even more than their mortgage. You know how when you read about people like Enoch in the Old Testament - “he walked with God and then he was no more” - Fletcher is that kind of guy. He prays as if he is talking with God face to face. I believe the vision of his life is quite clear. While he has been blessed with material resources, he treasures heavenly treasures.
Eight months before Danielle and I going to get married, Fletcher got laid off. The company that he had worked for had down sized and Fletcher’s job was one of the casualties. Over the previous couple of years, God had opened up a door for him to do some consulting as a means of paying for college for Danielle and her next youngest sister. That side income became his primary income for a few months - college and christian school tuition, groceries, mortgage, and a wedding - God provided through that season. Shortly after we got married, God opened a full-time position in another company.
About 10 years later, as the economy was beginning to shift, Fletcher was downsized again. He and Nancy had just built a new home. For the next 2 years, Fletcher did a lot of short term contracting, substitute teaching and more. In his words, “he was eating out of the hand of God.” He fasted and prayed constantly and was willing to give up his new home if needed. God ultimately provided some full time work in the Peace Corp and eventually the Department of Energy and ultimately Office of Personnel Management - in fields for which he has a passion.
I think what I love about Fletcher is that everything in life for him is part of his assignment from God - his home is a tool in God’s hand, his job is an assignment for ministry, his hand is open - as God allows money and resources in his life, Fletcher makes it available to be used by God in whatever way God sees fit. He and his wife have a beautiful relationship. He is loved by his four daughters, respected by his four sons-in-law, and adored by his 10 grand kids.
I tell you all that in order to paint a picture of someone who sees life from God’s perspective. He has a big, beautiful home, two nice cars and a beater truck that is used by everyone in the county. Home Depot is his favorite store and he has a garage full of tools to show for it. But
I tell you all that in order to paint a picture of someone who sees life from God’s perspective, who stores up treasures in heaven. He has a big, beautiful home, two nice cars and a beater truck that is used by everyone in the county. Home Depot is his favorite store and he has a garage full of tools to show for it. But all of those things are minimal compared to his obedience to God.
Beloved - living the life that God has called us to is not easy. It doesn’t make sense to the world around us, but it is worth it. Ask God for the grace and the strength to fully obey Him as your master. Let the material blessings that He allows you to steward be used to store up treasure in heaven.
Friend - you may be here and be far from God. Your master might be your money. The life that God calls us to is not easy - in fact it’s impossible without God’s help. Let me encourage you to humbly come before God, repent of your sin of allowing someone else on the throne of your life. Jesus Christ lived a life here on earth that was marked by storing up treasure in heaven. He could have garnered acclaim and fame. He could have become very wealthy by worldly standards, but he chose to allow His life to be used in order that you and I might have a right relationship with God. Repent and Believe on Jesus today!
Prayer
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