Who You Serve Shows Your True Master

imagesThird, who you serve shows your true master. We see a chiasm in Jesus’ words.

A     No one can serve two masters,

  • B     for either he will hate the one and
    • C     love the other, or
    • C1   he will be devoted to the one and
  • B1   despise the other.

A1   You cannot serve God and money.

A equals A1. The words, “No one can serve two masters,” is the same as the words, “You cannot serve God and money.” B equals B1. To hate one is to despise it. C equals C1. To love one is to be devoted to it.

Jesus takes up the same theme of the use of money in vv. 19-23. In v. 19, Jesus talks of the storage of money. In v. 22, He talks of the sharing of money. In v. 24, Jesus talks of the single-minded devotion to money. But Jesus only used money as a prime example here. The issue is not about money, but about single-minded devotion to God. If you are a slave, you serve only one master. You cannot serve two masters. Every believer should serve only one master—God. Every believer should be single-minded in her devotion to God alone.

I read a story about “a pig and a chicken walking down the road together.” As they walked along, they read a sign advertising a breakfast event. It called for people to cook breakfasts to benefit the poor.

The chicken said to the pig, “I have an idea. I can donate my eggs for this breakfast event. You can donate your ham.”

“The pig replied, ‘Not so fast, for you it would just be a contribution, but for me it would be a total commitment.’”[1]

God requires absolute commitment. Absolute commitment means exclusive commitment.[2] You cannot serve God absolutely while you serve money. You cannot serve God exclusively while money.

Jesus says that money is a master. The word, “money,” is from the Greek, mamonas, which is translated from the Aramaic noun, mamon, meaning, “property, wealth, earthly goods.” (Friberg) Jesus knows that there are two masters. There is God as your master. There is money as your master. But you cannot serve God and money at the same time. In the kingdom of God, you choose only God as your master.

To serve God plus money is to commit idolatry. In the OT, idolatry is the serving of God plus another god. Idolatry is the love of God plus the love of money.

Idolatry is mixed worship. Idolatry is serving God while serving money. Idolatry is serving money while serving God.

Idolatry is divided loyalty. Idolatry is serving God with one half of your heart, while serving money with the other half. To serve God requires undivided loyalty.

In the context, to serve money is to store up treasures on earth. But to serve God is to store up your treasures in heaven. You cannot store money on earth while storing money in heaven.

To serve money is to have a bad eye, a covetous eye. To serve money is to keep your money from the poor. To serve money is to keep your money from the work of the Lord.

But to serve God is to have a good eye, a generous eye. To serve God is to be ready to share your money to the poor, to the needy, and to Lord’s work.

A man had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He could receive little

company and was not to be excited. While in the hospital a rich uncle died and left him a million dollars. His family wondered how to break the news to him with the least amount of excitement. It was decided to ask the preacher if he would go and break the news quietly to the man.

The preacher went, and gradually led up to the question. The preacher asked the patient what he would do if he inherited a million dollars. He said, “I think I would give half of it to the church.”

The preacher dropped dead.”[3]

To serve money is to be attached to your money, loving money. To serve God is to be detached from your money, loving God. To serve money is to serve money without God. To serve God is to serve God with your money.

We say we serve God, not money. But every day, we prioritize money. We say we have a generous eye to the poor. But every day, we have a generous eye only to our own needs. We want to be generous tomorrow. But today, we have to buy many things for ourselves. We even stress ourselves every day; because we prioritize ourselves, wanting to buy things for ourselves.[4]

Who do you really serve every day? Who is your master? Who you serve shows your true master.

Let us stand and ask God to search our hearts again. Ask God to show you if you have a generous eye or a covetous eye. Ask God to show you whom you really serve.

If you have a covetous eye, repent your sin. Ask God to give you a generous eye. If you serve money, turn from your false god. Decide to serve God alone.

[1] Paul Lee Tan. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations (Rockville: Assurance, 1984), # 5211.

[2] Hagner, Matthew, 159.

[3] “Giving,” Sermon Illustrations. Cited March 14, 2015. Online: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/giving.htm.

[4] Hare, Matthew, 73.

Your Generosity For the Things of God

What is a good eye? What is a bad eye?

To understand what Jesus means, let us study it in four ways—canonically, historically, culturally, contextually, and grammatically. Canonically, in the OT, the good eye means giving to the poor. Prov. 22:9 reads, “The good of eye—he is blessed, For he hath given his bread to the poor.” (Young’s Literal Translation) To the Jews, the good eye is the giving eye.

Historically, let us look into Jewish texts. How did the Jews understand the words, “evil eye” or bad eye? Sirach 14:8-10 reads,

8 The envious man hath a wicked eye; he turneth away his face, and despiseth men.

9 A covetous man’s eye is not satisfied with his portion; And the iniquity of the wicked drieth up his soul.

10 A wicked eye envieth his bread, And he is a niggard at his table.[1]

To the Jewish mind, the evil eye is an envious man. The envious man is jealous of the things of others. The evil eye is the covetous man. He is not content with his things. He wants the things of others.

Tobit 4:7 reads, “Give alms of thy substance; and when thou givest alms, let not thine eye be envious, neither turn thy face from any poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee.” The good eye is the eye that gives to the poor. Conversely, the evil eye is one who turns his face from the poor.

Culturally, let us now look into the culture of the Near East. In Near Eastern cultures, the “evil eye” is the eye of covetousness. The eye of covetousness wants to get what is owned by another. It is the covetous eye, the greedy eye.[2]

An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his Doctor and his Lawyer, both church members, to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling.

For a time, no one said anything. Both the doctor and lawyer were touched and flattered that the old preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moment. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness and their avaricious behavior that made them squirm in their seats.

Finally the doctor said, ‘Preacher, why did you ask the two of us to come?’

The old preacher mustered up some strength, then said weakly, ‘Jesus died between two thieves and that’s how I want to go too.” [3]

Contextually, in Matthew 6:22-23, the good eye is the opposite of the bad eye. The bad eye is envious, but the good eye is contented. The bad eye is covetous, but the good eye is generous. The bad eye is selfish, but the good eye is selfless. The bad eye does not give to the poor, but the good eye gives to the poor.

Thus, grammatically, the word “healthy” can mean, “generosity.” The Greek word for “healthy” is haplous, which is related to the adverb, haplos, meaning, “without reserve, generously.” (Gingrich)

Note that your good eye brings light to your whole (holos) body. Your bad eye brings darkness to your whole body. This means that the way you use your money will affect every part of your life.[4] If you are ready to give your money, it will affect your whole life. If you are greedy with your money, it will affect your whole life.

The bad news is that if you have a bad eye, it blinds you. You cannot see the light of God’s will about money. Your covetousness blinds you to the light of God’s kingdom. Your greed blinds you to the light of God’s laws.

Another bad news is the degree of darkness. Jesus said, “How great is the darkness” (v. 23)! I think that if you are greedy, you will become greedier. Indeed, how great is your darkness! If you are covetous, you will become more covetous. If you envy the goods of others, you will envy it more. If you do not give to the poor, you will not give to the poor more. If you do not give to the Lord, you will not give to the Lord more. How great is your darkness!

Your spiritual health depends on the state of your spiritual eye. Your generosity for the things of God shows your true spiritual health.

[1] The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: Of the Authorized English Version (Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2005), S. Tobit 4:7.

[2] G. Harder, TDNT 6:555-556.

[3] Terry Blankenship, “How I Want to Go,” SermonCentral. Cited March 14, 2015. Online: http://www.sermoncentral.com/ illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-faith-61483.asp.

[4] Blomberg, Matthew, 123.

Your Spiritual Eye

indexWe continue our series on Kingdom Living in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Amount.” In this Sermon on the Amount, Jesus deals with one’s use of money. Jesus said we should store up money in heaven. Where you store your treasure shows the true center of your heart. Where your money is, there your heart lies. If your heart is on the things of heaven, then you will put your money there also. If you don’t put your money on the things of God, then your heart is not there also. In the kingdom of God, we focus our heart on the things of heaven, by storing our treasures in heaven, and not on earth.

Today, we learn a second lesson from Jesus. How generous you give for the things of heaven shows your true spiritual health.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23,

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,

23 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!”

Jesus said that the eye is the lamp of the body. He uses a metaphor, a figure of speech. Jesus compares the eye with the lamp. Thus, we are to understand the word, “eye,” symbolically. I suggest that the eye symbolizes the attitude of the heart. The body symbolizes the person. The eye is the lamp, giving light to the body. Hence, your eye, or your attitude, gives light to your life.

Jesus said, “If your eye is healthy,” your body will be full of light. The condition of the body depends on the condition of the eye. If your eye is “healthy” (haplous), if it is functioning properly, then your body will be full of light. If your spiritual eye is good, then your spiritual health is also good. If your spiritual attitude is good, then your spiritual health is also good.

Where Your Money Is, There Your Heart Lies

Matthew 6:21 reads, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Picture1 This is the main point of Jesus. Jesus means that your heart, your affection, your passion, is drawn to your treasures. Thus, we learn the first point in this sermon on the amount. Where you store your goods shows the true center of your heart. Where your heart lies is where your treasure lies.

If your treasure is in heaven, then your heart will be drawn to the things of heaven, the things of God. But if your treasure is on earth, your heart will be drawn to the things of this world. If your treasure is in heaven, your heart will do the will of God. But if your treasure is on earth, your heart will do the will of the world.

I don’t think Jesus is talking about rich believers here. Jesus is talking about any believer who has possessions. Even the poor believer can love his possessions more than Jesus. I think Jesus is talking about loving things more than loving God. If you love your valuables more than God, your heart is in them, but not in God.

Maybe you’re here today, and you are busy storing your treasures on earth. If so, then it shows the true center of your heart. Maybe your heart is on your job, your business, and your money, but not on God. If your heart is on your money, but not on God, Jesus said you are storing treasures on earth. But if your heart is on God, if the center of your attention is on doing the will of God, and not on your money, Jesus said you are storing treasures in heaven.

The issue is not about the treasures or the money. The issue is where your heart is. Where does your heart lie? What is the focus of your heart today? What drives your energy, passion, and commitment?

Does your love of money drive your life today? Or does your love of God drive your life today? Does money drive your life? Or does God drive your life? Are you driven by a passion to do the will of God? Or are you driven by a passion to do your own will?

Let us all stand and ask God to search our hearts. I’d like to ask you to settle your heart with God right now. Ask the Lord to show you where your heart truly lies. Ask Him to tell you where the energy of your life is really focused. Is it on the things of God or on the things of this world. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

How to Have Treasures in Heaven

Picture1Let’s ask an important question, “How will you have treasures in heaven according to Matthew?” In Bible study, we begin with what Matthew thinks about storing heavenly treasures, not what we think about it.

Matthew 19:16-21:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

   17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

   18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,

   19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

   20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

   21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

How will you have treasures in heaven according to Matthew? You gain treasures in heaven by doing three things: (1) sell your possessions; (2) give it to the poor; and (3) follow Jesus.

When Jesus told the rich young man to sell it all, to give it to the poor, and to follow Jesus, Jesus was really requiring ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT. Jesus demands nothing short of TOTAL COMMITMENT. Total commitment requires the selling of all possessions, giving it to the poor, and following Jesus.

Peter understood Jesus’ words. After the rich young man went away, Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything and followed you” (Matt. 19:27). Peter understood Jesus’ words literally. “We have left everything,” he said. Peter knew that Jesus was not demanding a SYMBOLIC commitment requiring NOTHING from them. Rather, Jesus was demanding a RADICAL commitment requiring EVERYTHING from them. Sell it all, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus.

Let me ask you the next question. Have you done these things? Have you sold your things? Have you given it to the poor? Are you following Jesus? If not yet, you do not yet have treasures in heaven.

You should ask me now, “Pastor, does this mean that I will sell my house, my car, and withdraw all my money from the bank and give it all to the poor?” Yes, because Jesus demands ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT from you and me. If you love your house, your car, and your money MORE than Jesus, then yes, sell it all and give it to the poor, to show that you are absolutely committed to follow Him.

Jesus saw the heart of the young man. He saw that this rich young man loved his money more than God. So Jesus challenged him to show Jesus that he loved Jesus more than these things. Sell it all and give it to the poor.

But in the case of Zacchaeus, it is different. Zacchaeus loved Jesus more than his money. Luke 19:8-10 reads,

   2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

   3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.

   4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.

   5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

   7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

   8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

   9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.

   10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Note what Zacchaeus said, “Lord, I will give one-half of my possessions to the poor.” Jesus answered, “Today you are saved.” The rich young man must sell it ALL and give it to the poor. Yet Zacchaeus will give ONE-HALF only, not all of it, to the poor. Then Jesus approves it.

But why does Jesus require more from the rich young man? The reason is that Zacchaeus loved Jesus more than his goods. But the rich young man loved his goods more than Jesus.

Jesus saw Zacchaeus’ heart. Zacchaeus’ heart loved Jesus enough that he was willing to give up his money. But Jesus saw that the rich young man’s heart did not love Jesus enough to give up his money.

Thus, it is not so much the percentage of your possessions as in the percentage of your heart that you will give to Jesus.

A story is told of a wealthy man who rose to tell of how he gave all his money to the Lord.

I remember the turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first dollar, and I went to a church service that night. The speaker was a missionary who told us about his work. I knew that I only had a single dollar bill and had to either give it all to God’s work or nothing at all. So, at that moment, I decided to give it all to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today.

The crowd sat in awed silence at his testimony as he moved back to his seat. As he sat down, a little old lady sitting in the same pew leaned over and said to him, “I dare you to do it all again!”[1]

Do you love Jesus more than your house, car, and money today? Jesus sees your heart. Jesus demands TOTAL COMMITMENT to Him. You must be willing to give it all up and follow Jesus.

[1] Robert Strand, The Power of Debt-Free Living (Mobile: Evergreen, 2003), 14.

Treasures in Heaven

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and imagesrust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). The word, “rust” (Gk. brosis) does not refer to literal rust, but to “eating” as in “consuming.” (Gingrich); or “corrosion” or “decay” (James 5:2).[1] Jesus said your valuables on earth are eaten by moth and decay. If you store up valuables on earth, you will lose it. You will lose it to moth and decay. You will lose it to thieves who break in and steal.

In Jesus’ day, the houses were made of mud-brick walls. There were no banks in those days. People would bury their valuables under the house floors. The thieves would “break in” the houses. It does not mean that they would break the door locks. The word, “break in” (Gk. diorusso) means, “dig through.” The thieves would literally dig through the walls. That’s what Jesus meant. Do not store your money and valuables on earth. You will lose it.

Instead, Jesus said, store up your money in heaven (Matt. 6:20). How did Jesus’ original hearers understand these words, “treasures in heaven”? Let’s read Sirach 29:10-12, a Jewish book in Jesus’ time.

Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend, And let it not rust under a stone to be lost. Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the most High, And it shall bring thee more profit than gold. Shut up alms in thy storehouses: And it shall deliver thee from all affliction.[2]

For the Jews, treasures in heaven mean giving money to a brother or friend in need. Treasures in heaven mean obeying God’s commands. It means giving alms—giving to the poor.

How about us today? It’s the same thing. Jesus never changed it. Treasures in heaven are the help you give to your brother in Christ. They are your obedience to God’s commands. Treasures in heaven are your giving to the poor.

Treasures in heaven are things you bring with you to heaven.[3] What are eternal things that you bring with you to heaven?

1 Tim. 6:17-19

  • As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
  • They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,
  • thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Paul said that treasures in heaven are doing good to others. Treasures in heaven are being rich in good works. It is to be generous to others. It is the readiness to share your goods.

You lay up heavenly treasures when you help a brother in need. If your heart is set on the things of God, on the will of God, you will be ready to help a brother in need. Helping a needy brother is the will of God. Jesus taught it. Paul taught it. John taught it. But why do you find it hard to help a brother in need? It is because your heart is set on the things of this world, and not on the things of God.

Your treasures in heaven are the souls you brought to Christ. They are the offerings you give for the ministry of the Gospel, for the sending of missionaries, and for the planting of churches. They are the believers whom you have encouraged in Christ. You will bring all these to heaven. These are your treasures in heaven.

Jesus said, do not store up valuables on earth. You will lose it. But store up valuables in heaven. You will not lose it.

[1] D. A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (WBC 33A; ed. Ralph P. Martin; Dallas: Word, 1993), 157.

[2] The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: Of the Authorized English Version

[3] Blomberg, Matthew, 122.

Kingdom Living 11: “The Sermon on the Amount”

Picture1We continue our series on Kingdom Living. In Matthew 6, Jesus continues his sermon on the mount. But this time, it is a sermon on the “amount.” The sermon on the amount is a penetrating sermon. It penetrates our very hearts. It about the issues of where your heart is focused, whether your eye is healthy or not, and who is your true master.

The sermon on the amount concerns three things—treasures, eyes, and masters. Jesus uses these three examples as additional illustrations of righteousness. In Matthew 6:1, Jesus talks about practicing your righteousness in the kingdom. He talked of righteous giving to the poor, of prayer, and of fasting. Now, Jesus deals with the righteous storing of treasures. Jesus teaches us three things in the sermon on the amount.

First, where you store your treasure shows the true center of your heart. There is parallelism in vv. 19-21. The same idea in v. 19 is repeated in v. 20.

A      Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,

  • B     where moth and rust destroy and
    • C      where thieves break in and steal (v. 19)

A1     but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,

  • B1     where neither moth nor rust destroys and
    • C1     where thieves do not break in and steal (v. 20)

The command, do not lay up treasures on earth, means that you lay up treasures in heaven. The word, “treasures” is from the Greek, thesauros, which means, “a place for storing valuables; (a) literally treasury, treasure box or chest” and “the valuables stored up.” (Friberg) The word, “treasures,” refer to both the valuables and the place for storing the valuables.

I read this interesting report after the tsunami hit Japan in 2011.

Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners – a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn’t circulate. . . .

Identifying the owners of lost safes is hard enough. But it’s nearly impossible when it comes to wads of cash being found in envelopes, unmarked bags, boxes and furniture. . . .

With more than 25,000 people believed to have died in the tsunami, many safes could to go unclaimed. Under Japanese law, authorities must store found items for three months. If the owner does not appear within that time, the finder is entitled to the item, unless it contains personal identification such as an address book. If neither owner nor finder claims it, the government takes possession.”[1]

Who would like to go with me to Japan and claim some of those money?

Jesus said, do not store up treasures on earth. The words, “where moth and rust destroy,” prove that valuables on earth are never safe and secure. In those days, people treasured expensive clothes. But the moth will eat up those clothes. In those days, people treasured precious metals.[2] But rust and corrosion eat up the precious metals.

[1] Tomoko A. Hosaka, “Japan Lost Money: Safes, Cash Wash Up On Shores After Tsunami.” Cited March 8, 2015. Online: http://www. huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/10/japan-lost-money-safes-cash_n_847243. html

[2] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew (NAC 22; ed. David S. Dockery; Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 122.