Possessions can give us joy. Our possessions can help us make a status statement. They can also lead us into debt. Worse yet, they can steal our focus from more important things. As our play toys increase, so does the time and money it takes to care for them, leaving less time and money for more important things. While possessions, in and of themselves, are not sinful, they tend to draw our focus from God and his work.
Jesus begins now to illustrate personal failures that can rob believers of victories. Being thing-oriented is natural. But most of what we want is just that—wants not needs.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were no different. Jesus told them—and us—they could not serve God and money. We cannot have two masters. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’”
Wealth, health, and prestige are not necessarily signs of God’s approval. Nor does having them necessarily give us a proper perspective on possessions. The writer of Proverbs said, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it” (23:4).
Earthly Possessions Are Temporary
Laying up treasures carries the idea of hoarding or stockpiling. A picture of wealth that is not being used. It is kept this way for the purpose of showing off or to create an environment of laziness.
Jesus is not saying that we should live in poverty. Nor did he specifically require all his followers to give up everything to follow him. Both Testaments recognize the right of people to have things. God wants us to enjoy what he blesses us with.
Paul said, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
The Bible does say we are to work hard and follow good business principles. We should save for our children and provide for our families. There is nothing wrong with saving for the future, to have enough to give to the poor, and also to support the Lord’s work.
Still, we must remember that possessions are temporary. Jesus says they are subject to destruction by moth and rust. Thieves can steal them from us.
In ancient times, a person’s wealth was often determined by their clothes and how much grain they had, but this could be destroyed or stolen. The Bible says, “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” (Proverbs 23:5).
Think of Job. He had a large family, much livestock, and many servants. Of him, the Bible says, “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” While his sons and daughters were partying, a messenger came with the news that the Sabeans had stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants. Fire from the sky had burned up his sheep and some more of his servants. Chaldeans had captured his camels and killed more of his servants. The wind had destroyed the house where his sons and daughters were partying and killed them all.
Job tore his robe, shaved his head, fell to the ground, and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21).
The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression was a time of economic failure when more than 15 million people—one out of every four—were unemployed. People lost their homes, farms, and money. Businesses faced great losses. Thousands of banks closed. People discovered quickly that their wealth was temporary.
Our Attitude About Wealth Reflects Our Focus
Jesus said, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Jesus also said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Mammon refers to material possessions and comes from a root word meaning “to entrust,” or “to place in someone’s keeping.” The word originally meant wealth entrusted to someone for safekeeping. As time passed, it came to mean “that in which a man trusts.”
Our hearts are not right when all our attention is on getting more. Christ is our Lord, not possessions. Giving our allegiance to anything or anyone else shows we don’t have a proper perspective.
These two masters call on us to do opposite things. One tells us to walk by faith, and the other to walk by sight. One tells us to be humble while the other says to be proud. One says to keep our attention on things above, but the other says to pay attention to what’s below. One says to love light, and the other says to love darkness.
John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority.”
Our Attitude About Possessions Reflects Our Spiritual Vision
Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
The eye is an illustration of the heart. The heart is what the individual is all about—our goals, dreams, and aspirations. Clear eyes signify single-minded devotion to God (red eyes are painful and cause blurry vision). Blurry eyes are crowded with material concerns and insensitive to spiritual things. The bad eye represents one who selfishly indulges in material things.
The window is represented by the eye. Clean windows let the light come in. Limited light filters through dirty windows. Our attitude about possessions reflects our spirituality.
Our Attitude about Possessions Results in a Generous Spirit
Jesus said, “So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
Healthy means clear, simple, or single. Words closely related to this word also carry the idea of liberality.
A healthy or clear eye is a generous eye. Eye illustrates the heart, so we should have generous hearts. This will happen if our attitude about possessions is correct.
Paul wrote, “If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously” (Romans 12:8). We must liberally share our money and possessions.
Campbell Morgan said, “If you make your fortune on the earth…you have made a fortune, and stored it in a place where you cannot hold it. Make your fortune, but store it where it will greet you in the dawning of the new morning.”
Last week: “Giving Up for God” (A Study on the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:16-18)