Sermon Matthew 6:19-24
Everybody is devoted to something. There is a reason you get up every morning and do what you do. When God made man he placed in man a desire for purpose. Man by nature must have a purpose for living. Even a person who wanders aimlessly from one thing to another is devoted to finding happiness and fulfillment. We are all devoted to something.
Some people live for pleasure; they work all week to get to the weekend and have fun. Some people live for other people. They live for a spouse, or a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some parents live for their children. Some people are devoted to their country, or to a certain political cause. Some live for success; their purpose in life is to move up the corporate ladder. Every person lives for a purpose; everyone is devoted to something.
Now, none of the items previously mentioned are sinful in themselves. In a sense all parents should be devoted to their children. You should be devoted to doing your job well. But the question is; who or what has your supreme devotion? Who or what are you devoted to above all else?
Christians are to live for one purpose. Christians live to please their Lord and Savior. Jesus died on the cross to forgive sinners and cleanse their hearts so that they would be exclusively devoted to God. God redeemed you so that you would be devoted to him alone.
Now it is clear from the Bible that to be devoted to God will require that you be a giving person. God calls his people to be generous. For example, if you are going to serve God, you must love one another. That love will be evidenced in the giving of some of your possessions and time to one another.
You are to value the kingdom of God and give to the church. You are even called to be generous toward unbelievers. It is clear that if you are going to serve the Lord you cannot love money or possessions.
In vv. 19-24 Jesus warns you of the danger of coveting the treasures of this earth. Notice in v. 19 that you must treasure something. That is the way you were made. Jesus warns you not to covet earthly treasures.
Our passage gives you four reasons why you should not treasure the things of this world. The first reason is that the treasures of this life are fleeting; they do not last. V. 19: Do not store up treasure where moth and rust destroy, and thieves can break in and steal it. Jesus doesn’t say earthly treasure “might” leave you; no, they “will” leave you. Either they will leave you while you are alive, or you will leave them when you die.
Prov. 23:5 states, Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. What a great image! Next time you find yourself loving a possession, picture it sprouting wings and flying away. Sooner or later, Jesus says, it will disappear.
The second reason you are warned against treasuring earthly riches is found in v. 21; where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Your heart only has room for one treasure above all else. What you treasure the most will capture your heart; it will require your complete devotion.
The possessions of this life are like magnets. They draw your heart to valuing them above God. If you allow your heart to treasure anyone or anything over God, you will become slaves to pleasing that person, or to holding onto that possession. Where your treasure is; there will your heart be also.
The third reason Jesus warns you not to covet earthly treasures is that greed reveals a dark heart. V. 22: 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.
Jesus is using figures of speech well known in his culture; but they sound somewhat odd in ours. In Jewish writings a healthy eye represented generosity; a sick eye represented covetousness. If you were a giving person you had a healthy eye. If you were a greedy person you had a sick eye. The eye was considered the source of light for the body.
Do you understand the warning? If your eye is generous, that means your whole body is full of light. Your heart’s devotion is revealed by your actions; whether you are generous or greedy. Your actions of generosity reveal that your heart is full of God’s light. A miserly, selfish person reveals a dark heart.
So if you find yourself refusing to be generous; refusing to give because you treasure possessions too much, you are in great danger. Something is wrong with your heart. You need to call out to God to cleanse your heart. Jesus says in v. 23, if the eye, which is supposed to be light, is dark, how great is the darkness? If you say you are a Christian, but you love possessions more than God, how great is the darkness in you?
The fourth reason Jesus warns you not to treasure earthly riches is that God demands undivided loyalty. V 24: you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and the treasures of this life. It is impossible.
Why is it impossible? If you try to serve two masters equally, you will love the one and hate the other. “Hate” here does not refer to a feeling, but to regarding as unimportant. If you are trying to love God and possessions equally, you will end up loving possessions and not being concerned with serving God.
The story is told of a farmer who one day reported to his wife that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. He said, “You know, we must dedicate one of them to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes we will sell one and keep the money for ourselves, and we will sell the other and give the money to the Lord’s work.” His wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. “Don’t worry about it now,” he replied. “We will decide when the time comes.” A few months later the man entered the house looking miserable. When his wife asked him what was wrong, he answered, “I have bad news. The Lord’s calf is dead.” “How can that be?” she said, “when you had not decided what was the Lord’s calf?” “Oh no,” he said, “I decided long ago the Lord’s calf is the white one. It is the white one that has died. So the Lord’s calf is dead.”
You see, you cannot love God and things of this life equally. When push comes to shove you will always choose possessions or other people over God. But God refuses to play second to anyone or anything. You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him alone. God will not share your devotion with another.
How many who have good feelings about Jesus are devoted to him? How many seek to obey him as Lord? How many of them value Christ above their own happiness in this life? Well, you know the answer to those questions.
Good feelings are not enough. God requires undivided loyalty. You cannot love another over Christ and be his disciple. You cannot love possessions over Christ and be his disciple.
Now in the history of the church, some Christians have, in response to this passage, sold all their possessions to devote themselves to God. They have even renounced seeking a spouse so not to be distracted in their service to God.
Well, this passage is not teaching that you must sell all your possessions or renounce marriage. You know marriage is good, and you know that you are to pay your bills and provide for your families. This passage is warning you not to value people or possessions so that they become idols.
But you may not want to criticize these Christians who took such drastic steps too quickly. Why did these Christians sell all their possessions and renounce marriage? Maybe they understood the hold people and possessions can have over their souls. They believed God deserved their undivided loyalty. We may not agree with their solution, but we could learn much from their attitude.
The Lord himself gives us the remedy for treasuring the things of this life. His answer is not to stop treasuring anything; that would be against our nature. No; v. 20; lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy.
God doesn’t ask us to give up anything without first replacing it with something abundantly better. Through the gospel God has given you an everlasting treasure. You have an inheritance reserved in heaven for you. You have God himself as your Father. Your relationship with God is to be more valuable to you than anything or anybody in this life. The glories that await you in heaven far outweigh anything you could lose in this life.
The missionary Jim Elliot once said, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to keep what he cannot lose.”
A child covets toys. He argues over toys; he cries when one breaks. But as children grow up they begin to lose their affection for toys. As Christians, we are to grow up also. As we mature we realize that we do not need toys like we assumed. Paul said with food and clothing we are content.
Consider what your regular giving to the church does. According to the Bible, when you give to missions you yourselves are doing missions. When a person is redeemed by hearing the gospel on the mission field, and you have been involved in financially supporting that missionary, the Lord considers you a partner in reaching that person for Christ. Can you think of a more valuable way to spend your money? If you value the things of God you will cheerfully give for the sake of the gospel.
Parents naturally give to their children. They sacrifice for their children. The Lord is calling you to expand your giving beyond your natural families. Be generous to your spiritual family. In Eph. 4 Paul writes that we should work hard, not only to provide for ourselves and our family, but to share with others who need our help.
Matt 25 teaches us that on Judgment Day God will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep go to heaven and the goats go to hell. Why do the sheep go to heaven? Well, because they trusted in Christ to save them.
What will be the evidence that they really believed in Christ? You remember the passage. Jesus will say to his sheep; when I was hungry, you fed me. When I was naked, you clothed me. The Christians will not remember doing this, so Jesus will remind them of those times they were generous and gave to the least of his brethren.
When you give to others of your time, your possessions, your energy, your prayers, you give to Christ. So many of you give in small, unnoticed ways that often you forget what you have done. But God never forgets. God sees what is done in secret. Any act of kindness or encouragement given to Christ’s sheep is received by Christ as done to him, as well as giving financially.
The goats loved their possessions more than Christ. They will wonder why they do not go to heaven. Jesus will say to them, when I was hungry, you didn’t feed me. When I was naked you didn’t clothe me. If you had done these things to the least of my brethren, you would have done them unto me.
Beloved, God was generous to you. Jesus became poor so that you would be eternally rich. You have a treasure that is eternal. God is your God forever. How could you allow anything or anybody to receive your devotion above him? Do not cling to possessions. Be generous. Remember, this world and its riches is passing away.
May each of you be able to say from your heart; I am not perfect, and I am easily tempted, but my heart belongs to Jesus Christ; it is him I serve. He gave me eternal riches. He is why I live. He is why I get up and work every day.
Little children, guard yourselves from idols. Serve God alone. The glories that await you far outweigh what you give up here. Amen