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

Day 33 – Luke 6:20-49

Say What?

Luke 6:20-49

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” – Luke 6:27-28 NLT

Whenever I read some of the message of Jesus, I can almost hear those in His audience looking around at each other with confused looks on their faces, and shrugging their shoulders, as if to say, “What is He talking about?” Most of us have heard these messages a thousand times and we have grown used to them. But those in Jesus’ audience on the day He delivered these words would have been shocked at what they were hearing. Some of what He said probably sounded like nonsense. How in the world could the poor be blessed by God? For those in the crowd who were hungry because of a lack of food or funds, Jesus’ talk of blessing and satisfaction would have contradicted their experience. If you happened to be in sorrow that day due to the circumstances surrounding your life, having Jesus tell you that a time of laughter was on its way would have sounded hollow. Oh, and it gets better. “What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy!” (Luke 6:22-23 NLT). Now let’s be honest. Think about just how ridiculous that sounds. Now imagine how it must have sounded to the common Jew sitting listening to Jesus speak that day. They were already hated, excluded, mocked and cursed in so many ways. Their own religious leaders looked down on them. Yet here is Jesus promising them more of the same if they would simply follow Him.

Then Jesus really confused them. He began to contradict their long-held concepts regarding prosperity and righteousness. Their faith system had taught them that the blessings of God were materialistic in nature. To be wealthy and prosperous was a sure sign of God’s blessing. Yet Jesus pronounces a series of woes on the rich, fat and happy of His day. He paints a completely different picture on how to view these things. Basically, Jesus says that those who find their fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction in the things of this world, instead of in God, will someday be sorely disappointed. The tables will be turned. The justice of God will set all things right. This message would have been a shock to the system of His hearers. All they had been taught and believed would have been turned on its head by Jesus’ words.

And then He really rocked their boat by giving them a whole new way of relating to their enemies. For the Jews, enemies were everywhere. They were then, as they are now, a despised people. They were under the iron-fisted rule Rome. Their entire history had been one of constant wars, living as a conquered people, putting up with oppression, captivity and the degradation of living as little more than slaves in their own land. But Jesus tells them to love their enemies, to do good to those who hated them, to bless those who cursed them, to pray for those who hurt them. This was radical stuff. Not only that, it was impossible. These requirements would have seemed onerous and off-setting to the Jews in Jesus’ audience. His suggestion to turn the other cheek would have sounded ridiculous and repulsive to their middle eastern sensibilities.

But what Jesus was doing was clarifying the standard by which God judges. Jesus tells them, “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6: 32 NLT). Doing good to those who return the favor takes no special capability. Anyone can pull that off. What Jesus is suggesting is impossible. It goes against our very nature as human beings. But it is the very nature of God. Which is why Jesus told them, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36 NLT). He is the standard. And what God wants from His people is godliness, not just more humanness. Our humanness is what got us into trouble in the first place. It is our very humanity that will be the death of humanity. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells them “Imitate God, therefore in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT). What Jesus is describing for His listeners is the life of a believer. But He was still in His incarnate or earthly state. He had yet to die, be resurrected or ascend back to heaven. The Holy Spirit had yet to be given. The lifestyle He was describing WAS impossible. Apart from a relationship with Christ, none of these things would be possible. Later on in His ministry Jesus would say, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). But those who placed their faith in Jesus Christ would be given the power to pull off what Jesus was saying. Their live would be marked by a new set of rules, new power, a new nature, and new capacity for living in the difficult surroundings of this fallen world. Jesus closes out his message with a promise. Those who would listen to His teaching and follow Him, all the way to the cross, would have a firm foundation on which to stand amidst the storms of life. They would receive the power to thrive in this world and live a distinctively different life just like the one Jesus describes in this passage. And we who are in Christ today, are the recipients and beneficiaries of that promise.

Father, even today, some of what Jesus said sounds so impossible. But never let me forget that all of this is only possible through Your grace and mercy. I need Your power to pull it off. If I try to do it in my own strength I will fail. But with You all things are possible and apart from Christ I can do nothing. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men