Saturday, 3 October 2015

Bible Reading: Matthew 6v19-24 "A new relationship with stuff."

On Sunday we're looking at Matthew 6v24-34. Today we'll look at the context as we break into the Sermon on the Mount because what follows is closely tied to this section:

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 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!
24 ‘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 in the Sermon on the Mount has been explains what it means to be part of the kingdom to live life with him as king, how that impacts a disciples actions, emotions, attitude to God, and living in terms of religious observance.  Now he explores the orientation of the disciple, what they live for, what really matters to them, what drives them. The disciple is to live with their hearts set on heaven, their eyes fixed on God and their life devoted to him.

In this passage there are two treasures, two ways of living, and two masters. Each reveals respectively; what your heart is set on, what you live looking for and who you serve. In each pair there is a warning and a call to kingdom distinctiveness.

1. A heart set on heaven
We’ve been to loads of weddings and at nearly every one there has been a gift list, a little card which comes with the invite saying you can go on line and view the things the Bride and Groom want from whichever store it’s with.  Amazon have extended it with the individuals wish list, you can create your own list of things you really want and then supply a list of email addresses so Amazon can email your friends and family a subtle hint.

It reveals to us the way our world works doesn’t it, we all set our hearts on things, there are things we really want; be it stuff, a relationship , a family, or a career. Jesus says that we all set our hearts on something, but that there is something distinctive about what the disciple sets their hearts about what they treasure.

Jesus warns the disciples: there are two types of treasure: earthly treasure and heavenly treasure and you will want either one or the other, and that desire will affect your living.  He commands them not to pursue earthly treasure and points out the folly of doing so, why is it folly? Because it doesn’t last. It gets eaten, or eroded, or stolen.

Clothes don’t last forever, the new shiny car will eventually rust and fail its MOT, money loses its value. Jesus is saying that ultimately that is what happens. Everything is decaying. Ultimately everything we have on earth will disappoint us.  That is the way it is with every treasure on earth it is temporary and even if we still have it when we die we can’t take it with us.

In contrast where does Jesus command his disciples to lay up treasure? In heaven, and treasure in heaven is permanent it is secure, it never runs out, erodes, decays or is stolen. It is in the most secure place possible.

Treasure on earth is obvious but it poses the question what is treasure in heaven? The phrase treasure in heaven is found in Jewish literature and refers to whatever is of good or eternal significance that comes out of what is done on earth. There are some of those things outlined in Matthew 5 in the Beatitudes, God rewards whole-hearted service, a life lived now with eternal consequences which God will reward. To lay up treasure in heaven is to be rich towards God, it is to live with an eye to eternity now.

Do lay up treasure Jesus is saying, but lay it up in the right place, live for real treasure.

Who you bank with matters doesn’t it? We’ve seen that with the banking crisis, people lost thousands, councils lost millions, invest wisely is what every bank advert calls you to do. Jesus says the ultimate investment, the safest most lasting of all treasures is treasures laid up in heaven by living now for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say that the thing you treasure shows what your heart is set on, what is the priority for your life. How can we tell what our hearts are set on, we need a diagnostic tool, here are three questions that will do that why not take a moment to think them through:

a. What do you dream about?
b. What if you lost it would make life unbearable by its absence?
c. What do you long for for your children?

Those 3 questions help unveil our treasures the things we dream about and fear losing are the things we treasures most, the things we couldn’t live without reveal what gives us hope, and the things we long for our children reveal the things we believe will bring them satisfaction, that will make life worth living for them, and provide a window into what is really in our hearts, what we really believes satisfies us.

Don’t set your heart on glittery worldly things which are temporary, breakable and rotting but set your heart on heaven, on being with God and enjoying his presence forever. Where are we storing up treasures?

2. Eyes set on God
The eye has already been used in the Sermon on the Mount, how? (5:29)Through the eye sin enters the heart. What you fix your eyes on determines where you go, what course you will follow, how you will live.  How does Jesus describe the eye? The eye is the lamp of the body is the image Jesus uses – it’s the image of a lamp lit to give light to a room - if the eye is good or healthy you will be full of light. But if your eye is bad or diseased light will not be able to enter in and you will be living in dark.

That word healthy also means ‘good’ in the sense of singleness of purpose. What you fix your eyes on determines how you live. Jesus is again calling the disciples to live for the kingdom, he is calling them to a singleness, a purity, of focus. Jesus is calling the disciples to seek first the kingdom of God to the exclusion of everything else.

What is the alternative? The alternative is to fix their eyes on the world in its sin and darkness, to want the things it wants, to follow its way of living. And it produces a darkness in terms of the view you have of the world. It is impossible to look in two directions at once, and life lived without God is a life lived in darkness – unaware of and unable to make good moral decisions.

In Proverbs the wise person is warned against setting their eyes on wealth and riches (Prov 23:4-6) and the person with a good eye will be blessed for he shares his riches with the poor(Prov 22:9).

If the first challenge is what is your heart set on the second is what are your eyes focused on? Because that will determine how you live. Live life focused on the wrong thing and you are living in darkness not light.

3. Devotion seen in service of God
In every instance Jesus has given in this section there are two options, 2 things you can set your hearts on, 2 things you can set your eyes on, and lastly there are two masters you can serve.  Notice that there are only ever two options. This is made particularly clear here, “No-one can serve two masters”, it is impossible says Jesus. The word serve means to be a slave, a slave couldn’t belong to two owners, a slave has one master and he owes that master exclusive allegiance.

So it is with you says Jesus, you can’t serve two masters we either serve God or money. “Money” has over time come to be the accepted meaning of the original word which was ‘Mammon’, mammon originally meant something in which one puts their confidence, or on which one relies.  No doubt money is the most prominent and obvious of these but there are others. It can be a relationship, or a career, a person, things, or money. It is anything which we rely on to give us confidence and which we therefore pursue or are devoted to.

So the person who works all the hours possible to advance their career can be doing so because they are serving their career, it is their God, what they are relying on for confidence what ultimately gives them worth.  The person who spend hours or money on how they look because image is what gives them their security, it is what they rely on.

Mammon is any good thing which God has given us which we take and twist and make into an ultimate thing displacing or rivalling God. We may not do so theologically or in our thinking but we may do so practically in our living.

Who does Jesus say can serve two masters? “No-one”. There can only be one God in your life, it is impossible to serve two. It is impossible – that means if we find our selves thinking yes but I can – we are lying to ourselves, in fact Satan loves it when we delude ourselves like that. It is utterly impossible to be devoted to, to set your heart on, to set your eyes on, to be a slave of two masters. Who do you serve?

The disciple is distinctive because they are singular in terms of what their heart is set on, what they fix their eyes on and what who they are devoted to.  God’s people saved by grace, those who recognise the king and enter his kingdom live life in his service for his glory.

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