The major part of Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew 6 are directed against the false teachings and erroneous practices of the Pharisees. Jesus now begins to warn his people against the evil attitudes and practices of men generally. First of all he calls attention to the acquisition of possessions. A sizable percentage of the recorded words of Jesus deals with money-matters. Our Lord would certainly underscore the words written by Paul: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10). He recognized one’s attitude toward earthly possessions as a good barometer of one’s spiritual life. He even commanded one man to give away all his goods and then to come and follow him. He himself had only the bare essentials of life. In these verses he warns his people not to lay up for themselves treasures on earth. By treasures he means those things which are beyond the necessities of life. The emphasis falls on the last words, “upon the earth.” His teaching must be clearly understood. Our Lord does not condemn wealth. Wealth is to be considered a gift of God. There were indeed many in Old Testament times whom the Lord had made rich. Wealth can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse. The important question is: What is your attitude toward the riches you have received? The answer to that question will determine whether the treasure is a blessing or a curse.
Those who lay up treasures on earth must remember that they have no enduring quality. They arc endangered by corruption. Moths consume costly garments. Although precious metals do not rust, rust, as a process of “eating,” consumes the grain which has been stored. Thieves break through and steal a11 kinds of treasure. There is nothing lasting about them. How foolish, therefore, to lay up treasures upon the earth! They arc so disappointing!
Jesus shows his people a far better way. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Those treasures are safe.
Moth, rust, and thieves are not found there. There is no corruption in heaven. How can we lay up treasures in heaven? Jesus gives no answer to this question in this connection. Elsewhere he has spoken concerning this matter. The treasures laid up in heaven are spiritual. In Luke 16;9 Jesus teaches us that we are able to lay up these heavenly treasures even by means of the proper use of our earthly possessions. Only in this way are we able to take our possessions with us!
The contrast which our Lord has drawn between the places where treasures may be laid up bas already made it clear that it is utter folly to lay up treasures on earth. lIe now gives a deeper reason. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Here the attitude of the heart comes into clear focus. Your treasure will fill your thoughts . Your heart will go out unto it. You will he concerned for its safety. But if your treasure is above, you have no worries on that score. It is safe and will endure. It will be there for your eternal enjoyment. The treasure laid up on earth is not safe and can, at best, give you enjoyment only for the short space of time you will spend on earth.
Jesus calls the eye the bmp of the body. The eye is the mirror of the soul. It is the window through which light enters the body. It is not the source of light, but rather the instrument through which light enters the body. If that eye be single, i.e., if it be good and not distorted by double-vision, the body is full of light. If that eye functions the way it should, the members of the body will be able to perform the tasks for which they have been made. If that eye is evil, that is, if it does not function properly. the whole body is wrapped in darkness. The members of the body will no longer be able to function properly because no direction is given. The eye is therefore a most important member of the body. How great is the darkness if that eye leads astray instead of revealing the proper direction!
Some have come to the conclusion that the verses 22 and 23 are not related to the previous verses but form a new thought. However, notice that verse 24 again lakes up the same thought expressed in the verses 19–21. Jesus is here still speaking about the attitude which an individual has toward his treasures. If he sees straight, if his eye is single, he will not lay up treasures on earth. His whole life will be full of light. If his eye is evil he will lay up treasures on earth. This will fill his whole life with darkness. His covetous eye will be his undoing. How great is then the darkness within him! Even his reason is darkened. His heart worships at the altar of earthly treasure.
Jesus concludes this section by telling his people that they cannot serve two masters. That is a psychological impossibility. How can a slave serve and be the property of two masters simultaneously? That is simply out of the question. He is going to hate one and love the other; or he will hold to the one and despise the other. One can be a slave of only one master.
From is truth Jesus now draws the conclusion: “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” By Mammon he means riches personified. Both God and Mammon will demand all his allegiance. The Apostles later call themselves slaves of Jesus Christ. He demands everything. Mammon is satisfied with no less. It also demands complete loyalty. Men cannot really serve both. If they would serve God, they must forsake the worship of riches. If they would serve Mammon, they must forsake the worship of God. It is very simple. It is an either—or proposition.
In the previous verses Jesus already made it clear that this is not putting it too strongly. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If, then, a man lays up treasures for himself on earth, he is serving Mammon. It involves his heart! Covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
The attitude which a man assumes toward his treasures is of decisive significance for his spiritual life. He must not consider his earthly possessions all-important. If he docs, his treasures will be his ruin. Heavenly treasures are of infinitely greater worth. Materialism is idolatry. This warning should not go unheeded in this materialistic age. Earthly treasures cannot satisfy. Man, who is both physical and spiritual, must have treasures which will not be limited to the life on earth. His treasures must be of value both for this life and for the life that is to come.
Questions For Discussion
1. Prove that Jesus does not forbid the saving of money.
2. Why is wealth spiritually dangerous?
3. Seeing that Christ has earned everything for us, why must we “lay up” treasures in heaven?
4. In which ways are we able to lay up treasures in heaven?
5. In view of the fact that Jesus spoke so often about money-matters, do you think there is sufficient emphasis in preaching on our economic responsibilities?
6. When does thriftiness become covetousness?