|This study © 2000 by David Humpal
Having Proper Spiritual Priorities
Christians spend a large part of their time seeking money and possessions, but God wants us to have a different priority. The futility of riches is stated plainly in two places: here in Matthew 6:20, and in IRS form 1040. Every year at this time, we realize that we are not as rich as we thought we were.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. During the 40 days and six Sundays of Lent, we remind ourselves of the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus paid. But we should also ask what we can sacrifice for God. These verses in Matthew 6 reveal to us how we need to be willing to change our focus and put God first in our life.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The treasures of this world are fleeting, but the treasures of the next world are eternal. We will have to spend some time on the treasures of this world in order to provide for our family and our needs, but Christ’s message is that our real treasure is in heaven. Let us not spend so much time in earthly pursuits that we neglect the spiritual treasure that God offers us.
When I was a teenager, I had an older friend who was an avid hunter. He told me about one time when he was out alone in a quiet, secluded area grown over with vegetation. As he surveyed his pristine surroundings, he wondered if he was the first human who had ever entered this space. He looked around examining the area, and to his surprise he noticed that covered over with plant life was the outline of a foundation of some previous dwelling. And as he looked further, he noticed what appeared to be the remains of a very old automobile rusted over, sunk into the ground, and hidden by trees and bushes. He realized his pristine area wasn’t as uninhabited as he had imagined. Instead, it had been reclaimed by the plants, the elements, and the harsh weather. Our possessions in this life are fleeting.
How we spend our time in this life is all a matter of priorities. We can put our own desires and wants first, or we can put God first. Notice that in verse 21 Jesus tells us that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The attitude of our heart determines what is important in our life. If God is important in our life, we will want to seek treasures in heaven.
Davis wrote, “Oh, my congregation, let us treat gold and silver and precious stones as toys, and let us treat moral goodness, spiritual beauty, righteousness of heart, Christlikeness, Godlikeness, as our only treasures worthy the name!”
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
In these verses Jesus talks about our vision. How is your vision? Do you see things clearly and in focus? When I was growing up, I was the only one in our family without glasses. My sister’s eyesight is so bad that without corrective lenses, she’s considered legally blind. And my brother began wearing glasses at a young age. So I was very proud that my eyesight was so good. But as the years have progressed, I have had to start using reading glasses for things that are close. And it helps if I turn on the reading lamp.
If we want to have clear spiritual vision, we need to look through the lens of God’s word and we need to have the light of God’s Spirit shining in our heart -- let the Bible be our glasses and the Spirit be our reading light. Notice how Jesus tells us our vision affects the whole body. When we don’t see things clearly, we are in darkness. Jesus adds the words, “how great is the darkness!” If you pursue the things of this world, you will live in great spiritual darkness.
In 1857 John Lange wrote, “...false spirituality always has its root in worldliness: It’s source is secretly cherished worldliness; it is essentially a manifestation of the carnal mind....” Let us learn to take our eyes off of the world, and place them on Christ. Let us in every endeavor, in every activity, and in every moment to put God first in our life.
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 mammon.
The Greek word used here for mammon means worldly riches. There are two masters struggling for control of our time and our commitment -- God and worldly riches. Whom do you serve? Is God more important to you than the wealth and the possessions this world has to offer? The treasures of heaven far exceed anything we can conceive or imagine. Let us not be torn between two masters. Let us be willing to serve God and put him first.
Have you ever observed that those who walk the tightrope at the circus always look straight ahead while on the rope? They never look down at the rope or the crowd. They know that if they were to do that, they would lose concentration and be in danger of falling. So it is in our Christian walk. We must keep our eyes focused on God and spiritual matters. When we look down at the treasures or pleasures of the world, we will surely fall.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
The one area that provides young couples with more anxiety and worry than any other is finances. God doesn’t want us to be foolish and not provide for our family, but often we overspend and run up our debts because we are too impatient to wait until we are able to afford the things that we want. The problem is that our priorities are wrong. God doesn’t want us to be seeking the treasures of this world. All we need are the necessities -- food, clothing, shelter. God may bless us and give us the finances to afford more, but as long as God takes care of the necessities, we shouldn’t be anxious about the rest.
Jesus reminds us to look at the birds of the air. They don’t worry about the necessities of life, and neither should we. God will provide as long as we are faithful to him. He takes care of the birds, and how much more valuable are we who are his children!
Matthew Henry points out, “...this is an encouragement to us to trust God for food and raiment, and so to ease ourselves of all perplexing cares about them. God has given us life, and given us the body; it was an act of power, it was an act of favour, it was done without our care: what cannot he do for us, who did that? -- what will he not? If we take care about our souls and eternity, which are more than the body, and its life, we may leave it to God to provide for us food and raiment, which are less. God has maintained our lives hitherto; if sometimes with pulse and water, that has answered the end; he has protected us and kept us alive. He that guards us against the evils we are exposed to, will supply us with the good things we are in need of.”
And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?
Can you add one day to your life by worrying about it? We know that God has appointed a time for each one of us. So why do we get so anxious about the cares of this life? Our life is ultimately in God’s hands. We need to realize that, and it will make our life much more peaceful and happy.
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
When my sons were in high school, we wanted to buy the boys clothes for their birthday, so we gave them gift certificates. We were informed by them that we had bought the certificates from the wrong stores! It seems only certain stores had the “cool” clothes.
Sometimes we get anxious about the necessities of life, but God reminds us that if he can clothe the lilies of the field, how much more will he clothe us! Notice that Jesus begins this idea with the word, “consider.” We need to consider God’s provision. As Christ points out, the real problem is that we are people of little faith.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Probably this morning you asked, “what shall I wear?” And after church you will be asking, “what shall we eat, and what shall we drink?” That’s not what Jesus is talking about. He is referring to all those times when we have been anxious about the basics of life. Notice he says that the Gentiles, the ungodly, seek after these things. The implication is that we are not to seek after these things or worry about them. Our focus should not be on the material possessions of this life, but rather on the spiritual blessings of God. Verse 32 tells us, “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” God knows what you need. He will provide. So let’s spend our time working for spiritual treasure and allow God to take care of the earthly needs.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
Here is what we must do -- seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. If we do that, the other things will take care of themselves. It is all a matter of perspective. When we are at work, is our focus on buying a new fishing boat, or is our focus on being a blessing to others? Is our focus on pushing others aside so that we can get the promotion, or is it on ministering and serving others? The one thing that I have learned is that Christians who live their lives by godly principles find that they are the ones who get the promotion or who are blessed with a raise anyway. So why should we make worldly pursuit our focus? Make God your focus, and you will find that he will abundantly bless you and meet your every need. It all begins when we learn to put God first.
This study on Matthew 6:19-33 © 2000 by David Humpal, all
Davis: The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 11, pg. 105, Baker Book House
Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Matthew, pg. 135, Zondervan Publishing House
Matthew Henry’s Commentary, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
The Span of Days from Gray and Adams Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pg. 39, Zondervan Publishing House