Our Hearts and Things - Matthew 6:19–24

There’s an old story about a rich man who visited a Jewish rabbi. The man was an Ebenezer Scrooge-type. Though he had great wealth, he didn’t believe in contributing to the needs of others. The rabbi motioned to the rich man to join him by a window. And the rabbi said, “Look out this window. What do you see?” The man replied, “Nothing extraordinary. Just men, women, and children.” Then the rabbi led the wealthy man over to a mirror. The rabbi said, “Now, look at this mirror. Tell me, what do you see?” Smugly, the rich man replied, “I see myself.”

 
Our Hearts and Things - Matthew 6:19-24
 

Then the rabbi said, “In the window there is glass, and in the mirror, there is glass. But the glass of the mirror is covered with a little silver, and no sooner is the silver added than you no longer see others, but only yourself.” The Bible is often misquoted as saying that money is the root of all evil. It doesn’t teach that. Actually, 1 Tim. 6 says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Without a doubt, we have a complicated relationship with our money and the things it affords.

And we naturally overestimate the value of temporary things while underestimating the value of eternal things. Yet, when God sets us free from the power of sin through faith in Jesus and trust in his saving work, he begins to transform our relationship with money and possessions, such that we can own things without things owning us. We can live on what God provides without living for those things. And we can possess things without giving them the devotion that belongs only to God. But we must be watchful regarding our relationship with our money and possessions,because even those who follow Jesus can become self-absorbed when “a little silver is added.”


But how do we go about being watchful? Well, there are three things here in Matthew 6 that Jesus wants us to understand:

1. Our investments reveal the love of our hearts. (v.19-21)

2. Our hearts wield great influence over our lives. (v.22-23)

and 3. Our devotion is never truly split within our hearts. (v.24)

Now, when the Scriptures use the word “heart” like Jesus uses it here, it means something like “the center of spiritual life; the soul as the fountain of our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, and endeavors.” In other words, the mind, will and emotions.

Sometimes the Bible refers to this as “the inner man.” It is the core of a person. And Jesus is concerned with this “core” and how it relates to our possessions. He says in verse [19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.Jesus is not banning the act of working and saving for the future.

Other passages of Scripture stress the importance of both of those. He is drawing a comparison. Look at verse [20], he says: but lay up for yourselves treasures

in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Any possessions we acquire during our earthly lives, what Jesus calls “treasures,” are subject to decay, ruin, and even theft. This includes your home, your clothing, your automobile, everything. Even your money.

Kids, this includes your toys. Things can break, wear out, or be taken from you. But there are treasures – things you can lay up or “store up” – in heaven. What kind of things can you store in heaven? Well, heaven is spiritual and eternal. In that way,

it’s different from the physical and temporary here on earth. So, Jesus is talking about things of eternal significance produced by what you and I do now on earth.

We know the kinds of things that the Scriptures command us to do: practice righteousness, pursue holiness, suffer for the sake of Jesus, forgive others. A couple weeks ago, we saw here in Matthew that God the Father rewards his people for generosity, prayer, and fasting that is done, not publically for show or self-glory, but in private to honor God, to please him alone, and to know him better. In doing so, the Father himself is the reward that we receive. So, to obey the commands of God is to make an eternal investment. Like a farmer, you’re sowing, not for a temporary result, but an eternal one. You cultivate a crop that won’t wither or be used up. The produce of that crop will last forever. And Jesus follows up this contrast that he makes with verse [21]. He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The two locations in view are heaven and earth – one eternal, one temporal. The idea is that even though you live now on earth, your heart should be there in heaven. That doesn’t mean you don’t love your life or make the most of it.

But like we saw in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us that we should long for God to be glorified and worshipped here on earth the way he is in heaven, and for his will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Even as we live now, we invest in eternity. Jesus implies that we are always investing. Always “laying up treasures.” And the core of who you are is wrapped up in where you invest. So, it follows that our investments reveal what we love. They reveal what we value. Money and possessions, perhaps like nothing else, demonstrate to God and to others and to ourselves what we treasure. On what do you set your thoughts and hopes? Where do you truly place your trust?What brings you peace of mind or hinders your peace of mind? In what are your emotions bound up? Answering these questions will help you discern what you treasure.

David Livingstone was a 19th century missionary to Africa. Originally from Scotland, he was passionate about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ on the African continent. It required dangerous exploration, but he went, in fact, he stated, “As for me, I am determined to open up Africa or perish.” He provided medical care for the people as he ministered to them for the glory of Christ. On his 59th birthday, he recorded in his journal, “My birthday! My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All. I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.” In 1873, he died of an illness, and his body was to be taken back to Europe, and an interesting, very symbolic turn of events occurred. In order to embalm and transport his body, on a journey that would take nine months,his primary internal organs, including his heart, were removed and buried them in African soil.

His body would rest at Westminster Abbey. But his heart remained in Africa.

Where is your heart? Jesus says in the same location as your treasure. Where do you invest your money, and your time – your very life? What does your answer say about what you love? Like I said, you need to work hard, you need to earn and save. That’s wisdom. But how are you storing up treasures with the Father in heaven? Where are you laboring to bring glory to God and do his will? Where are you laboring to not sin – to stop sinning? Are you treasuring sin? Sin destroys fellowship with the Father. Sin robs you. Jesus teaches us to be watchful of our relationship with money and possessions by examining where we invest.

Then Jesus moves to this statement about the eye and being filled with light or darkness. Verse [22], he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Your eyes are like windows that either let in the light or block the light. If your eyes let the light in, you can see where you are going and what you are doing. If your eyes block the light, you are in the dark. You stumble around. You can’t see where you are or what you’re doing. Notice how these words of Jesus are sandwiched in between the two statements about money and possessions. Jesus isn’t changing the subject here. In fact, he seems to be making a connection between your eyes and your heart in the sense that your heart is the window through which you see everything.

Just as the eye wields great influence over your whole body, your heart wields great influence over your whole life.

Healthy eyes allow us to see light and function well in life. A healthy heart (again, your mind, will, and emotions) allows us to live well, in the sense that we love what God loves, we despise what he despises, and we long for his will to be done and his name to be glorified. But why would we think that Jesus is talking here about the heart?

Well, Jesus is concerned with where we are looking. But he’s also concerned with the heart. This is no surprise really. In Hebrews 12, the apostle Paul writes that we should lay aside the sin which clings to us, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Of course, we don’t literally “look at” Jesus with our eyes. But in Ephesians 1, Paul says he prays that the believers may have “the eyes of their hearts” enlightened to know the hope they have in Christ. The heart can have a “good eye” or a “bad eye.” A good eye looks to God and to treasures in heaven. A bad eye looks to self and to treasures on earth. What we fix the eyes of our hearts on continually is what we want. So, we look to Jesus – with our eyes? Yes – the eyes of our hearts.

But, where we look with our physical eyes has a great effect on our hearts.

When I was a young boy, around Christmas time we would have department store catalogs in our home from stores like Sears and JC Penney. As Christmas was approaching, I would look through the catalogs at the toys. And to help everyone involved in purchasing presents for me, I would get some notebook paper and a pencil, and I would go through the catalog, listing on paper everything I wanted,

complete with the name, page number, and the letter to identify the item on the page. But many of the things that I would list were not things that I wanted before I saw them in the catalog. Seeing them – over and over as I looked at the catalog – made my desire for those things grow and grow.

In the same way, where we continually look dictates what we long for and love. Where you fix your eyes governs what your heart desires. So, in verses 22-23 is Jesus is talking about our eyes? Yes. But is he also talking about our hearts? Yes, he is.

Do you fix your eyes on what is good and pure? Do you fix your eyes on the will of God? Are you transfixed on heavenly treasure or mere earthly treasure? Examine yourself. There’s a direct correlation between what you’ve been longing for and where you’ve been looking. This is why, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to look to heaven with our hearts, to God’s glory and his kingdom and his will. If your heart is to be wrapped up in those things, where should you fix your eyes? Not on earthly treasures. Do you fix your eyes more on what God has given you, or on what you wish he would give you? Our eyes wield great influence over our hearts, and our hearts wield great influence over the rest of our lives.

Now finally, Jesus points out that our devotion to God is never truly divided within us.

Look at verse [24]: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

The language of “masters” here is not one which describes an just employer. It describes a slave-owner. Now, when we hear the word “slavery” we naturally think of the brutal, inhumane practice of what is called “chattel” slavery, where a person is enslaved forever and their children are automatically enslaved forever, and so on. The slavery typically described in the New Testament is what we call “indentured servitude.”

An indentured servant worked exclusively for a master for an agreed-upon amount of time. The point here is that the servant only had one master. There was no division of allegiance or loyalty between two masters, because if the servant was loyal to one, he or she would be necessarily disloyal to the other. Jesus goes so far as to say the servant would be hating the other. The two masters here in verse 24 are God and money. Actually, the Greek word for “money” there can mean possessions as well. And when loyalty seems divided, well, it really isn’t. If you’re making a decision to divide loyalty between God and material things, you have actually decided to worship idols and hate God.

Again, this doesn’t mean we don’t earn a living and buy things, or save up and purchase things. But as followers of Jesus, we have to be very watchful of our relationship with things so that we don’t find ourselves fallen into idolatry. That’s why Jesus makes such a strong statement here. It’s easy – in fact, it’s natural – to be consumed with earning money and acquiring things.

This time of year, as we give and receive presents, this hits us from two different angles. From one angle, we have to be watchful of the desire to receive everything we want. From the other, we have to be watchful of the desire to give others – whether our children or grandchildren or spouses or other loved ones – everything they want. Possessions are useful and nice to have, but they make a terrible master.

Where have you fallen into this trap with money and possessions? Has your loyalty shifted, either to purchasing for yourself, or for others, or perhaps to the relentless building of and trusting in your own wealth?

As we go to the table today, we look to Jesus, who saw the corrupt nature of our hearts and in humility, he took the form of a slave and suffered and died on the cross. He endured the wrath of God for sin – for our sin – in order to bring us to God with a spotless record of righteousness. And by the power of God’s Spirit, he put in us a new heart – one that can love and treasure him with nothing else beside. Do you know Jesus in this way? Is he your only defense, your righteousness, as we sang earlier? If not, cry out to God and receive Jesus today? And if so, confess your sin to God and rest in Christ again today.

Let’s pray together.