Soul Seeds: Treasured Living
“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 will your heart be also.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-23)
There’s not a whole lot of controversy on these two. However, I don’t often see them discussed together. It is likely what Matthew records here is a thematic collection of teachings which he gathered without reference to chronology, but I am certain these two came as a single unit. It only seems two different messages in our modern English translations, and in our modern Western culture. How sad if we miss the connection!
The lesson on treasure is so obvious, I’ve seldom seen or heard it twisted too far from the primary point. Jesus made much of getting His listeners to give this world and it’s goods a much lower priority than the Kingdom. He told the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16ff) it would really please the Father if he would abandon his worldly possessions and become a disciple, wandering with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t playing mind games with the man. Eternal living means a life unbounded by this world and its treasures. This was not precisely stated in the Law, but it was certainly implied.
The young man’s problem was his clinging attachment to his worldly possessions. Jesus never condemned wealth as evil, but described it as a tool. Material resources were simply one more means to serve God’s purposes in this world, just as musical talent, physical strength, etc., could all be held as gifts from God. He gave such gifts precisely so we could give them back to Him. They are His gracious provision for including us in something we have no right to expect. We all deserve to die a slow painful death, followed by an eternity roasting in Hell. Nothing we could give could purchase deliverance from such a fate, because it all comes from Him in the first place.
Perhaps the most frequent error believers make in reading the above passage is in not carrying it far enough. Worldly people treasure a lot of things, not just tangible property, or talents. Surely we could think of folks by name who treasure political power? How about a massive and thorough education, vast knowledge? How about the total freedom to do as one pleases? We could go on, but it’s enough to note the Rich Young Ruler was also being challenged to sacrifice his place among the elite of Jewish society, an elite who claimed to know God, but were His enemies.
Jesus reminded His disciples almost nothing humanity valued was really important. Even the Law says this, if anyone cares to read between the lines, as was intended. If we as believers can fully grasp how all those things are subject to loss at the whim of natural and human forces — indeed almost certainly would be lost sooner or later — then we could be free to focus on what really matters. We could see how all these things we have here are but the means to accomplish God’s calling. Things we do to please the Father cannot be lost or taken away, because such are treasured by Him. No power in Creation, or outside Creation, nor ever was, nor ever will be, nor ever could be, imaginary or unimaginable, can diminish the value He places on our loyalty to Him (compare with Romans 8:38-39).
But, there is something else we need to get us there: clarity of vision. Jesus was quoting a common rabbinical phrase, referring to the eye as the lamp of the body. It was a figure of speech to highlight a spiritual principle, another example of parabolic language.
The word translated as “good” in describing the eye is literally “singular” — indicating a singularity of commitment. A “bad” eye was literally “double,” and it’s obviously linked to our phrase “double-minded.” To see this world clearly is to see it as God sees it. To have our loyalties divided is dangerous. It compares favorably with being spiritually blinded. If your commitment to the Kingdom is uncertain, you are no better than the uncommitted, the spiritually blind.
Jesus goes on the draw the point more starkly:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (verse 24)
Never mind where the word “mammon” comes from; it’s all too obvious it means something on the order of worldly wealth. There are no half measures here. Anyone who has tried to placate more than one superior can tell you: It can’t be done, or even attempted, without going insane. Being caught between the two, a person ceases to exist; they dare not be themselves. Nor can you ever claim to have really obeyed either one.
God says: If you do not serve Him with a whole heart, you do not serve Him at all.