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,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] 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 has just specified three common religious practices–giving, praying and fasting–designed to lead the worshiper into a more intimate walk with God (Matthew 6:1-19). Using these as a platform for advertising one’s personal holiness and devotion to God is a tragic mistake. With each practice Jesus makes it clear that if we do these things to impress others, that fleeting praise will be the extent of our reward. God is not impressed for His desire is that we desire Him more than anything else.
To make this clear, Jesus then specifies three ways we must set our life’s compass. This is necessary to help us to navigate through our tendencies to become side-tracked. The danger is that we may be lured away by cheap imitations that will not last into eternity.
Single-minded pursuit of the one treasure helps us keep our compass pointing in the right direction as other treasures of much lesser value tempt us. Without a clear direction in our lives we risk being enamored with treasures that will fail us in the pursuit of eternal values in the kingdom.
The beginning of John’s gospel focuses upon Jesus as the One Light of the world (John 1:1-18). “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind,” John tells us. Further, this light “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (vss 4-5). The Apostle John assures his readers that John the Baptist was not The Light (vs. 8). Rather, he pointed to Jesus Christ as “The true light that gives light to everyone….”
The metaphor of eyes and light could also be understood as a single window in a dark room.* In that room are reflections of glass or metal that give some light such as, metaphorically, the logic of science, physics or philosophy, etc. Devoid of light from The Source of The Light, however, only leads to darkness.
There are many lights in this world that seem to help us navigate the dark corners of our lives. In many ways they are dim reflections of the true light of Jesus Christ. Put too much trust in those lesser lights and you will find yourself, in the end, overwhelmed by complete darkness.
A slave’s primary objective in life is supposed to be to please his master above everything else. His master has total control over his very life, comfort and working conditions. The idea of trying to please more than one master at a time means that there will be conflicts that lead to impossible choices. “If I try to please Master #1, then there will be times when I will displease Master #2. I can’t do both at the same time.”
So it is with our desire for material wealth. This is not so much a statement about ‘the haves’ versus ‘the have-nots’. The desire for wealth is not exclusive to rich or poor; rather it is common to all. Consequently, so is the danger that we will desire it more than we desire God. And that, Jesus says, is unacceptable to God. He is to be our obsession. He is to be our foremost desire. Nothing in this world is to overtake our desire to walk with Him, to know Him, and to talk, think and act like Him. He is to be our Magnificent Obsession.
God insists upon an intimate relationship with us as we imitate His generosity, speak to Him in prayer and fast in order to underline our dependence upon Him. Further, He tells us to make Him and His kingdom our treasure, to let His Light outshine all others and to choose Him as our Master. With those principles in place we are now equipped for living our lives accordingly by trusting Him completely (Matthew 6:25-34).
The third soil Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) refers to “The seed falling among the thorns” (vs. 22). Jesus tells us that this “refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Our compass in life will remain true to the treasures we pursue, the light we use to illuminate our way and the things we become enslaved to serve. Pursue those things that will last!
* Carson, D. A. The Sermon On The Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), p. 79.