Stop worrying!

Don’t worry – trust in God (Matthew 6:25-34)
One morning Death was walking into a city when a man stopped him and asked what he was doing. Death answered, “I’m going into the city to kill 10,000 people.” The man replied, “That’s terrible that you would kill 10,000 people.” Death responded, “Taking people when their time has come is my job. Today I have to get my 10,000.” Later, as Death was coming out of the city, the man met him. Again, he was furious. He said, “You told me this morning that you were going to take 10,000 people, but 70,000 died today.” Death answered, “Don’t get mad at me. I only took 10,000. Worry killed all the rest.”

Worry has an uncanny knack for killing people. The poet Robert Frost (1874–1963) wrote, “The reason why worry kills more people than work is because more people worry than work.” Seriously, worry has become an American pastime. For many people, worry has become so ingrained in their personalities that once the old worries are gone they search for new ones. They’ve become dependent on worry as a lens through which to view life, and they’ve forgotten any other way to live. Is there reason to be worried today? Most people would say there is. High energy costs, a worsening economy, rogue nuclear nations, threats of terrorism, widespread job layoffs, and tension in the Middle East—all these make for uncertain times. Economic stress is taking its toll on Americans’ emotional and physical health. Surveys show that more than half of Americans report irritability, anger, fatigue, or sleeplessness. Almost half say they self-medicate by overeating or indulging in unhealthy foods. Money and the economy topped the list of stressors for at least 80 percent of those surveyed. Finances now overshadow the more typical daily stressors of work and relationships.

Fortunately, in the midst of a world of “worry-warts,” Jesus isn’t worried. Even better, He has a definitive Word for you. In Matthew 6:25–34, He says, “Don’t worry, be hopeful.” Now there are some passages in the New Testament that are difficult to interpret, but this is not one of them. Jesus uses the word “worry” six times and He says, “Don’t worry” three times. Jesus is against high anxiety and unhealthy worry. Consequently, He provides two reasons you shouldn’t worry.

1. Worry is an exercise in futility (6:25–30). Jesus promises to meet your needs because He cares for you. He begins this section with a negative command: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on” (6:25a). The phrase “For this reason” ties back to 6:24. Jesus’ point is: If you can’t serve God and money, then you can’t worry about the material things that money can buy. The phrase “do not be worried” can be literally translated “stop worrying.” Jesus wants His followers to stop worrying over food, drink, and clothes because He will meet their basic material needs. Now, I need to put forth two disclaimers.
First, don’t worry doesn’t mean don’t plan. The King James Version translates the phrase “do not be worried” as “take no thought.” This is misleading because it gives the impression that future planning is unnecessary. Over the years, many people have mistakenly assumed that this is a prohibition against career ambition, financial planning, and life insurance. But this is not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is pro-planning! He wants you to work hard and plan for your future. To do otherwise is to be foolish.
Second, don’t worry doesn’t mean don’t be concerned. If you’re not concerned about your children playing near traffic, you’re a terrible parent. If you’re not concerned about your health, you’re a fast-food junkie. You need to have some degree of healthy concern. Otherwise you won’t meet deadlines or go in for medical checkups. The root idea of the verb “worry” (merimnao) means “to be pulled apart.” There’s a difference between concern and worry. Concern is when you can do something to help a situation, so you do what you can do. Worry is when you can’t do something, but you don’t want to leave it up to God. In other words, worry is concern gone haywire. You can spiritualize it all you want, but worry is a sin. If you are a worrying Christian, you are a sinning Christian. It doesn’t carry much weight with Jesus that He’s your first love, then you act like you can’t trust Him to look after you. Worry is a hideous sin to God because it is an indictment against Him, a slap at His love.
Jesus now gives four reasons why you shouldn’t worry.
o God will ensure your survival. Jesus says, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (6:25b) Jesus provides an argument from the greater to the lesser. Since God gave you life, He can surely sustain that life. Almost tongue-in-cheek Jesus says, “If you are going to worry, at least worry about something important, such as your life.” We worry whether we are going to have enough to eat. Jesus says we better worry about whether we are going to be alive to chew. God says, “If I’m going to wake you up tomorrow, I’m going to feed you. Now which is easier? Feeding you or waking you up? Don’t worry about breakfast tomorrow. Worry about whether your heart is going to stop tonight. Worry about whether I’m going to keep your brain working and your heart pumping. If you’re determined to worry, worry about that.” Now most of us don’t worry about stuff like that. We assume when we go to bed at night that we are going to wake up the next day. Jesus says, “If God has the power to keep you alive and wake you up tomorrow, then He will see to it that you have something to eat and something to wear tomorrow.” If you buy into a Creator God, you must buy into a Sustainer God—or you’re simply inconsistent. On a much smaller scale, if a jeweler gives you an expensive diamond ring as a gift, will he give you a box to put it in? Of course he will! The gift of the ring assumes a box. Similarly, if the Lord gives you life, He will take care of that life. Jesus anticipates a follow-up question: God can provide, but will He provide?

o God will meet your material needs. Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not worth much more than they?” (6:26) Jesus now moves from the lesser to the greater. The word translated “look” (emblepo) is a compound verb that can be translated “take a good look at.” Since humankind is created in the image of God, men and women are far more valuable to God than birds (Matt 10:31; 12:12). Birds expend energy in doing what is natural, such as building nests and collecting food for their young, yet it is actually God who feeds and clothes them (cf. Psalm 104:10–16). The point is that when Jesus’ disciples are responsible to carry out the proper ways of life as ordained by God, God is faithful to carry out His responsibilities.

At one time or another, you have likely heard from a parent, a sibling, a teacher, employer, or spouse the message, “You are unlovable.” Words like, “Can’t you do anything right?” or “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “What’s wrong with you anyway?” or “I’ve found someone else.” These words erode your sense of value until you start to doubt whether even God loves you. Yet, the last phrase of 6:26 demonstrates your value to God. If He cares for the birds, how much more valuable are you? Don’t worry, be hopeful.

o God will grant your allotted days. Jesus says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (6:27). Worrying may actually shorten your life. Are you worrying so much that you’re losing sleep? God stays up all night, so why should you? You’re the one who needs to sleep! There was a man who began to worry that he would get cancer. The serious disease had been prevalent in his family, so he began to worry about it. He worried about it for thirty years and then suddenly died of a heart attack. Worrying is such a waste of time. Should you be concerned about your health? Absolutely. Should you do the best you can to stay healthy? Absolutely. But after you’ve done all that you can do, don’t worry. To worry is to insult the God who has your life under control. The word worry comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word that means “to choke” or “to strangle.” That’s an apt description of what worry does to us. Worry won’t stretch our savings account, bring back that prodigal son or daughter, or keep cancer or senility at bay. But it will cause us to lose sleep. It will give us ulcers, high blood pressure, and headaches. It will sour our mood and distance our friends and eventually stifle our relationship with God. It not only has physical consequences, it has spiritual consequences as well.

Worry is basically like rocking—it will get you started as you move back and forth, but it’s never going to take you anywhere. It’s futile to sit in a rocking chair and think that you’re going to get to work on time, and it’s just as futile to think that worrying is going to do anything to resolve some difficulty in your life. It accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t put more money in the bank; it doesn’t make your body well; it doesn’t reverse a decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

o God will cover your external appearance. Jesus says, “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (6:28–30) Jesus says, “Don’t be worried about what you will wear. Just look at the flowers.” At first glance, Jesus’ words about the lilies, like the birds, are lovely, but they are not very compelling. Sure, birds and lilies don’t worry about life, but they also don’t have mortgages, car payments, grocery bills, and college tuitions to keep them awake at night. Yet, here, Jesus says, “God will meet your need for clothing.” You may not be decked out in designer wear, but you’ll have what you need. The verb “observe” is a strong word. It means more than just a mere casual glance. It means to study the beauty of the flowers.

The emphasis shifts slightly in 6:30 where Jesus speaks of the clothing of “the grass of the field.” Like flowers, grass is transient and even less impressive. Yet, God clothes the grass whether we fertilize it or not. Jesus longs for you to learn a lesson from the flowers and grass. He closes with a rebuke: “You of little faith,” which is an expression only directed to Jesus’ disciples. It indicates not an absence of faith but deficiency of faith. Jesus is saying, “Trust God to meet your needs.” God’s trustworthiness is the issue. Did God take care of you yesterday? What about the day before? What about the day before that? Then, how come you’re worried today? What kind of Father do you have? Some people have sufficient faith to believe God will get them to heaven but not enough to believe He will get them through the next twenty-four hours. They are absolutely confident of the sweet-by-and-by but are terrified of the nasty here-and-now.

Fog can blanket a city for seven blocks and be as much as 100 feet deep. But if you could take that fog and change it into water, it would only fill up a single glass. Worry is like a gigantic fog that can blind you and cause you to take your eyes off of the Lord. But when you see worry for what it really is, you realize that it is nothing more than a mere glass of water. When you try to actually grab onto the worry that you are consumed with, it is so fleeting that it isn’t even there. Jesus says, “God will guide you through the fog of worry if you let Him lead the way. He alone can overcome your worries. Don’t worry, be hopeful.
[Worry is an exercise in futility. Why is this so? For the simple reason that Jesus will meet our material needs. Jesus now provides a second reason we shouldn’t worry.]
2. Worry is a demonstration of faithlessness (6:31–34). These verses repeat the prohibition from 6:25, summarize the reasons for 6:26–30, and draw a conclusion. Jesus says, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’” The prohibition is stated in 6:31: “Do not worry.” The grammar in 6:31 is different than 6:25. Here, Jesus is saying, “Do not begin worrying” (cf. Phil 4:6). In 6:32–33 two reasons are given for why you should not worry.
First, “the Gentiles [i.e. the unconverted] eagerly seek all these things” (6:32a). In Jesus’ day, the pagans pursued food, drink, and clothing because they didn’t know God as a loving Father. They were tormented by anxiety because they believed their future was in the hands of Fate and Fortune. Jesus is saying that worry is practical atheism. When you and I worry, we are behaving just like unbelievers. Do I ever worry? Of course I do. I have many responsibilities and pressures. Yet, my desire is for worry to be a small town I pass through, not a place to hang my hat. I want worry to be a momentary phase, not a lifestyle.
The second reason not to worry is: “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (6:32b). If my children worried about whether I was going to feed and clothe them, I would feel pretty bad about the way they thought of me as a father. They indict me when they worry. When you worry, you are saying, “God, I don’t really know about You. I’m not sure You are a caring God. I’m not sure You are a providing God. You are good for church on Sunday, but I’m not sure about You. So I’ve got to take care of this myself.” God will take care of you. Don’t worry, be hopeful.

After providing two reasons not to worry, Jesus gives a command in 6:33a. Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” This is a present tense command. The word “seek” (zeteo) was used to describe the activity of a hunter who hides in a blind to hunt birds. He is hunting for food, not just for sport. He focuses his whole mind on those birds. His eye always looks for them. He keeps his bow and arrows ready. The birds will be within shooting range for only a moment, so he is constantly alert. Just as a bird hunter makes birds the center of his attention, you are to make God’s kingdom your top priority.

This means if you are to be anxious about anything, it should be the affairs of God’s kingdom.
In 6:33b, Jesus now moves from a command to a promise. He states that if you fulfill the condition of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness “all these things [material necessities] will be added to you.” Jesus specifically limits this promise to those who obey 6:33a. Rather than a blanket promise, this is a conditional promise that applies to disciples who are sold out to Christ. Those committed to building their own temporary financial kingdom receive no such assurances. This promise is hopeful upon seeking first God’s kingdom. This is not a license for laziness. One element of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness is working. Disciples are promised survival, not affluence.

Is this promise always fulfilled? Does God always provide for the needs of His children throughout the world? When Christians seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, they will become world Christians, and He will meet the needs of those in poverty in other parts of the world. God is not saying that there will never be anyone who starves. These are maxims that are generally true but not exhaustively true. This statement is much like the book of Proverbs in the sense that it states general principles. They are not meant to explain every individual particular occurrence. Sometimes God will provide a time of need in order for believers to trust Him, turn to Him, or to improve their character. Nevertheless, as David said in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” Don’t worry, be hopeful.

In 6:34, Jesus hammers the death nail in worry. For the third and final time He says: “So do not worry about tomorrow.” Jesus then gives two reasons you should not worry.
First, “tomorrow will care for itself” (6:34b). The problem with worrying about tomorrow is you never run out of tomorrows. You must learn to live life one day at a time. God only gives you help you need for today. He doesn’t give you tomorrow’s help today. So don’t worry about what you are going to do tomorrow, because when you get to tomorrow, God’s grace will be there to meet you and give you what you need. As Mark Twain once said, “I’m an old man and I’ve known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

A second reason not to worry is: “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34c). Jesus is saying something quite interesting: You won’t sink under the burden of today’s crisis, but tomorrow’s agenda puts you over the weight limit. Have you ever tried to carry too many bags of groceries at the same time? I have. I’m a “one-tripper.” I carry in all the bags at one time. It doesn’t matter how many there are. I will strap five or six plastic bags to each wrist and load myself down. I know what you’re saying, “He’s a manly man!” Yes, indeed! But there’s only one problem. I have also spilled eggs and bruised fruit. I leave spills all over the place. The lesson is: Don’t carry too much baggage at once. Learn to make multiple trips instead of one. Jesus tells you to carry today’s bag today and make a fresh trip tomorrow.

Tomorrow will have trouble. It is unavoidable. No Christian should ever be caught in what I call the “then syndrome.” “Then things are going to be trouble-free.” “When I get married, then I’ll be beyond trouble.” Yeah, right! “When I have children, then I’ll be trouble-free.” Okay, scratch that one. “When I get a promotion, then I will be happy.” Nope! It is futile to try to live a problem-free life. You can spend all your time and energy fortifying the castle of your life, but there is always a place that goes unguarded. Tomorrow will have its challenges and trials, no matter how hard you try to prevent them. Leave tomorrow alone. When that day dawns, God will give you the grace and the strength you need for it. At the present time, you have the grace and the strength He has given you for today. Your calendar gives each day its own number. Live them in that order, just as God arranged them. Stay in one square at a time. Someone said, “Worrying doesn’t rob tomorrow of its sorrow, it robs today of its strength.” Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t worry, be hopeful.

If you’re a chronic worrier, here’s a suggestion you might find helpful. First, find a shoebox. Tape the lid on, and then cut a little hole in it. Call it your “worry box.” Whenever you feel tempted to worry, write your worry on a piece of paper and drop it in the box. You can say, “Lord, this is my concern, and it has the potential to become a worry. You have told me not to worry, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put it in my worry box and let You take responsibility for it. Anything that I put in this box will be there because I can’t handle it. Once it’s in the box, I’m going to trust You to handle it for me, Lord.”
God asks you to take a leap of faith and trust in His ability to catch you. He is trustworthy and He alone can meet your needs. So trust Him today.

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Send it ahead

Have you purchased a new car, driven it off the lot, and discovered that it depreciated by 33%? Worse yet, have you had someone “key” or rear-end your new car, damaging the showroom appearance? Are you in a situation where you recently purchased a home and now need to move, but you can’t get what you paid for your house? Have you diligently put money away for retirement and now you need to draw upon your earnings, but you’ve lost half of what you invested? Undoubtedly, you’ve experienced that sick feeling in your stomach on account of money and possessions. Do you ever feel that your possessions possess you? Most likely, if you’re honest, you’re nodding in agreement. One of God’s goals is for you to realize that your money and possessions are not owned, they are loaned. Perhaps you have seen the classic bumper sticker, “You can’t take it with you.” The point of this expression is: There’s no afterlife so live like a pagan, spend everything you have, and go out with a bang! Surprisingly, Jesus agrees with the slogan, “You can’t take it with you.” However, Jesus tacks on an expression: “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.” In Matthew 6:19–24, Jesus shares three directives that will help you send your wealth ahead.

  1. Transfer your treasure to heaven(6:19–21). Jesus commands you to prioritize heavenly treasures over earthly trinkets. I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, this is a message about money! In 6:19, Jesus begins with a negative command: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” This verse is better rendered, “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves!” The words translated “store up” (thesaurizo) and “treasures” (thesaurous) have the same root. So Jesus is literally saying, “Do not treasure for yourselves treasures.” What does He mean? Should we not bother with a savings account? Is He saying don’t invest in Wall Street? Don’t have any money put aside for tough times that may come? This can’t be what Jesus is saying because the Bible applauds saving and caring for our family members. The apostle Paul even indicates that you can enjoy what God has given you.

What Jesus prohibits here is the selfish accumulation of goods. Notice the phrase “on earth.” Jesus’ concern is stockpiling on earth rather than stockpiling in heaven. He doesn’t want you to have a wonderful earthly bank account while your spiritual bank account is bouncing checks because what you have stored up is solely for yourself. This is a poor investment. Jesus is clear: You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead. Jesus commands you not to store up treasures on earth because they are temporal. In Jesus’ day banks did not exist, so people saved their wealth in three ways. First, they collected clothes. A nice wardrobe of fine garments was as good as money in the bank. These clothes could be sold in the future. The only problem was that these garments were very susceptible to moths. And since they didn’t have mothballs and cedar-lined closets, moths would eat holes in the garments.

A second way of accumulating wealth was to store grain in barns. Famine was an ever-present reality in the ancient Near East because of the undependable rains. If a man could store his grain until a famine came and prices soared, he could become fabulously wealthy. Most of our English versions indicate that what will destroy the second standard of wealth is rust. However, the word “rust” (brosis) conveys the act of eating. As a consequence, it is most likely that Jesus is talking about rats, mice, roaches, and termites that eat away the grain. Wealth will be destroyed, obliterated, made to vanish.

The third method of saving was to exchange assets for gold. The people in Jesus’ day generally buried their gold under their house floors. Palestinian houses were made of baked clay, so a burglar broke in by digging a hole in a wall. In fact, thieves in the first-century were called “diggers.” Thieves can carry off just about anything, in one way or another. In essence, if moths and vermin don’t destroy your wealth, thieves will break in and rob you blind. No matter what kind of wealth you have and no matter what you do to protect it, eventually it will be gone. Earthly treasures are perishable and vulnerable. When you invest heavily in the treasures of this world it is the equivalent of buying a company’s stock the day after they’ve declared bankruptcy. Not a very good deal!

So why do you and I seek to accumulate “treasure” on earth? (1) Security. We want to know that we are taken care of, so what brings us the greatest security of life and soul is to have material security. (2) Personal worth, esteem, and value. Material possessions and wealth often indicate that people are successful in what they have done with their lives. We feel good about ourselves if we dress, drive, dine, and decorate well. (3) Power. With wealth and material success, we believe that we can have and get and be what we want. Wealth gives us control over our own fate and over other people. (4) Independence. With wealth I can be my own “god” and not rely on anyone else. (5) Pleasure. With wealth we can indulge our every fantasy, whether it is the exotic vacation, the luxurious wedding, the finest dining, or the most decadent home.

As tempting as these benefits are, the echo resounds: You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead. Again, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” He is not speculating…He’s speaking of sure things. When He warns you not to store up treasures on earth, it’s not just because wealth might be lost. It’s that wealth will definitely be lost. Either it leaves you while you live, or you leave it when you die.

If storing up treasures on earth is the wrong priority, what’s the right one? After giving a prohibition, Jesus moves to a positive command. In 6:20 He says, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” Matt 6:20 is one of the clearest verses in the Bible supporting eternal rewards. Now I realize that some people think it’s selfish to seek rewards. While I can appreciate these sentiments, there are some problems with this notion:

First, Jesus commands believers to seek eternal rewards. The Greek verb translated “store up” is a command! The verb is also in the present tense and refers to that which is to be the constant pattern and objective of your life.

Second, Jesus never rewards selfishness, only selflessness. If Jesus thought that the motivation of rewards was selfish, He would have never commanded this pursuit. We dare not attempt to be more spiritual than Jesus.

Finally, Jesus is all about treasure—your heavenly treasure—because it glorifies Him! He wants you to keep and enjoy your treasures forever. Since heaven is the only place your treasure will be safe, He commands you to store it up for your good and His glory! You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.

Suppose I offer you $1,000 to spend today however you want. Not a bad deal. But suppose I give you a choice—you can either have that $1,000 today, or you can have $10 million if you’ll wait one year—then $10 million more every year thereafter. Only a fool would take the $1,000 today. Yet that’s what we do whenever we grab on to what will last for only a moment, foregoing something far more valuable we could enjoy later for much longer. A year may seem a long time to wait. But after it’s done—as when our lives here are done—it will seem like it passed quickly. A few years ago, a group of world-class athletes were asked the following question: “If you could take a drug that would cause you to win a gold medal, but it would kill you in ten years, would you take it?” Amazingly, the majority said yes. They’d sacrifice fifty or more years of life for a gold medal.

What would you give up to have treasure in heaven? Would you be thriftier with your family food budget? Would you occasionally split a meal with your spouse when you eat out? Would you forgo your Starbuck’s addiction?

Would you spend less money on Christmas gifts? Would you let go of cable TV?

Would you drive a lesser car than you could otherwise afford? Perhaps you would be willing to drive used cars?

Would you have a less expensive wardrobe? Maybe you could shop after-holiday sales?

Would you sell your large home and downsize to a more modest home? Perhaps you could refinance your mortgage? Maybe you could choose to enjoy simpler or fewer vacations or possibly turn your next family vacation into a mission trip? Or perhaps you could cash in a retirement fund so you can support yourself and serve others?

Would you use your work skills to benefit God’s work in a more direct way?

Would you negotiate a four-tens workweek so you can devote one full day a week to ministry? These are ways that treasures in heaven can be accumulated. Be creative, come up with your own ideas, and let the Holy Spirit direct you. But reflect on these words from Andrew Murray (1794–1866): “We ask how much a man gives; Christ asks how much he keeps.” You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.

In 6:21, Jesus provides the reason for His command to “store up treasures in heaven:” “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If I had been preaching the Sermon on the Mount, I would have reversed these words. I would have said: “For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” Yet, Jesus is smarter than I am. What He’s saying is this: “I want to capture your heart. I want you not only to do what is right, but to want to do what is right. And here is my prescription for you: Invest your money in the right things, and your affections will follow your investments.”

We have a tendency to turn this principle on its head. We think that the important thing is to feel good about something before we do it. We want our emotions to lead us. If and only if we feel good about doing what is right, then we will do it. Jesus says that life works in the opposite way. Emotions follow motions. Motions create emotions. Investment creates interest. The first step in godly living is to do something that we don’t want—at least emotionally—to do. We take the first step by faith and write a check for something that we really don’t want to write it for. It is only after we do that that we enjoy a sense that God has changed our heart about it. Don’t wait for your heart to move on its own, because it might never happen. Instead, begin to move your treasure today to what matters in heaven…and your heart will follow. Jesus said what you spend money on or invest money in, you will come to love. Your heart always follows your money. The reason God doesn’t have some people’s wallets is because He doesn’t have their hearts.

How do you know what has your heart? Let me ask you a few quick questions:

(1) What occupies your thoughts when you have nothing else to do? What occupies your daydreams? Is it your investments, your position? If so, those are the things you treasure, and that is where your heart really is.

(2) Similarly, what is it that you fret about most? Is it your home or perhaps your clothing? If so, then you know where your treasure lies.

(3) Apart from your loved ones, what or whom do you most dread losing?

(4) What are the things that you measure others by? Do you measure others by their clothing? By their education? By their homes? By their athletic prowess? Do you measure others by their success in the business world? If so, you know where your treasure lies, for these questions are a very revealing mirror because we measure other people by that which we treasure.

(5) Lastly, what is it that you know you cannot be happy without?

[Jesus directs you to transfer your treasure to heaven because He wants to richly reward you. Now in His second directive, He says…]

  1. Recognize your responsibility to be generous(6:22–23). Generosity breeds light while stinginess breeds darkness. In 6:22–23 Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” In this context, the eye is used metaphorically. Many English versions imply that Jesus is concerned about the health or clarity of the eye. But these translations are somewhat misleading. The KJV is more accurate with its literal rendering, “If your eye is single…if your eye is evil.” (This is where we get the expression “evil eye.”) But what does it mean to have a “single” eye or an “evil” eye? In our culture, we have various expressions about the eye. Sometimes the eye can describe a person’s physical condition. Someone who is red-eyed or bleary-eyed is tired. Sometimes we refer to the eyes to describe a person’s feelings or character. Someone who is dreamy-eyed is in love. Someone who is sharp-eyed is crafty. Someone who is cock-eyed has a distorted view of reality. Someone who is bug-eyed is excited or surprised. In the Old Testament, we find references to people being single-eyed. A single-eyed person is someone who is generous.

The New Testament also uses forms of the word to refer to those who are generous. When Jesus refers to someone having a single eye, He means that person is someone who gives to others with open-hearted generosity. The warm heart shines through warm eyes. The opposite of the single eye is the evil eye. It refers to a stingy or begrudging spirit. The same expression occurs in Jesus’ parable of the generous vineyard owner who paid all his laborers the same wages regardless of the hours they worked. When the workers who had put in a full day’s labor bitterly complained, the owner asked them: “Is your eye evil because I am good?” (Matt 20:15) This crew wanted to have more for themselves, or for the others to have less. The evil eye is a stingy spirit. If one’s eye (ethical perception) becomes clouded by greed the result is darkness (selfishness) in the whole self. Jesus is saying, “If you look upon the things of this earth with a generous perspective, your life will be useful. If, however, you look upon the things of this earth with greed in mind, then your life will be wasted.” Remember, you can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead. Generous people give of themselves and their money to those who have need. As a result, they will experience joy in this life and in the life to come.

A man in New York City had a wife who had a cat. Actually, the cat had her. She loved the cat. She stroked it, combed its fur, fed it, and pampered it. The man detested the cat. He was allergic to cat hair; he hated the smell of the litter box; he couldn’t stand the scratching on the furniture; and he couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because the cat kept jumping on the bed. When his wife was out of town for the weekend, he put the cat in a bag with some rocks, dumped it in the Hudson River, and uttered a joyful goodbye to the cat. When his wife returned and could not find her cat, she was overwhelmed with grief. Her husband said, “Look, honey, I know how much that cat meant to you. I’m going to put an ad in the paper and give a reward of $500 to anyone who finds the cat.” No cat showed up, so a few days later he said, “Honey, you mean more to me than anything on earth. If that cat is precious to you, it is precious to me. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll buy another ad and up the ante. We’ll increase the reward to $1000.” A friend saw the ad and exclaimed, “You must be nuts; there isn’t a cat on earth that is worth $1000.” The man replied, “Well, when you know what I know, you can afford to be generous.”

If you have an understanding of heavenly treasures and how God’s kingdom works, you can afford to be generous. You can establish priorities by the way you give and live. Generosity is possible because you realize that life is short and your money and possessions will fly away like an eagle (Prov 23:5). You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.

[Jesus has urged you to choose between two treasures (6:19–21) and two eyes (6:22–23). Now He prepares for the climax by discussing two masters. He says…]

  1. Choose your master wisely(6:24). In this final verse, Jesus explains that you cannot serve God and wealth. He puts it like this: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

In Jesus’ day, a slave owner could actually rent out one of his servants to another taskmaster. Such an arrangement always put the servant in a bind. What if the two men gave conflicting orders? How was he supposed to respond? Who was he supposed to listen to? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like this at work, with two supervisors telling you to do two different things, disagreeing about how you should do your job. Frustrating, isn’t it? You might be able to have two jobs, but your relationship with God is an exclusive relationship. There’s a throne in your life only big enough for one. Christ may be on the throne or money may be on the throne. But both cannot occupy that throne. The reason is simple: God and money are not employers, they are slave owners. Each demands single-minded devotion. You cannot be a full-time slave to two masters. If you serve God with your whole heart, the seductive love of money will be squeezed out. Notice, Jesus didn’t say you couldn’t have money; He said you can’t serve it.

What does serving money mean? Serving money means that you are consumed with money: you think about it all the time, you bring it up in nearly every conversation, and you are scared to death of losing it. Serving money means that money determines what you do. It calls the shots. Does God tell you what to do with the things you have, or do you go ahead and make those decisions independently of Him? Does God direct your life, or do you do it yourself? That’s His concern. His concern is about priorities. Money is a good servant but a poor master.

In his book, I Talk Back to the Devil, A.W. Tozer writes, “Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins in front of your eyes—the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision of each eye.”

Just as we cannot follow a road that forks, we cannot serve God and wealth at the same time. God requires a single eye and single service.

In the game of Monopoly, players buy land and collect money. When one player has enough money and at least one monopoly of properties, he or she can buy houses and hotels and collect rent on them. Eventually, one player receives enough rental money through land and building holdings to bankrupt the other players, thus ending the game. Parker Brothers, the makers of Monopoly, take for granted one final instruction—when the game is over, put all the pieces back in the box. People who live for the present, who spend their strength on what cannot last, are like children who play Monopoly as though it were reality. In the end, we all get put in the box and we are gone. What matters is what remains when the game on earth is over.

One day in the not so distant future, Jesus Christ will return and He will bring the treasures that you have stored up with Him. In the final chapter of the Bible, Jesus’ declares: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev 22:12). He is bringing back what you have invested with Him from the one place in the universe that it can never be lost. Only heavenly treasure can provide genuine security and permanence. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.

“I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

John Wesley (1703–1791)

“I place no value on anything I possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God.”

David Livingstone (1813–1873)

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot (1927–1956)