What do I treasure? Are my treasures impervious to decay or do they only last for a brief moment in time? Do I struggle with worry or anxiety associated with the people and things I hold dear? This week, we contemplated the answers to these questions as we studied the passages of scripture related to money, possessions, and worry from the Sermon on the Mount.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Our children loved giving us their treasures when they were small. They adorned our refrigerator with pictures they had drawn and gave us items they crafted from all sorts of craft supplies and found objects. I’m sentimental about all of the things they made. Every one was precious in my sight. But macaroni gets brittle and crunchy and breaks into a gazillion pieces and becomes beyond repair. Artwork fades and if the paper accidentally comes in contact with a liquid, the art becomes a soggy mess. I can try to protect them with laminate and acrylic coating but even that protection doesn’t last forever. Eventually, these valuable treasures of mine will be destroyed. The only treasure that lasts are the truths of God that I have instilled into my children. The love, care, and forgiveness I give to them and others bears eternal value.
The idea of treasure in heaven was familiar to the Jews. They associated deeds of kindness and a person’s character as treasures to be stored up in heaven. God wants our eyes to turn upward and value the people and things He treasures. Ms. Wilkin shared that the heart is the seat of the will, our decision maker. If we choose to love this life and all of the things of earth, we have nothing. Everything in this world decays. But if we choose relationships over goods and cultivate souls, we have chosen the better and wiser treasure. Our perspective shifts into a right focus. Nothing belongs to us because everything belongs to God and is only on loan. When He becomes our heart’s delight, then we have found lasting treasure.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:22-24
We studied several cross references from scripture relating to this passage on Day 3. We looked at the story of Job, Eve, Achan, and David. From their stories, we saw the relationship between sight and desire. Ms. Wilkin stated on the video that we have believed the lie; “It doesn’t hurt to look “. She continued by saying that looking is not a sin but places the viewer in a dangerous posture; the posture of desiring to desire.
To avoid temptation, we need to refuse our access to eye candy. We should finetune our sensitivity to our inward early warning signs. These signals come from the Holy Spirit within us nudging our internal monitor to caution us to danger. To avoid disaster, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and on the eternal, not our temporary desire.
This struggle places us in the center between two masters: God and what we want. Where I live, we call trying to serve two things: riding the fence. Riding the fence means that I haven’t made a choice. Center point is not an optimal location. The word for money in the original Greek is Mammonas and in English, Mammon. The definition means material possessions or riches with a root which means to entrust. The word slowly evolved to indicate the thing which people put their trust in. Do I want to be God’s servant or the thing I desire’s slave? Do I have a singular vision or am I double minded? We must choose whom we will serve. We can’t serve God and our idol.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Matthew 6:25-30
How can I tell if someone or something has begun to be a treasure in my life or, dare I say, an idol? I worry about the person or thing. Worry should raise a red flag in us. When we worry, our focus shifts from God to the object of our worry. Our perspective needs to look upward rather than sideways. Ms. Wilkin stated on the video that when we worry about food, drink, and clothing, particularly in this country, we aren’t looking for our basic needs to be met. Rather, we are seeking for the “extras” we want. We don’t want air; we want clean air; not water but purified water; not clothing but expensive clothes. These extras, according to Ms. Wilkin, glorify ourselves. Our stature and how we are perceived by others matters and reveals that we possess a lack of trust and reliance in God.
Finding ourselves caught up in the stress and worry of our consumer driven society can be so easy. Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and encouraged him to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness ”. He also told him to “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession…” (1 Timothy 6:6-12). Jesus uses two images to illustrate his point. He uses the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Things of this earth will clamor for our attention. We must choose what is of utmost importance. The more we let them control us, the less God is our Master. According to Ms. Wilkin, Jesus is stating that we need to care for our internal and external holiness.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34
Many around the world are in need of the basics: food, water, shelter, and clothing. These people have a right to some serious, mind-consuming worry. Yet, in the passage above, Jesus says not to worry. What is the answer? We read Matthew 25:31-45 in our work on Day 5 and learned the answer to the perplexing question of why. In those verses, Jesus states those of us who have should give to those who have not. Are those of us with plenty refusing the voice of God? Maybe we yearn to help but we can’t imagine where to begin because the need is so overwhelming. Or maybe we don’t feel compelled to provide. The problem that stops us could be we’ve become jaded and skeptical because we don’t trust the systems and organizations that guarantee to provide for others with our financial resources. Other possibilities to consider are we have become selfish, unaware, and detached. Or we worry if we do give, we won’t have enough saved for our own family.
When we have an over abundance, we place ourselves in a position of self-sufficiency. We trust in our own resources instead of God. Worry causes us to hoard. We hoard food, material possessions, control, and our emotions to name a few. These things ensnare us and can become our idols. Ms. Wilkin stated there will be trouble but that doesn’t free us from responsibility. God is sufficient. We need to place our focus and trust on God. We need to keep eternity in mind and not become comfortable on earth. We can store up treasure in heaven or on earth. We have a choice to fix our gaze upon the better way.
Only two weeks remaining in our study, Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin,. If you’d like to start at the beginning or find a specific lesson, check under the Bible Studies Archive tab. Becoming more biblically sound builds strong faith and benefits the kingdom of God. Keep going and finish well!
Week 8 lesson plan for this week.