July 5 – Matthew 6:19-21
Last week we looked at the ingenious symmetrical structure of the SOTM which highlights the Lord’s Prayer right in the middle. For the rest of our series we’ll be on the descending slope from the Lord’s Prayer, in the latter half of the sermon where Jesus gives 6 words on Kingdom living.
Interestingly these are split into two groups of three, leading up to the Golden Rule in 7:12:
- 6 Words on Kingdom living – 6:19-7:11
- First group
- lay up treasures in heaven – 6:19-21
- 1st eye parable – eye is the lamp – 6:22-23
- can’t serve God and money – 6:24
- Interlude: Therefore don’t be anxious, for your Father cares for you – 6:25-34
- Second group
- Judge not – 7:1-2
- 2nd eye parable – log in your eye – 7:3-5
- Pearls before swine – 7:6
- Interlude: Ask and it will be given, for your Father cares for you – 7:7-11
- First group
- The Golden Rule – 7:12
I love that after each of these two sets of three Jesus has little mini-conclusions about how our Father cares for us more than the birds of the air and even more than we care for our own children. As we get into the coming weeks about how we deal with money and other people, don’t miss that these commands come alongside reassurances that God will never stop caring for us.
This week specifically we’re looking at laying up treasures in heaven. Don’t let this passage wash over you if it’s super familiar to you, it’s actually really important for understanding the Christian perspective on materialism. We’re surrounded by materialism, which tells us all that exists and matters is material and now, so securing wealth, comfort, and security is the best use of your time and effort on this earth. And those religious traditions that don’t outright condone materialism often tend to fixate on it, like asceticism or prosperity theology. Plenty of that mentality leaks into the Church (Jesus will address it in 6:25-34), and throughout the centuries Christians have cycled through despising material things and worshiping them. But we see neither of those things in this passage.
As an aside, I’ll focus primarily on how this passage applies to wealth, but “treasures on earth” could be literally anything on earth your heart treasures, like fame, freedom, security, etc. We might think tithing gets us off the hook of laying up treasures on earth, but a careful eye will see that you can make a bank account out of anything.
Now when we read, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” we might wonder if Jesus is telling us to get rid of all temporal wealth, as if owning anything is antithetical to Jesus’ teaching. But one helpful story to consider is Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Jesus invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for lunch, and in response to Jesus’ presence Zacchaeus decides to use his money to accomplish Kingdom justice (for the poor he himself had oppressed, no less). Zacchaeus says, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus gives away half of his money, plus some more for defrauding people, but not all. And to this Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
We get hung up on amounts when it comes to physical wealth. How much is enough? How much do I need to give? When we read, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” we immediately start calculating how much it’s okay to hold onto. For Jesus it isn’t about amounts, it’s about a binary allegiance. Where you treasure is, there you heart is also, and you can’t serve both God and money (more on that next week). If we’re trying to figure out how much we need to give away, perhaps it should be however much will break our allegiance to it. If our plan is to give away the bare minimum to be technically compliant but emotionally resistant, our allegiance is still misaligned.
As always, Jesus wants your heart, and he wants it fixed on matters of eternal significance, like how you relate to an eternal God and how you treat other human beings with eternal souls. This is the substance of the SOTM; note that Jesus doesn’t say how much to give or how much you can have in your bank account because these measures will differ person to person. He doesn’t give us a standard we can meet so we can then hit auto-pilot. He wants us to continually be asking ourselves, “Am I being faithful?”
But Jesus also doesn’t tell us to despise money. Wealth is a tool, and we should ask ourselves, “What does Jesus want me to do with the money he’s given me?” Jesus wants to free us of our attachment to our material wealth so we can then freely use it to accomplish Kingdom objectives in the world. Just like our behavior, we should use our money towards eternal objectives, showing that we would rather give away money and gain faith, justice, and peace. If the choice is between present rewards or eternal ones, and it almost always is, we know which one is more valuable.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Matthew 6:19-21 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• What “earthly treasures” do you think Jesus would address this to?
• What is convicting about this passage to you?
• What do you think it looks like for you to grow in faithfulness with what God has given you?