Every Christian reading this would agree that the teachings of Jesus are difficult to understand. His wisdom, being the God of Creation, is far beyond our own understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). In this blog series, we will unpack some of the most difficult teachings from Jesus, which come from Matthew 5-7 in the illustrious Sermon on the Mount. Each blog will touch on a different teaching from Jesus within His most famous sermon in an effort to help you apply His teachings to your life as a Christian working in the sport industry.
In our eighth blog of the Sermon on the Mount series, we’ll help you better understand and apply Jesus’ teachings on storing up treasures in heaven, which is found in Matthew 6:19-24.
Treasures on Earth
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It is easy for the human heart to be deceived into thinking that earthly treasures are the ultimate treasure. Nothing can surpass immense wealth, expensive outfits, the newest Air Jordan's, or the fastest car. The content of modern entertainment proves that humanity is in a constant state of pursuing worldly wealth. Popular music, movies, and television shows display an image of happiness that involves success in gathering worldly possessions.
The content of Jesus’ message on pursuing worldly possessions is vastly different from the message that the world has. In verse 19, Jesus teaches that His disciples should not store up treasures on earth because of their temporal nature. Earthly treasures can be destroyed by pests like moths and vermin (which are animals that are harmful to crops & carry disease). Ultimately, even if our earthly treasures are not destroyed by nature, our ability to enjoy them is limited because our time on this earth is limited.
This point is not only shared by Jesus in Matthew 6 but also by Solomon, the son of David, in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was an Israelite King, the son of King David, and is most well-known for building the first temple in Jerusalem. 1 Kings 10:23 comments on the worldly success that Solomon had, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.”
Solomon possessed unprecedented worldly wealth in any material possession imaginable. Yet in Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 Solomon states, “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Solomon’s reflections on the earthly treasures that he had amassed reflect the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19. Earthly treasures do not satisfy, and they do not last. Therefore, only a fool would pursue something that is temporary and insufficient to satisfy the heart of man.
Treasures in Heaven
In Matthew 6:20, Jesus offers an alternative to the treasures on earth. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” In contrast to selfishly pursuing treasures on earth, Jesus instructs His disciples to lay up treasures in heaven.
The New Testament has much to say about rewards in heaven for the faithful follower of Christ. It is important to remember that we are not to follow Jesus to receive something from Him. Above any reward, Jesus is and will always be our greatest treasure. However, it is also important to know that God desires to reward His faithful followers in the life to come. The Scriptures mention rewards in various places, but a few worth noting are James 1:12, Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, and Hebrews 6:10.
The Lord reminds us that material possessions will not pass from this life to the next but that our faithfulness to His kingdom will. In Luke 1:33, the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” The kingdom of God has no end, and our greatest investment with both time and resources is into the kingdom of God.
Finally, in Matthew 6:21, Jesus teaches, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our treasures are found on this earth, then our hearts will desire to be planted on this earth so that we can pursue those treasures. However, if we understand the eternal nature of the treasures of heaven, then our hearts will be planted in things that are eternal. Our hearts cannot be in two places at one time. Therefore, we must commit to living for treasures of heaven so that we will not be swallowed into the temporal pursuit of worldly gain.
The Lamp of the Body
In Matthew 6:22-23, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”
From the outset, it seems that this teaching from Jesus does not have anything to do with His previous teaching on treasure. However, this teaching on the eye is directly related to Jesus’ teaching on treasure in heaven and treasure on earth.
Jesus states a very simple fact about, the human organ of the eye in verse 22. The eye is the lamp of the body. Because of our eyes, we are able to see light, and therefore, our bodies are illuminated. However, if we were to be blind, then we would live in utter darkness. So, Jesus begins with a fact, and that fact is that our eyes are the lamps that provide light to our bodies.
But, in traditional Jesus fashion, this teaching uses worldly examples to reveal spiritual realities. Jesus applies the function of the eye, being that it supplies light to the body, to how we perceive our treasures. Healthy eyes, as Jesus states in Matthew 6:22, provide the body with light. Therefore, we can conclude that a healthy approach to material wealth results in spiritual health for the Christian.
However, in contrast, Jesus states in Matthew 6:23, “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” The previous example of the eye that is healthy it is pointing to a heart that desires and focuses on heavenly treasures. This example of the unhealthy eye points to a heart that desires and prioritizes earthly treasures. Jesus furthers His point by stating that if your light, or treasure, is actually darkness or treasures on earth, then how great is that darkness? Jesus reminds us that we must fixate our vision to treasures in heaven because of their eternal nature and the earthly good that they can do in furthering God’s kingdom!
The question that arises in view of this teaching from the Lord is what constitutes a healthy approach to treasure. A good barometer to understanding a healthy approach to what our hearts treasure is found in Matthew 19:16-22. In this account of Jesus’ ministry, a man came up to Jesus and asked what he must do to get eternal life (v.16). Jesus responded by saying that he should follow the commandments, and the man stated that he had kept all of the commandments (v. 17-20). Jesus then goes on to tell him that in order to be perfect, he needed to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Him (v. 21). The account ends with the young man walking away from Jesus because the command to sell his possessions was too difficult to obey.
Why did Jesus tell this man that in order to be perfect, he must sell his possessions? The answer is simple. It was because Jesus knew that the heart of this man was gripping too tightly to his earthly treasures. In the man's response to this command from Jesus, we see the evidence of an “unhealthy eye” from Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:22-23. The earthly treasures that this man possessed blinded him from the light, which is Christ, and therefore his spiritual state was unhealthy.
If we are to have an eye that is healthy and full of light, we must be willing to hold loosely to earthly treasures. It is not sinful to have and enjoy earthly treasures, for Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” However, we cannot allow earthly treasures to be the barricade between us and faithful discipleship to Jesus. The person with a healthy eye has the ability to recognize when an earthly treasure is holding them back from deeper discipleship with Christ and is willing to let that treasure go in an effort to pursue treasures in heaven.
Serving Two Masters
Organizational fragmentation is a business term that is used to describe an organization that fails to have clearly defined leadership within departments. Essentially, employees are being supervised by multiple leaders at one time, causing disruptions in workflows and an inability to receive effective communication. One leader may ask an employee to accomplish one task, and the other leader may ask them to accomplish another task, causing the employee to have to decide to complete one task but neglect the other.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus describes a form of spiritual fragmentation. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus’ point is very clear. It is impossible to be a disciple of the world and a disciple of Jesus. Inevitably, we will be devoted to one master over the other. The man from the account in Matthew 19:16-22 exemplifies this point. While he desired eternal life, his master was his wealth, and he could not devote himself to Jesus because his devotion was towards his riches.
If we are to be devoted followers of Jesus and make Him our Master, then we must be willing to lay down our lives for Him daily. Jesus says this plainly in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” If our Master is Christ, then earthly treasures will not restrain our devotion to Him. However, if our master is treasures on earth, then our devotion will be towards those treasures with little regard for the will of God.
As followers of Christ, we cannot have spiritual fragmentation. We will not be successful if we try to be led by both Christ and treasures on earth. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, we must not put our hope in the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God. The Master we serve is Christ, both now and into eternity.
Treasures on earth are not inherently bad things. God has created things in this world for us to enjoy, and it is not sinful for us to enjoy earthly treasures (1 Corinthians 10:25-26). However, we cannot allow the enjoyment of earthly things to outweigh our devotion as disciples of Jesus Christ. A healthy approach to worldly treasure is to be reminded that it is not eternal and that it cannot satisfy our deepest longings. Only Christ can truly satisfy us (John 4:13). Therefore, our aim in this life should be to hold the enjoyment of earthly treasures loosely and earnestly pursue treasures in heaven.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!