The Code of Priorities: God vs. Wants

The ultimate reward for the disciple of Jesus is “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.3,10). Within His sermon Jesus has warned about various snares that might prevent someone from attaining the Kingdom. Adhering to a false standard of righteousness would prevent someone from entering the Kingdom (Matthew 5.20), and those who do righteous deeds out of pride cannot expect any reward from the Father (Matthew 6.1). In Matthew 6.19-34 our Lord warns of another snare which Satan has used with devastating effect: misplaced priorities. Nothing, whether riches or the basic necessities of life, should distract us from our true purpose: “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (vs. 33).

Where’s Your Treasure? (vss. 19-21)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6.19-21)

Our Lord outlines two concerns in these verses. His first concern is that when we make things of this earth our “treasures”, we have made a very foolish choice. Things of this earth are by their very nature temporary. That fact was readily apparent to Jesus’ audience. They understood that moths could quickly destroy precious garments, that rust would corrode the most precious of metals and that mud brick homes offered little resistance to thieves. Most of us don’t worry about moths eating our clothes or our money rusting away, but the temporary nature of our treasures shouldn’t be lost on us (there’s a reason you “upgrade” your phone every 2 years). These things will not last, they cannot last. But the treasures of heaven are eternal, because He is eternal. Don’t be foolish and trade the eternal for the temporary, don’t place the treasure of this life ahead of the Father and His will.

Jesus’ second concern may be the greater of the two, for His concern is that we place our hearts in the wrong place (vs. 21). Remember that “the pure in heart… shall see God” (5.8), but we reveal the impurity of our hearts when we make the things of this world our treasure; our hearts are not wholly given to God when occupied with things. “Things are not our problem. God created them. An appreciation of things is not our problem. They have a God-given purpose. The love of things is our problem (1 Timothy 6:9–10) the disposition to let some moth-eaten old garbage take the place of the incorruptible God in our hearts.” (Paul Earnhart) When we consider what our Father has done for us, the eternal treasures He has made available, we will give our minds and hearts to Him (cf. Colossians 3.1-2; 1Timothy 6.17-19).

How’s Your Eye? (vss. 22-23)

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23)

Perhaps you know someone who has, or has had, cataracts. The eye gradually becomes cloudier and cloudier, preventing light from coming in and rendering one blind. This is akin to the illustration Jesus uses, but He is still addressing the same subject. If our hearts are where our treasures are, so are our attention and focus. And someone whose attention is constantly on this earth (where his treasure resides) isn’t allowing the light from above to enter. His vision is becoming cloudier by the day. But those who have placed their treasure in heaven keep their focus directed above; their eyes are being flooded with light from God. How’s your eye? If it’s fixed above then it is clear, but if fixed on this world  it is filling the body with darkness. “That darkness is especially appalling if the person deceives himself. If he thinks his eye is good when it is bad, he talks himself into believing that his nominal loyalty to kingdom values is deep and genuine, when in fact it is shallow and contrived. That person’s darkness is greatest who thinks his darkness is light: ‘If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!‘” (D.A. Carson)

Who’s Your Master? (vs. 24)

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6.24)

Where we place our treasure dictates where our hearts reside and where we keep our focus. Thus, either heaven or this world have become our master for one or the other owns our affections. We cannot love both, there can be no divided loyalties (cf. 1John 2.15-17).  “God also desires to have us exclusively for Himself, but for our benefit, not His. Money will consume us. He will fill us. Men who have been made for God will know no peace apart from Him.” (Paul Earnhart)

Jesus’ use of “love” and “hate” deserve some attention, especially given His use of “hate” in passages like Matthew 10.37 and Luke 14.26. As D.A. Carson explains, “the contrast between love and hate is a common semitic idiom, neither part of which may legitimately be taken absolutely. To hate one of two alternatives and to love the other simply means the latter is strongly preferred, especially if there is any contest between the two. This idiom sheds light on other words of Jesus: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This same Jesus elsewhere insists that people should honor their parents with integrity (Mark 7:9–13); so clearly, he is not advocating hatred. He means that any man’s best love and first allegiance must be directed toward the Father and toward the Son whom he sent, and that even family ties must be considered secondary.

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