We’re working our way through the Sermon on the Mount as part of our series of sermons on Matthew’s gospel. And we’ve come to a new part of the sermon which is about God and money or God and our possessions. Verses 19 to 24 are about getting our priorities right in terms of our money and possessions. What should we put first in our life? How should we use our money? And verses 25 to 34 are about trusting God for what we need instead of being anxious.
Verses 19 to 24
Let’s take verses 19 to 24 first where the Lord refers to two treasures: treasure on earth and treasure in heaven. He then refers to two kinds of eye: good eyes and bad eyes. And then he refers to two masters: there’s God and there’s Money. The word Money appears in capital letters, because it’s a translation of an Aramaic word, Mammon, which referred originally to something people trust in and which came to denote wealth and possessions. And so, the word signifies the way people can treat money as an idol. They love it and trust it and they’re devoted to it. So, we can either serve God or Money.
The Lord tells us not to store up for ourselves treasure on earth, because earthly treasures are perishable and vulnerable. Our earthly possessions can perish because of moth or rust or they can be stolen by thieves. We can’t rely on them. And so, instead of storing up for ourselves treasures on earth, we should store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Treasures in heaven cannot perish and they aren’t vulnerable. They won’t be destroyed by moths or rust and they won’t be stolen by thieves.
Well, we all know what it means to store up treasures on earth. And when he refers to storing up treasures in heaven, he’s referring to being generous. Those who store up for themselves treasures on earth are greedy people, who are holding on to their possessions. They’re not willing to share, but they’re keeping what they have for themselves. But those who are generous with what they own, and who share what they have with others, are storing up treasures for themselves in heaven. Listen to Proverbs 19:17 where it says:
He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward him for what he has done.
So, God will reward the person who is kind to the poor. He will reward them with treasures in heaven. One of the commentators refers to a number of Jewish books, which are not part of the Bible, but which make the same point. In one place, for instance, those who share what they have with others are told ‘you will be laying up good treasure for yourself’ (Tobit 4:8–9). In another place, people are told that by helping the poor they ‘Lay up [their] treasure according to the commandment of the Most High’ (Sirach 29:10–12).
Now, those are from extra-biblical sources, but they tell us what the Jews would have thought when the Lord spoke about storing up treasure in heaven. When he refers to storing up treasure in heaven, they would know he was talking about storing up treasure in heaven by being generous and by sharing what they own. And, of course, the Lord Jesus told the rich young ruler that he would receive treasures in heaven if he gave away his wealth to the poor. So, when the Lord told us to store us treasure in heaven, he meant be generous with what we own. When we share what we have with others, we can expect the Lord to reward us. He’s not obligated to reward us; and it’s not something we can ever earn or merit. But he graciously rewards his people when we do his will here on earth.
So, where are we storing up treasure? On earth or in heaven? And it’s important that we think about this, because where we store our treasure reveals something about ourselves. It reveals where our heart is. It reveals what we love. It reveals what is most important to us. Is it life here on earth or is it life in heaven with God? That’s the point of verse 21, where the Lord says that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart is. That’s what we love the most.
The need to be generous is also conveyed by the next image the Lord uses of the good and bad eyes. The Jews used the image of the eye to refer to the way you treated other people. So, the ESV translates Deuteronomy 15:9 as follows:
Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and … your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.
More literally, it refers to having ‘an evil eye’ towards your poor brother. So, the image of having a bad eye refers to someone who is not generous and is unwilling to help those in need. We might say ‘he turns a blind eye’ to the needs of the poor. But those with good eyes see the needs of others and are willing to help. And so, the ESV translates Proverbs 22:9 as follows:
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.
The Lord also says that those with good eyes will be filled with light, whereas those with bad eyes will be full of darkness. There are two ways to understand the Lord’s words here. Either he’s saying that our actions and the way we treat other people affect our whole life. And so, being stingy and unkind to others leads to greater moral darkness. Or he may be saying that the eye reflects what’s already inside us. So, how we treat other people, and whether we’re generous or stingy, reveals what we’re really like as a person. Whichever it is, the main point is that we should be generous. Instead of turning a blind eye to others, we should treat people generously.
And then the Lord teaches us that we can’t serve two masters, because we’ll either hate the one and love the other; or we’ll be devoted to one and despise the other. And when he refers to two masters, he’s referring to God and Money. The greedy person, the person who is stingy, loves Money and is devoted to it, because he’s always thinking about it and about how to get more of it. But instead of loving Money, we’re meant to love God. We’re to serve him. We’re to be devoted to him. And in the context of this passage, that means using our money to serve God. It means using what we have to glorify him. Instead of keeping what we have for ourselves, we’re prepared to use it for God’s glory by sharing what we have with others and by being kind to others and by helping the needy. We’ll use our money for the good of others and for the glory of God.
Now, this doesn’t mean we must give away all our money. For instance, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the collection for needy believers, he asked the Corinthians to set aside an amount in keeping with their income. So, he didn’t command them to give away all of their income, but only a fitting amount. And while we read that some of the early believers sold what they had to help needy believers, later in the book of Acts we see that church meetings were held in people’s houses. So, believers in the early church were not required to sell everything they had including their homes. Owning private property was not forbidden. And, of course, every good thing we enjoy — including our possessions — come from the Lord. He has given us these good things for us to enjoy. So, we’re not required to give away all of our money. Having savings is not a sin. But at the same time, we need to use our money for God’s glory and we should be willing to be generous with what we have, because this is God’s will for us.
Verses 25 to 24
And, of course, we’re not to be anxious. Don’t worry about your life, the Lord says in verse 25. Don’t worry about the daily necessities: what you’ll eat or drink or wear. There’s more to life than what you’ll eat and wear, so don’t worry about these things as if these are the most important things. Don’t worry about these things. Don’t have sleepless nights over these things. Don’t be anxious about these things.
In fact, there’s no need to worry about these things. Why not? Because doesn’t God take care of the birds of air? Doesn’t he provide for them. And you’re much more important to God than they are. That’s in verse 26.
And there’s no need to worry about these things, because worrying doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s in verse 27. It doesn’t help you in any way. You can’t extend your life by even an hour when you worry. So, why worry?
And there’s no need to worry about these things, because doesn’t God take care of the flowers of the field, which are here today and tomorrow are thrown into the furnace? And you’re much more important to God than the flowers of the field. That’s in verses 28 to 30.
We can expect the pagans to worry about these things, because they don’t know God as their Father. They think it’s up to themselves to get what the need to eat and drink and wear. They don’t know they can depend on God. But believers know they can depend on God. They know they can rely on him. After all, he knows what we need, because he made us. And he’s our Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us. So, instead of being anxious about these things, trust in your Heavenly Father to provide them for us. That’s in verse 32.
And since we don’t need to worry about what we’ll eat and drink and wear, then we can give our attention to more important matters. Instead of seeking first what we’ll eat and and drink and wear, we can seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. In other words, we can give our attention to serving Christ our King and doing what is right in God’s sight. That’s what we’re to think about. That’s what we’re to pay attention to. That’s to be our priority. That’s in verse 33. And look at the Lord’s promise to encourage us. Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness and all these things — the things we need, our daily necessities which the pagans run after — will be given to us. Our Heavenly Father will provide for us.
And the Lord brings this section of the sermon to a close with the conclusion in verse 34. ‘Therefore,’ he says, ‘do not worry about tomorrow.’ Why not? Because tomorrow will worry about itself and each day has enough trouble of its own. By referring to ‘trouble’, he’s acknowledging that life in this world is difficult and every day we’ll have problems to face. And so, think about today’s problems today. Deal with those things today. Don’t worry about what might happen tomorrow. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? But deal with today’s problems today. And how do we deal with today’s problems today? Well, remember the Lord’s prayer? Give us today our daily bread. We bring our needs and our concerns and our problems to God every day, trusting that he’s our Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us and who will provide for us according to his will.
And, of course, he’s our Heavenly Father, because the Lord Jesus Christ gave up his life to pay for our sins and shortcomings and he shed his blood to wash away our guilt. And by offering himself to God as the perfect sacrifice for sins he has made peace for us with God. And through faith in Christ we’re adopted into God’s family so that he’s no longer the judge who will condemn us, but he’s become our Heavenly Father who cares for us. So, don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Don’t have sleepless nights. Trust in the Lord. And when he opens his hand and gives you what you need, then open your hand and share what you’ve received with others.