In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus teaches us that we must not be graspers, anxiously in pursuit of the kind of earthly treasure that does not last. He teaches us not to seek our comfort in things that perish. Instead, we are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, with the promise that all these other things will be added.
God must be your Lord, not mammon (money and the things that money can buy). And so, Jesus teaches us,
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. (Matthew 6:19-20)
This should be self-evident, but Jesus knows our weakness, and one of our weaknesses is that we tend to go in for shoddy investments. We see mammon as a means of gain whereas mammon is actually a means of demonstrating the generosity and mercy of God.
Jesus knows that our hearts are dull and so provides us with some insider trading on where to set up our hedge fund.
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)
We mis-position true wealth for two reasons. First, because our hearts are easily deceived. Treasure is a witness. It testifies to the condition of your heart. Where your treasures are buried determines where your heart will go.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)
Why store up treasure in heaven? Because that’s where Jesus is. That’s where true certainty is. That’s where neither rust, moth nor thief destroys or steals.
The other reason we mis-position wealth is that our eyesight is poor.
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! (Matthew 6:22-23)
Verse 22 literally reads, “if your eye is single.” In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus says, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good?”
These workers did not like the fact that those who only worked an hour got paid as much as those who had worked all day. The problem, Jesus says, is that they had an evil eye. Jesus had His eye on the opportunity for undeserved mercy while these workers had their eye on the money.
The good eye is the eye fixed singularly on mercy, not money. The good eye knows what money is for and sees it as an opportunity to extend mercy and show hospitality and generosity to others (Ephesians 4:28).
Those who have a good eye do not look inward and ask, “What must I give up?” Instead, they look outwards and ask, “What can I give away?”
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Our earthly goods are to be used in such a way that shows that Jesus and His salvation and His righteousness are our treasure. We bear witness to that with our mammon — our stuff.
Cold water is currency (Matthew 10:42). Every glass you give to a needy or thirsty traveller is money in the bank.
Jesus concludes with the obvious. You cannot serve two masters.
For the one who sees the true value of God’s righteousness and God’s mercy, money is the servant. Such a person has an eye for justice and righteousness, supporting widows and orphans and welcoming the stranger at their gate.
The one who honours money more than God is consumed with how much it cost, the lack of money in their purse, and envy.
Moreover, the Christian worldview is not just a wider take on the secular worldview. Our boast is not that we are “savers” while the others — those over there — are “gamblers”. Our boast is in the mercy and generosity of God, as witnessed by what we do with our own stuff because God is what we treasure most.
Money wants your undivided attention. So does God. Money promises comfort and security. So does God.
In the gospel, generosity is the means by which we draw attention to God’s righteousness. This is the way the world works because it is the way Jesus works in saving us. This He does by laying down His earthly life for the sake of our everlasting life. The good eye sees this and rejoices.