19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, 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 he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
In this section, continuing His instructions for His disciples, Jesus points out how our devotion to God can be hindered by the things of the world, and our focussing on them rather than the things of God. Jesus speaks on three choices that we make in this world: the choice between storing up treasures in heaven versus treasures on earth; the choice between living in light versus darkness; the choice between serving God versus serving money. Making the correct choices in these matters relates to one of the greatest challenges for us as Christians: how to live in the world, but not be of the world (see John 17:15-18).
Jesus begins: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where theives do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vss. 19-21). Interestingly, the exhortation that Jesus gives here, "Do not store up...", could also be rendered, "Stop storing up treasures on earth", as if Jesus is assuming that, in fact, we all do have our hearts set on storing up treasures on earth. I dare say that this exhortation applies to all of us to some extent. "It is a major plague, which we find rampant amongst mankind, that they have a mad and insatiable desire for possessions."
And indeed, it is an easy trap to fall into, for it is not unlawful to obtain material possessions, it is not unlawful (in and of itself) to be rich, and it is certainly not unlawful to work hard for a living. In fact, we are told that we must provide for ourselves and our relatives. Paul tells Timothy: "Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Tim. 5:7-8). Paul told the Thessalonians to "warn those who are idle" (I Thess. 5:14). We are also told that "everything God created is good" (I Tim. 4:3), and that He "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (I Tim. 6:17). And so, working hard for a living, and enjoying what God has given us is commendable. The problem occurs when, over and above providing for our families, the storing up of treasures on earth becomes the goal of our existence, to the neglect of storing up treasures in heaven--when we are not satisfied with the good things that God has given us for our enjoyment, but we devote ourselves to gathering more and more treasures on earth, above and beyond what God desires that we have. You may ask, "How do I know when I am striving for things beyond what God desires that I have?" Ask yourself this: "Am I serving Him? Am I storing up treasures in heaven?" If you are serving God first, if you are seeking His will first, as your primary employer, then you are storing up treasures in heaven, and you can be confident that your treasures on earth are from the hand of God. It is just as Jesus will tell us later in this chapter: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33).
And so, I ask, "Are you serving Him? How are you serving Him?" Far too few Christians actually serve their Lord. What, exactly, specifically, are you doing to serve God? There is no shortage of work to do. There are poor to feed, there are children in Sunday school to teach, there are sick in hospitals to visit, there are Bible studies to lead, there are fervent intercessory prayers to be prayed, there is hospitality to be shown, there is a cup of cold water to be given to a thirsty soul, there are millions of unsaved souls to be reached out to, etc. etc. etc. If someone asked you, right now, "How exactly do you serve God?", could you answer him? If so, then you are storing up treasures in heaven. If not, you are striving for that which will perish.
Jesus warns us of the danger of storing up treasures on earth: they are perishable. "Moth and rust destroy... thieves break in and steal." Treasures they may be, but they are vanishing treasures. In contrast, the treasures you store up in heaven are imperishable and unassailable: rust cannot fade their luster, and they are out of reach of thieves. We Christians are pilgrims in this world. Our true citizenship is in heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20). And there are certain, shall we say, "customs" laws concerning what we can take with us out of this land when we go to our true country, our true home in heaven: we cannot take with us the things of this world. And so, we would be wise to exchange whatever currency we have here in this land, to the currency of heaven before we get there, by storing up treasures in heaven.
Jesus gives the reason for His exhortation to store up treasures in heaven: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vs. 21). In the culture of those days, the "heart" referred, not only to the seat of affections (as we see it now), but "the seat of all the powers of the soul, [including] intellect, sensibilities, and will." Thus, Jesus' reference to "heart" would be equivalent to us saying "head, heart and soul." Jesus knows that your "heart" will naturally settle on that for which you labor. And so, Jesus wants you to labor for treasures in heaven so that your head, heart and soul will be in heaven, not in the stock market or your bank account.
The second choice that Jesus speaks on in this section is the choice between living in light or darkness: "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (vss. 22-23). Having spoken of the heart, Jesus now turns to the eye. The eye here symbolizes our moral vision. Clear moral vision, looking to God's perfect law, allows light in, and drives darkness out. Poor moral vision allows no true light in, and so the "whole body is full of darkness". Such darkness then breeds on itself, confusing the whole moral outlook. Jesus states this enigmatically: "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" To those who know the true "light", this seems impossible. How can darkness be the "light within you"? But for those whose "eyes are bad", those who have lost their moral vision, there is no true light, and so darkness becomes their light. We see this today. Moral confusion: People following their own light, rather than looking to the true light of God's law. They say, "If it's good for me, and I can rationalize its bad effects, then it must be all right." Their darkness has become their light. Selfishness ("what's good for me") has become their moral standard. Blindness to the true moral light leads to utter darkness. As Jesus put it: "How great is that darkness!"
Before stating the third choice, Jesus teaches a general truth: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (vs. 24). This must be understood and affirmed before we can truly appreciate the third choice we must make: "You cannot serve both God and Money" (vs. 24). Unstated here is another fact that we must understand: everyone has a ruling passion, everyone serves a god as master. Jesus is speaking here to His disciples, and so it is assumed that they do not overtly serve a god of a false religion. But sadly, many of Christ's disciples serve the god of worldly things, named here "Money". They, in many cases, fall into service of this deity unwittingly. As stated above, it is necessary that Christians labor for a living, and provide for themselves and their families. In the process of doing this, some focus too much on obtaining wealth, and find themselves serving the god of Money, at the expense of serving the True and Living God. "Whatever efforts we make to obtain wealth must be in entire subordination to the service of God, and, in fact, a part of that service; He alone must be Master." Do not think you can serve both God and Money. They are opposites. God and the world will never agree. Why do so many have problems living a godly life? They are trying to serve two masters.