The Christian’s Mindset: Heavenly Treasures
Allow me to read the words of a hymn by Isaac Watts—“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”.
“Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follow’r of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of vict’ry through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.”
When you hear such a hymn and such a mentality today, it is easy to ask ourselves–were they balanced, or should I really live with such a mentality? Or practically, how should I live? Is the mentality 300 years ago the same mentality that I should have today in the 21st century? These are critical questions. If we are honest with ourselves, we live with a different perspective. We live for work, or for school, or for sports, or to play. In Africa, many live to survive. But for what should a true follower of Jesus Christ live?
Well, in the verses before us, Jesus is going to answer these important questions. In this section, Jesus provides two commands that are followed by three illustrations (treasure in verse 21, and the eye in verses 22 to 23, and the Master in verse 24). Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:19 to 24 and let’s read this passage together.
“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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22The eye is the lamp of the body; so then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
FIRST COMMAND DO NOT STORE TREASURE ON EARTH Matthew 6:19
If we want to know how we should live, let’s look at Jesus’ first command in verse 19. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” We should not seek to store up treasure on this earth. In light of the flow of Jesus’ sermon, we need to ask ourselves, what is Jesus meaning by this statement? So let me help you see the context of Jesus’ sermon, to help you understand what Jesus is saying here.
Having declared Himself to be King in chapters 1 through 4, Jesus in chapter 5, in His famous Sermon on the Mount, declares who His servants are and how they are and are not to act as His servants. In the last part of His message, Jesus just finished telling His servants that He does
not want them to practice their righteousness before men for the purpose of being noticed.
He states his exhortation in 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” And He follows it with three examples–an example of giving in verses 2 through 4, an example of praying in verses 5 through 15, and one of fasting in 16 to 18. In each of these sections, look what Jesus tells His servants.
His statement in verse 1, “You have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” The first example concerning giving (a negative one) is found in verse 2, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” His first example (this time a negative one) concerning giving is found in verses 3 through 4, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Then He moves on to His second example, this time of praying, and again He begins with the negative in verse 5, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Again, His positive example concerning praying is next in verse 6. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
And again, His third and last example concerns fasting—and once again begins with a negative in verse 16. “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward I full.”
And once again His third example ends with a positive in verses 17 and 18. “But you when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
So according to the immediate preceding context, these “treasures on earth” must be referring back to the earthly rewards given to hypocrites (6:1, 2, 5 and 16) as a result of the service they perform for the eyes of men. Based on the whole context, these earthly possessions consist not only of the honor that comes from being seen by men, but must also include physical possessions. This is made evident by the fact these rewards can be destroyed by moth, rust, and thieves.
Furthermore, considering the fact that the next part of Jesus’ sermon deals with worry over basic necessities (6:22 and 33), these earthly rewards might specifically include food and clothing. According to Jesus, all of these objects can and will be destroyed one day. Note–the word for “store up” conveys the idea of stockpiling. Therefore, Jesus command is clear–He is exhorting His followers to not be like the hypocrites who are living for the eyes of people, living for this present world and stupidly living to stockpile earthly treasures.
Don’t be like them! Don’t live for such treasures! These treasures are only temporary and have no lasting value. Jesus makes it clear by His word choice that it does not make sense to spend your life living for things that don’t last. Why would you live for objects that can be easily eaten and fade away? This is Jesus’ point. Jesus says these earthly rewards rust—or better translated are eating. This probably refers to rats, mice, worms or insects eating away earthly treasures. And the word for thieves break in literally can be translated dig through, referring to thieves digging in through walls or into the ground where money or possessions were often hidden.
The point is clear–earthly possessions don’t last, so do not live your life pursuing them. Our King is commanding us who are His servants to live differently, for a different Kingdom, for a different reward. This is made clear by Jesus’ second command concerning how a Christian is to live.
SECOND COMMAND STORE TREASURE IN HEAVEN Matthew 6:20
Look with me at Matthew 6:20, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” For what shall we live? Rather than living for earthly treasures, Jesus commands His followers to live to stockpile heavenly treasures. How does one stockpile heavenly treasures?
Well according to the context, this is done by performing your righteous service in secret, before the eyes of God (6:1). It is through secretly giving to God alone, secretly praying to God alone, and secretly fasting to God alone. It is through doing any righteous deeds of love to God or people with the motivation of pleasing and glorifying God alone.
Note–this is a command. Jesus is commanding His followers to live for God’s glory. He is demanding them to live to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous grace. He is calling them to live seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. He wants His followers to give all that they have in light of all that He is. Notice Jesus is contrasting His point. He is comparing how ridiculous it is to live for this present world, where moth, bugs, and thieves destroy your treasures–with living for a future reward that is secure, untouched by moths, bugs, and thieves.
This statement gives hope for everyone, whether they live in Africa or America. Did you know that one could be extremely rich in this earthly home, while very poor in his eternal home–while others can be exceptionally poor in their earthly home, and superabundantly wealthy in the eternal home? So according to Jesus, why would we get so caught up in what is fading, to the neglect of what is unfading?
Proverbs 11:4 says, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath.” Proverbs 23:5 reveals the truth that, “When you set your eyes on it (money), it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.” Luke 12:21 declares that a “man who stores up treasure for himself is not rich toward God.” As Christians, this is not our home, so we do not live as if it is. We live for the world to come.
First John 2:15 to 17 explains how Christians, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Oh dear friends, hear this loudly and clearly–to live for Heaven is not everyone becoming missionaries or pastors. This living for Heaven is to use whatever resource you have to love and serve God. It is using your time, your energy, your money, your mind, your pen, your skills, and so on for the purpose of serving and loving people with the motivation of loving and glorifying God.
So if a teacher uses their knowledge to invest in a student’s learning, with the motivation of serving God, they store treasures in Heaven. If a mom loves God by serving her family, she stores treasures in Heaven. If a farmer giving some of his crops away for God in order to love his neighbor, he stores treasures in Heaven. If a casual worker using his energy for God by serving his boss, he stores
treasures in Heaven. It is using any of our resources for God to serve others.
Can a child wash the dishes for his mom out of love? Can one disciple another to follow Christ? Can one give resources to their local church or to help support a mission overseas? When it is done for God, it is rewarded in Heaven. Now in this sermon, Jesus is about to make a very important point–you can’t miss this. Look at the first word in verse 21–it is a “For”. Jesus is going to explain or tell us why we need to store treasures in Heaven and not on the earth. Are you ready? Let’s look at the first illustration together–the illustration of a treasure.
FIRST ILLUSTRATION TREASURE Matthew 6:21
Let’s read verse 21 together, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In verse 21, Jesus’ explanation for why you must treasure heavenly reward over earthly reward is because, “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Therefore, Jesus commands we store treasures in Heaven, because He knows that the treasure we seek to grab will grab us. What we grab, fills our hearts.
Practically, if we grab or treasure sports, sports will grab our hearts and lives. If we grab girls or boys, girls or boys will fill our hearts. If we grab or treasure money, money will fill our hearts. And if we grab or treasure God and living for Him, God will grab our hearts. What Jesus is saying must be heard loudly and clearly–our hearts are filled with what we treasure. Therefore, we must treasure Christ. Why do people struggle with different addictions? It is because they treasure those objects.
How can Christ be our all and all? The principle is clear–what we grab onto will grab us! This truth is true with anything in life. For instance, negatively–even though I adore my wife, if I flirt with other women, my heart will not treasure Danielle. Or positively–if I dedicate myself to school work, my heart will love my school work. Our hearts are filled by what we treasure. And as a Christian community, Christ must be the center of our hearts. Therefore, living for Him and Heaven must be our greatest aspiration.
There is a story told by Martin Lloyd-Jones about a farmer that joyfully runs into his kitchen and announces that their finest cow had just given birth to twins. One of the cows was brown and one was white. He said that he felt inclined to give one of these cows to the Lord. His plan was that he would let them both grow big and when they were at a mature and big size, he would sell them and keep the proceeds from one and give the proceeds of the other to the Lord. His wife asked, “So which cow is the Lord’s cow–the white one or the brown one?” He responded saying, “It doesn’t matter now–we will raise them together.”
Some months later, the farmer came back into the kitchen, but this time slowly and sadly. The wife asked, “What’s wrong?” And he responded by saying, “I have bad news–the Lord’s cow has died!” So often this is how we look at life and our relationship to God. I will love the Lord, but with my leftovers, with my surplus. But God commanded Israel to love Him and worship Him with their first fruits, with their finest parts. Why? So that our heart would be fully His.
I was reading this week in 2 Chronicles and I came upon the life of Rehoboam. It says this in chapter 12 and verse 14, “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” Have we set our hearts to seek the Lord? Well ask yourself, “Where are your treasures—in Heaven or on Earth?” Well let me tell you, by the authority of Jesus Christ–there is your heart! This leads us to Jesus’ second illustration . . .let’s look at it together.
SECOND ILLUSTRATION THE EYE Matthew 6:22 to 23
Jesus is here going to use a second illustration to answer the question, “Why must a Christian live for the purpose of storing up treasures on Earth?” This illustration and the next one reinforce the previous illustration. As we have seen the relationship between the treasure and the heart, Jesus now shows the relationship between the eye and darkness or light.
Look with me at verses 22 to 23. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! This example about the human eye and its relationship to mankind’s body represents the same relationship that a believer’s treasure has to his heart. Just as an eye controls a body, so a man’s treasure controls his heart.
Let me illustrate this principle with a sponge. Just as a sponge soaks up whatever it is immersed in, so our hearts soak up whatever we choose to be devoted to. Practically speaking, if someone watches pornography each night, he will soon be thinking and living immorally. Or if a person watches soccer all day long, soccer will come out in most of his conversations. The illustration is clear–what we meditate on will control us.
In the same way, what we give ourselves to (heavenly treasures or earthly treasures) will dominate our hearts and lives. It is for this reason most moms talk about children and domestic responsibilities and most men speak about work. What they give themselves to fills their hearts. Consequently, all followers of Christ should testify along with the hymnwriter . . .
“Once early joy I craved, sought peace
and rest; now Thee alone I seek, give
what is best. This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee, more love to
Thee, more love to Thee.”
THIRD ILLUSTRATION THE MASTER Matthew 6:24!
Look with me at verse 24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Illustration is that of two masters and a servant. Jesus makes a statement in this section that must be heard loudly and clearly. But Jesus makes it clear you can’t serve both. You must choose only one—you cannot serve two masters! To try and serve two masters at the same time is impossible. Oh dear friends, the problem many of us are facing in our relationship to Jesus Christ is that we are trying to serve Christ and the world, Christ and friends, Christ and money, Christ and a girl or a boyfriend, Christ and alcohol, Christ and gambling, Christ and bad movies, Christ and sin.
Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” No one can serve two masters.
Positively, Jesus says a dedicated follower must love his master and be devoted to him. The word love speaks of having a strong attachment or interest in your master–it is to cherish, cling, or hold fast to him. It is to take pleasure in him. In the same way, the word devoted is to have a strong attachment to him, to zealously cling, hold fast, or be fully devoted to him (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Titus 1:9).
So how can we faithfully love and be devoted to our Master? It starts with us choosing which master we are going to serve. Then it involves surrendering our life and affections wholeheartedly to Him. Practically, it means we saturate our minds or fix our eyes on serving Him exclusively. This can be accomplished by spending time with Him each day, running to Him during our free time, and by filling our whole environment up with Him. This type of devotion may involve saturating our lives around godly friends, biblical preaching, God-exalting music, church activities, Bible studies, etc. Just like a newly-married husband devotes himself to his new bride, we devote ourselves to our eternal Savior.
But not only that, a loyal servant will hate and despise any competing master. This word for hate is to despise or be indifferent toward something or someone. The word despise speaks of looking down on something or someone. These words are strong words and are conveying a zealous disdain for anything that draws one’s affections away from Christ. Much like a husband must fear any other woman other than his wife, so every loyal servant must hate any other object that distracts him from his affections for his Master.
This contrast is radical. It demonstrates a massive distinction in loyalty–love and hate, devotion and despising. This contrast has no compromise, it has no mediocrity. This passion for one’s master is all encompassing. This is because Jesus knows that no one can serve two masters. Therefore as Joshua declared, each one of us must choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:14 to 15)–the gods or pleasures of our fathers or the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we are to choose the Lord, we must put away any foreign gods and incline our hearts to the Lord, serve Him, and obey His voice (verse 23 to 24).
As was commanded by this great saint long ago, so today it is the same. The heart behind our Savior’s exhortation is total allegiance–exclusive loyalty. Dear friends, notice Jesus does not want us to share our love for Him with others. He wants us to be devoted to Himself exclusively. He wants us to despise any other god. Jesus knows that what we grab as our treasure will grab our hearts. It is not good enough to desire to love God and live for Him. You must choose to be devoted to one and despise the other in order to be successful.
I wonder if our failure in the Christian life is because we are trying to love two masters at the same time. If this is the case, we need to remember that our God is a jealous God. Remember God told Israel, “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.” Oh that we might hear Jesus’ words and live for heavenly treasures, so that Christ might be our greatest treasure. My dear friends, the old-time religion of Isaac Watts is real religion. My God, help us to re-align ourselves with Christ and not with the false religion around us.