Throughout today’s highlighted passage Jesus uses these words to describe how we are not to give, pray or fast, “Whenever you…don’t…like the hypocrites.” When addressing giving Jesus’ words were, “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:2). With prayer his words were, “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they have to pray standing in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you they have their reward…When you pray, don’t babble like the heathens since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:5, 7-8). With fasting Jesus’ words were, “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:16). You should have noticed a pattern here by now. And that pattern is this: we are to be different than those who are around us. And Jesus tells us how we are to be different in the rest of today’s passage.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said this, “Don’t 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 neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Here Jesus is emphasizing the fleeting value of worldly wealth and its trappings. The larvae of the moths that Jesus refereed to here could quickly destroy valuable fabrics that were treasured by the ancients and the same is true today. The word rust that Jesus used here is literally “eating” and it can refer to the pitting of metal coins or to vermin (rats, mice and the like) that ruin valuable food stores. And finally in verse 21 Jesus taught that one’s heart truly belongs to what it most treasures, and since a disciple is to love God with all one’s heart, love for material possessions and riches is a subtle form of idolatry. And the same is true when you put too much emphasis on “religious rituals”.
Jesus then had this to say in verses 22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” What is Jesus doing talking about the eye being the lamp of one’s body in the middle of this passage? To understand that you have to understand that in Jewish writings a good eye represented a generous attitude and a bad eye a stingy, miserly attitude. The bad eye, which is an improper perspective on wealth, results in deeper internal darkness, a moral blindness that diminishes the ability to see and pursue what is good.
To put it another way: we must be extremely careful about what we look at and what we expose ourselves to. Our eyes are like lenses that flash images onto our minds-like film in a camera-leaving a graphic impression on our thoughts and memories. If we look at ungodly and impure images, they will cloud and corrupt our minds so that we will not be able to see what God has for us or where he wants to guide us. Yet, if we choose to expose ourselves to good and wholesome things the Lord will continue to give us spiritual light and truth to our minds and guide us down the right paths for our lives.
And finally in verse 24 we reach the climax of today’s passage. “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Which means that we have a sinful tendency to make an idol of money, which then competes with God for allegiance. But what does it mean to make an idol of money? Very simply it means to serve money and all it represents. But what does it mean to serve money and everything it represents?
To serve money is to place such a high value on it that we allow a desire for it to be a main factor in our life decisions and priorities, place our trust and faith in it, depend on it for our ultimate security and happiness, expect it to guarantee our future and desire it more than we desire God’s plans and purpose. And greed and the accumulation of wealth will dominate your mind and life so that honoring God is no longer the main priority in your life. Which means you have replaced God’s place in your heart with something that is fleeing and temporary, and that something could be possessions, it could be religious rituals or it could be both. Either way the love of stuff and man-made rituals destroys your relationship with God.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Genesis 18:16-19:37, Matthew 6:25-7:14, Psalm 8:1-9 and Proverbs 2:6-15