Divided Allegiance

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, 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. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:19-24 ESV

The kingdom life is an other-worldly life. In other words, the kind of life Jesus is describing is not natural to this world. It is marked by…

heavenly values, not earthly ones

…an eternal perspective, not a temporal one

For the average Jew, material prosperity was viewed as a sign of God’s blessing. Affluence was proof of God’s approval. To have much was to be loved much by God. But in this section of His sermon, Jesus refutes that mindset.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures in earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19, 20, 21 ESV

Jesus is attempting to shift the focus of His audience from earth to heaven. He is promoting an eternal mindset over a temporal one. Jesus knew that His fellow Jews were predisposed toward a life focused on the here-and-now. Their desires were driven by the temporal pleasures this world offers. Even King Solomon, the son of David, shared their propensity for earthly pleasures and treasures.

I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 NLT

Solomon sadly concluded that It was all meaningless in the end because you can’t take it with you. None of it was capable of delivering what it promised. And Jesus told a parable with a similar lesson:

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:15-21 NLT

A right relationship with God for eternity versus a rich lifestyle that ends in death. The problem is not with the temporal things themselves, but with the affections we have for them. And Paul provides us with some insight into how we should refocus our attention on those things that truly matter.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. – Colossians 3:1-4 NLT

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NLT

Money and materialism are not the cause of our problem. It is our inordinate love of them that causes us so much pain and sorrow.

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. – 1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT

The treasures of this earth offer short-term returns on our investment in them. They are temporal, not eternal. Instead, we are to treasure that which is lasting. And we are to set our eyes on the things of God. Which is what Jesus reveals in verse 22:

Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. – vs 22

The word “healthy” in Greek is haplous (hah-ploos), and it means “single, whole, singleness of purpose, undivided loyalty.” Jesus is saying that your eye, like a lamp, is to have a single purpose. The one who is approved by God is to have unswerving loyalty to God’s kingdom purposes. Jesus is talking about heart fidelity toward God. The good eye is the one fixed on God, unwavering in its gaze, and constant in its focus. We should not suffer from a “wandering eye.” An eye that has a single focus will have a single byproduct: Light (purity).

…but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. – vs 23

The word “bad” in Greek is ponēros (pah-ney-rahs), and it means “bad, blind, or wicked.” Jesus is referring to spiritual blindness or an inability to focus on the right things. It results in darkness (a void of God’s precepts). A dim light is a light without focus or purpose. It results in darkness. The one who is approved by God will live a life of single-mindedness. Consider the following Old Testament passages regarding the one with a “bad eye.”

A stingy man [a man whose eye is evil] hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. – Proverbs 28:22 ESV

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; [a man whose eye is evil] do not desire his delicacies. – Proverbs 23:6 ESV

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, “The seventh year, the year of release is near,” and your eye look grudgingly [be evil] on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. – Deuteronomy 15:9 ESV

In verse 25, Jesus sums up this part of his message with a warning about duplicity or divided allegiance.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24 ESV

This is about loyalty. It forces us to ask the question, “What do we love most, the things of this earth or the kingdom of God?” During trials, our true allegiances get revealed. When we face the potential loss of those things we love dearly, our true affections get exposed.

You can’t serve the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this earth equally. That’s why Jesus calls us to have an eternal perspective. When we love the things of this world, it becomes obvious, and our love shows up in the form of anxiety. Worry is a common malady to all men, regardless of income level or social status. We worry about not having enough or losing what we already have. Five times in 10 verses, Jesus uses the word “anxious,” and He ties it to temporal, earthly things:

  • Life
  • Food and drink
  • The body
  • Clothes
  • The future (on earth)

In contrast, Jesus reminds us that those who are approved by God trust Him for all of the following things:

  • Life
  • Food and drink
  • Our bodies
  • Our clothes
  • The future

We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Our allegiance is to be undivided – focusing on Him and Him alone. God knows what we need, and He can provide for those needs. But notice Jesus’ emphasis on NEEDS and not wants. We have a tendency to turn wants into needs. It is not enough to be clothed – we want to be richly clothed. It is not enough to be fed – we want to be well fed. It is not enough to have health – want to be immune to all illnesses. It is not enough to have life – we have to have abundant life (on our terms). So we want, and we worry. But when we make the things of this earth our focus, the desire for them produces unwarranted worry and unnecessary anxiety.

Consider these two reminders about worry, one from the lips of Jesus and the other from the pens of Peter and Paul.

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. – Matthew 13:22 NLT

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT

Worldly pleasures and treasures produce divided allegiance and result in worry and stress. But when we make God our focus and the treasures He has laid up for us our greatest desire, we will be truly blessed and find that there is no reason for worry. Our God will meet all our needs, both now and for eternity.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Contentment vs Covetousness.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

If, as Jesus has suggested, we are supposed to be laying up treasures in heaven and not on earth, then why would we need to worry so much about the things of this earth? And if, as He has already pointed out, our hearts are to focus on heaven, where our treasure is, then the things of this earth should have far less appeal to us than they normally do. And yet, as followers of Christ, we find ourselves just as anxious about and attracted to the things of this earth as anyone else. We have financial concerns. We worry about how to pay the bills and how to put food on the table. We get anxious about everything from the brand of clothes we buy to where we’re going to take our next vacation. But Jesus reminds us “not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT). Those in Jesus’ audience that day were probably a lot more justified in worrying about these kinds of things. They were most likely common laborers, farmers, and fishermen. Their daily lives were marked by a constant struggle to provide food and decent clothes for their families. For the fishermen, the next catch was never a sure thing. For the farmer, his hard work preparing the soil and planting the crops was never a guarantee of a good harvest. He was at the mercy of the weather and the whims of nature. So, when Jesus tells them not to worry about life, it is as if He is telling them not to breathe. 

The real issue Jesus seems to be addressing here is faith or the lack of it. He even refers to them as “you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). Their worry and anxiety reveals their lack of trust in God. Part of their problem was that they were putting all their stock in the things of this earth. They were consumed by worry over things. Their “treasure” was not in heaven, but on this earth. They were expecting all of God’s blessings here and now, in the form of earthly treasures. But they weren’t even trusting Him to provide those things. They worked for them and worried about them. They struggled to provide for themselves, rather than trusting God to give them what they needed. And like so many of us today, they believed the solution to their problems was always more money. And yet, Jesus told them, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24 ESV). In their culture, money was a sign of God’s blessing. It was tangible proof that you were approved by God. But Jesus is telling them something quite different. Followers of God are to put their trust in God. They are to turn to Him for their needs, whether it be clothes or food. While God may choose to provide money as a means to meet those needs, money is not to be seen as our savior. God alone provides what we need. He may choose to bless us with little or with much. He may determine that our needs are far less than we believed them to be. The clothes God provides for us may not be the brands or styles we prefer. But if our real worry is about being clothed, that shouldn’t matter to us. The problem seems to be that our worry revolves around status, not survival. Few of us are anxious about where we are going to get out next meal. But we do get concerned about how many times per week we get to eat out. Our worry is not about putting food on the table, but about the quality of life we desire.

Our constant worry about things reveals our lack of faith in God. It also exposes our love affair with the things of this earth. Too often, we seek our satisfaction in things. We attempt to find our self-worth in the quantity and quality of our possessions. Our houses, clothes, and cars become outward symbols of our status. And yet, Jesus would ask why we worry about all those things. He would want to know why we don’t trust God to meet our needs. God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field, so what are we so worried about? Jesus even reminds us that thoughts of food and clothing “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs” (Matthew 6:32 NLT). God knows our needs. So, maybe the problem is that we need to ask God what it is we really need. We have our list of needs and He has His. We bring ours to Him and demand that He provide all that we ask for. And when He doesn’t, we get concerned and, sometimes, even angry. We wonder why He doesn’t love us, why He doesn’t provide for us. But too often, we have turned wants into needs. We have allowed our love for the things of this earth to replace our love for God and our faith in Him. We measure His goodness based on what we believe to be His generosity. The more He gives us, the more we think He loves us. But Jesus reminds us that God promises to meet our needs. And our attitude should be like that of Paul:

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13 NLT

Contentment versus covetousness. That’s the problem. We must learn to trust God, to put our faith in Him, knowing that He loves us and has His best in store for us. God has promised to meet our needs. And He has also assured us that our greatest treasure is laid up for us in heaven, not on this earth. We are citizens of another kingdom. This world is not our home. And the things of this earth that we spend so much time coveting and worrying about will not last. They will rust, decay, and fall apart. They are temporal. They are the things the unbelievers seek and desire. But for children of God, our treasure is to be elsewhere. Our trust is to be in something other than the things of this earth. We are to trust Him – for everything. Which is why Jesus tells us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). We are to seek His kingdom, not our own. We are to seek His brand of righteousness, as made available through faith in Christ. The quantity of our treasures on earth is not an indicator of our right standing with God. The number of material blessings we seem to enjoy on this earth should not make us think we are somehow blessed by God. Our treasures are in heaven. Our hope is in God. And our faith is strong because our God is faithful.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

You of Little Faith.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

If, as Jesus has suggested, we are supposed to be laying up treasures in heaven and not on earth, why do we spend so much time to worrying about the stuff down here? And if, as He has already pointed out, our hearts are to focus on heaven, where our treasure is, then shouldn’t the things of this earth have far less appeal to us than they actually do? And yet, as followers of Christ, we find ourselves just as anxious about and attracted to the things of this earth as anyone else. We have financial concerns. We worry about how to pay the bills and put food on the table. We get anxious about everything from the brand of clothes we buy to where we’re going to take our next vacation. But Jesus reminds us “not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.” Then He asks us, “Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT).

Those people sitting on the hillside listening to Jesus’ message were probably a lot more justified in worrying about these kinds of things than we should be. They were most likely common laborers, farmers, and fishermen. Their daily life was a struggle to provide food and decent clothes for their families. For the fishermen, the next catch was never a sure thing. For the farmer, his hard work preparing the soil and planting the crops was never a guarantee of a good harvest. He was at the mercy of the weather and the whims of nature. So, when Jesus tells them not to worry about life, it is as if He is telling them not to breathe. 

The real issue Jesus seems to be addressing here is faith or the lack of it. He even refers to them as “you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). Their worry and anxiety reveal their lack of trust in God. Part of their problem was that they were putting all their stock in the things of this earth. They were consumed by worry over material matters. Their “treasure” was not in heaven but on this earth. They were expecting all of God’s blessings here and now, in the form of earthly treasures. But they weren’t even trusting Him to provide those things. They worked for them and worried about them. They struggled to provide for themselves, rather than trusting God to give them what they needed. And like so many of us today, they believed the solution to their problems was always more money.

Yet, Jesus told them, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24 ESV). In their culture, money was a sign of God’s blessing. It was tangible proof that you were approved by God. But Jesus is telling them something quite different. Followers of God are to put their trust in Him. They are to turn to Him for their needs, whether it be for clothes or food.

While God may choose to provide money as a means to meet those needs, money is not to be seen as our savior. God alone provides what we need. He may choose to bless us with little or with much. He may determine that our needs are far less than we believed them to be. The clothes God provides for us may not be the brands or styles we prefer. But if our real worry is about being clothed, the label on the garment should not matter to us.

The problem seems to be that our worry revolves around status, not survival. Few of us are anxious about where we are going to get our next meal. But we do get concerned about how many times per week we get to dine out. Our worry is not about putting food on the table, but about the quality of life we desire.

Our constant anxiety over things reveals our lack of faith in God. It also exposes our love affair with the things of this earth. Too often, we seek our satisfaction in material goods. We attempt to find our self-worth in the quantity and quality of our possessions. Our houses, clothes, and cars become outward symbols of our status. And yet, Jesus would ask why we worry about all these things. He would want to know why we don’t trust God to meet our needs. God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field, so what are we so worried about?

Jesus even reminds us that thoughts of food and clothing “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs” (Matthew 6:32 NLT). God knows our needs. So, maybe the problem is that we have failed to ask God what it is we really need. We have our list and He has His. We bring our lengthy catalog of concerns to Him and demand that He provide every item on it and on our timelines. And when He doesn’t, we get concerned and, sometimes, even angry. We wonder why He doesn’t love us, why He doesn’t provide for us. But too often, we have simply turned wants into needs. We have allowed our love for the things of this earth to replace our love for God and our faith in Him. We measure His goodness based on what we believe to be His generosity. The more He gives us, the more we think He loves us. But Jesus reminds us that God promises to meet our needs. And our attitude should be like that of Paul:

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13 NLT

Contentment versus covetousness. That’s the problem. We must learn to trust God, to put our faith in Him, knowing that He loves us and has our best in mind. God has promised to meet our needs. And He has also assured us that our greatest treasure is laid up for us in heaven, not on this earth. We are citizens of another kingdom. This world is not our home, and the things of this earth that we spend so much time coveting and worrying about will not last. They will rust, decay, and fall apart because they are temporal. They are what the unbelievers seek and desire.

But as children of God, our treasure is to be elsewhere. Our trust is to be in something other than the things of this earth. We are to trust Him – for everything. Which is why Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). We are to long for His kingdom, not our own. We are to seek His brand of righteousness, as made available through faith in Christ. The quantity of our treasures on earth is not an indicator of our right standing with God. The number of material blessings we seem to enjoy on this earth is not to make us think we are somehow blessed by God. Our treasures are in heaven. Our hopes are in God. And our faith should be strong because our God is faithful.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Earthly Treasures and Pleasures.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, 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. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:19-24 ESV

The kingdom life is an other-worldly life. In other words, the kind of life Jesus is describing is not natural to this world. It is marked by…

heavenly values, not earthly ones

…an eternal perspective, not a temporal one

For the average Jew, material prosperity was viewed as a sign of God’s blessing. Affluence was proof of God’s approval. To have much was to be loved much by God. But in this section of His sermon, Jesus refutes that mindset.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures in earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19, 20, 21 ESV

Jesus is attempting to shift the focus of His audience from earth to heaven. He is promoting an eternal mindset over a temporal one. Jesus knew that His fellow Jews were predisposed toward a life focused on the here-and-now. Their desires were driven by the temporal pleasures this world offers. Even King Solomon, the son of David, shared their propensity for earthly pleasures and treasures.

I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 NLT

Solomon sadly concluded that It was all meaningless in the end because you can’t take it with you. None of it was capable of delivering what it promised. And Jesus told a parable with a similar lesson:

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:15-21 NLT

A right relationship with God for eternity versus a rich lifestyle that ends in death. The problem is not with the temporal things themselves, but with the affections we have for them. And Paul provides us with some insight into how we should refocus our attention on those things that truly matter.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. – Colossians 3:1-4 NLT

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NLT

Money and materialism are not the cause of our problem. It is our inordinate love of them that causes us so much pain and sorrow.

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. – 1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT

The treasures of this earth offer short-term returns on our investment in them. They are temporal, not eternal. Instead, we are to treasure that which is lasting. And we are to set our eyes on the things of God. Which is what Jesus reveals in verse 22:

Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. – vs 22

The word “healthy” in Greek is haplous (hah-ploos), and it means “single, whole, singleness of purpose, undivided loyalty.” Jesus is saying that your eye, like a lamp, is to have a single purpose. The one who is approved by God is to have unswerving loyalty to God’s kingdom purposes. Jesus is talking about heart fidelity toward God. The good eye is the one fixed on God, unwavering in its gaze, and constant in its focus. We should not suffer from a “wandering eye.” An eye that has a single focus will have a single byproduct: Light (purity).

…but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. – vs 23

The word “bad” in Greek is ponēros (pah-ney-rahs), and it means “bad, blind, or wicked.” Jesus is referring to spiritual blindness or an inability to focus on the right things. It results in darkness (a void of God’s precepts). A dim light is a light without focus or purpose. It results in darkness. The one who is approved by God will live a life of single-mindedness. Consider the following Old Testament passages regarding the one with a “bad eye.”

A stingy man [a man whose eye is evil] hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. – Proverbs 28:22 ESV

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; [a man whose eye is evil] do not desire his delicacies. – Proverbs 23:6 ESV

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, “The seventh year, the year of release is near,” and your eye look grudgingly [be evil] on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. – Deuteronomy 15:9 ESV

In verse 25, Jesus sums up this part of his message with a warning about duplicity or divided allegiance.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24 ESV

This is about loyalty. It forces us to ask the question, “What do we love most, the things of this earth or the kingdom of God?” During trials, our true allegiances get revealed. When we face the potential loss of those things we love dearly, our true affections get exposed.

You can’t serve the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this earth equally. That’s why Jesus calls us to have an eternal perspective. When we love the things of this world, it becomes obvious, and our love shows up in the form of anxiety. Worry is a common malady to all men, regardless of income level or social status. We worry about not having enough or losing what we already have. Five times in 10 verses, Jesus uses the word “anxious,” and He ties it to temporal, earthly things:

  • Life
  • Food and drink
  • The body
  • Clothes
  • The future (on earth)

In contrast, Jesus reminds us that those who are approved by God trust Him for all of the following things:

  • Life
  • Food and drink
  • Our bodies
  • Our clothes
  • The future

We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Our allegiance is to be undivided – focusing on Him and Him alone. God knows what we need, and He can provide for those needs. But notice Jesus’ emphasis on NEEDS and not wants. We have a tendency to turn wants into needs. It is not enough to be clothed – we want to be richly clothed. It is not enough to be fed – we want to be well fed. It is not enough to have health – want to be immune to all illnesses. It is not enough to have life – we have to have abundant life (on our terms). So we want, and we worry. But when we make the things of this earth our focus, the desire for them produces unwarranted worry and unnecessary anxiety.

Consider these two reminders about worry, one from the lips of Jesus and the other from the pens of Peter and Paul.

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. – Matthew 13:22 NLT

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT

Worldly pleasures and treasures produce divided allegiance and result in worry and stress. But when we make God our focus and the treasures He has laid up for us our greatest desire, we will be truly blessed and find that there is no reason for worry. Our God will meet all our needs, both now and for eternity.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Permanent Peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV

We could all use a little peace. We live in the midst of turmoil. Our lives are inundated with all kinds of demands and surrounded with a thousand different distractions. Technology, designed to make our lives easier, has actually ended up being little more than a huge distraction and time-waster. Phone messages, emails, texts and Facebook requests constantly interrupt our days. Our calendars are jammed. Our schedules are crammed. And our peace disappears under the pressure of it all. And that doesn’t even include all that is going on around us in the world. The news is rarely good. The media provides nothing but a steady diet of stories that leave us either restless, dissatisfied, and fearful about the future. And we long for peace. Which is exactly what Paul prayed for – the peace of God – the Lord of peace. What we all need is peace and the kind of peace that only God can provide. This world can’t provide us with peace. The things of this world are incapable of bringing a sense of peace. Like everything else associated with the Christian life, peace must come from God.

Paul was a student of the Old Testament Scriptures and he was highly familiar with the Pentateuch. So he was well aware of what it says is Deuteronomy 6:26: “May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” God’s favor carries the idea of Him looking on His people favorably. Rather than looking away in anger at their sins, He looks on them with mercy, grace and love. And that should bring us peace, a sense of calm, tranquility, contentment and joy – even in the midst of all that is going on around us. The God of the universe, the creator of all things, loves us. When everything is falling apart around us, we can know that God loves us, because He sent His Son to die for us. He cares for us. He has His best in store for us. And that sense of His love, care, and compassion should bring us peace. But the peace Paul prayed for was more than just personal or individual peace. He also longed for peace between brothers and sisters in Christ. The Greek word is eirēnē, and it can mean, “peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord.” When we get under stress and find ourselves in turmoil, it is easy to get crossways with one another. We can begin to point fingers, pass blame, grow distrustful, resentful and angry with one another. But God’s desire is that we live together in unity. In fact, Jesus Himself prayed for that very thing on the night He would be betrayed: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21 ESV). Oneness, unity, peace – the state of corporate harmony experienced by God’s people as they learn to rely upon Him. The Psalmist reminds us, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 NLT).

 Peace. It’s what we all need. But it seems so illusive and impossible to find. But we tend to look in the wrong places. We seek it from the wrong sources. We must never forget that when sin entered into the world, God’s peace, His shalom, was shattered. The garden, once a place of uninterrupted communion with God, became marred by the rebelliousness of Adam and Eve. Their desire to be like God brought a disruption to the tranquility of their environment and permanently damaged their relationship with God. Peace was quickly replaced with chaos. Joy was replaced with sorrow. Intimacy with God was replaced by enmity with God. But the prophet Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah came, all of this would change. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Long before Jesus appeared on the scene, Isaiah predicted His sacrificial death on the cross and the amazing reality of restored peace with God made available to us through His death and resurrection. Paul tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 ESV). We are at peace with God. He looks on us favorably and lovingly. All because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. But we need to be constantly reminded of our new status with Him. We are no longer enemies of God. We are no longer alienated from Him because of our sin. We are His children and He loves us. And that very fact should bring us peace – even in the midst of the storms of life. Paul reminds us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

Proverbs 27e

Worth Reflecting On.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” – Proverbs 27:19 NLT

What’s the state of your heart today? Not the organ that pumps blood through your body, but your inner man. The word “heart” is the Hebrew word leb, and it refers to man’s mind, will, heart, and understanding. It has to do with that inner part of us that drives us, motivates us and determines who we are and what we do. The heart is the seat of our emotions, the center of our decision-making, and the determiner of our actions. That’s why this proverb compares looking into our heart to see who we are really like to looking at our reflection in a calm body of water. It is when we take a long, honest look at out heart – and closely examine our will, choices, loves, decisions, and attitudes, that we will gain a true picture of who we really are. But too often we ignore the condition of the heart, in ourselves and in others. Instead, we judge one another based on externals. We judge based on what we see on the surface. But that can be deceptive and dangerous. We have the capacity to manufacture outward behavior that is designed to influence what others think of us. We can come across as self-confident, happy, successful, with all our proverbial ducks in a row. We can fool others into thinking that we have our act together. But on the inside, we can be a fractured mess. We can be a muddled mix of discontentment, anger, resentment, depression, fear, and anxiety. Our hearts can be far from God, but we have learned to sleep-walk our way through life, going through the motions and faking a form of piety that is purely surface-based, lacking any kind of depth or basis in reality. Others look at us and see us as having it together. But in time, the truth will come out. Our hearts will get exposed.

As believers, we must learn to look at the heart. That is where God focuses His attention. Back when God had sent the prophet Samuel to look for a candidate to replace Saul as king of Israel, He gave Samuel a piece of important advice: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). The Lord looks at the heart. He isn’t impressed with outward appearances. He is not swayed by our swagger or blown away by our pious play-acting. He looks right into our hearts and sees what we’re really like. And we need to learn to do the same thing. But to do so is going to require a level of honesty and self-evaluation that is scary. We will have to use the Word of God to expose us for what we truly are. We are going to have to ask God to reveal all the flaws and faults that reside inside us. Rather than make excuses for our behavior, we will have to take the time to see what really motivated us to do what we did or say what we said. Instead of passing blame, we will have to consider the state of our own heart. Because the heart is the key to all that we do. The circumstances of life do not cause our behavior, they simply reveal what’s inside. A man with anger and resentment in his heart does not need much to trigger and release what’s inside. He will explode at the least little provocation. A fearful person does not require much for his fear to find its way to the surface. His fear will leak out at the least little sign of danger. The lustful person will find himself struggling with lust in the most unlikely of scenarios, because his problem is internal, not external.

Taking a long, hard look at the heart is a scary proposition. It requires a degree of honesty and transparency that is unheard of and uncommon in our day. We don’t want to see what’s in there. We don’t want to have to expose the hidden areas inside us that are the true motivator behind our attitudes and actions. We would much rather pass blame, make excuses, and continue our charade of false piety. But God looks at the heart. He examines and exposes its true condition. And He wants to change us from the inside out. So He goes to the source. He deals with the root problem. And so should we.

Father, give me the gumption to take a long, hard look at my heart. Help me see it as You do. I can’t see it without Your help. Open my eyes and help me see its true condition. Then give me the strength to change, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org