Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount…
Anyone who is old enough to remember the 1990’s remembers the Beanie Baby craze. The popular toys were small stuffed animals of different kinds and styles. Each Beanie Baby came with its own special name on a heavily protected tag. New styles were released and retired, causing an investment frenzy. Investors predicted that the rarest styles would be worth thousands in only a few years. Some people lost fortunes when the market crashed. Now, Beanie Babies are worth no more than a few cents at a local yard sale.
It is hard to talk about money. The very mention of money causes our mind to follow familiar mental paths: How much do I have? How can I get more? Why does someone else have more than me? Why does someone else have less than me? What can I spend? What should I save?
It is even harder to talk about money when studying the Bible. We have all heard about greedy preachers who used God’s word as a way to make themselves rich. But there are also preachers who have the opposite problem, who refuse to talk about money for fear of offending their listeners.
But Jesus teaches about money, and He is neither greedy nor apologetic. When He addressed this subject during the Sermon on the Mount, he taught about more than money, he taught about treasures.
Your treasure is more than the size of your bank account, your income, or your investments. Jesus does not mention numbers at all! Instead, the issue is what is important to you?
Once again, it is about your treasure.
How secure are your valuables?
Where do you spend your life? What is important to you?
What do you look for in life? Do you lose sight of Jesus Christ?
How important is the dollar? What rules you?
“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 your heart will be also.
“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!
“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 money.
How secure are your valuables?
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.
Jesus starts out with this main point: where are we investing? Are we storing away earthly treasures, or are we building heavenly treasure?
There were no banks nor investment portfolios in the first century. Instead, there were three common ways that people would store their valuables:
Some would store their valuables in their clothing. The clothing itself was a currency, as expensive dyes made some fabric colors extremely valuable. 7 The Old Testament Tabernacle included blue, purple, and scarlet yarns (Exodus 26) and Daniel was clothed in purple as a reward for his interpretation (Daniel 5). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus described the rich man as “clothed in purple and fine linen”. One of the first Christian believers in Europe was a Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman who sold purple goods (Acts 16:14-15).
Expensive clothes were practical, decorative, and were an easy way to show off one’s wealth and social status. But there were no mothballs in that day, and your entire storage of clothing was susceptible to the tiny moth larva.
Some would store their valuables in food supplies. Filled grain silos would feed your own family and give you power over those who were less fortunate. An abundance of food would ensure that you have a comfortable life for many years to come. In ancient Egypt, Joseph had effectively used grain storage to save the local world from a devastating famine (Genesis 41:37-57). Jesus even used the example of a wealthy farmer who was overconfident of his future when he decided to build larger storage barns (Luke 12:13-22).
But stored grain was susceptible to vermin. Rats and mice would eat away at your stored food, destroying and corrupting your wealth. 13
Finally, some would store their valuables in items of gold, silver, and precious stones. But stored valuables were at risk to thieves. The word for “break in” also can mean to “dig through”, giving the picture of the thief digging through the back wall of the clay house, or of the thief digging up a buried treasures from the yard.
Jesus’ point is that none of our valuables on earth is secure. Banks can close, stocks can crash, and your personal valuables can be gone in a heartbeat.
In contrast, valuables stored in God’s kingdom will last forever.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Earthly treasure is temporary; heavenly treasure is permanent!
Where do you spend your life?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This statement is so simple that it can almost be considered to be a proverb. But Jesus is warning us about our treasure: what we treasure shows our heart.
If you want to know what a person truly values, look at his treasures.
What do you spend your life on?
Some spend their lives in pursuit of their bank account. They want to be richer than the next guy.
Some spend their lives in pursuit of business. They want the power and prestige that comes with being a successful businessman.
Some spend their lives in pursuit of comfort. They want a life which is free from difficulties and stress.
Some spend their lives in pursuit of leisure. Their world revolves around their entertainments.
Some spend their lives in pursuit of their children. They want nothing more than to ensure that their children are safe, successful, and happy.
These are only a few examples. There is nothing wrong with a healthy bank account, a successful business, a comfortable home, a quality entertainment, or a happy family. But what is most important to you? You spend your life working toward what is most important to you. That is your treasure.
When our heart is on earthly things, we are investing in the world’s temporary treasures. But when our heart is set on Jesus Christ, we are building treasures that will never go away.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
Earthly treasure comes from an earthly heart; heavenly treasure comes from a heavenly heart!
Do you lose sight of Jesus Christ?
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!
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Jesus uses the example of our eyes. Our bodies follow what we see with our eyes. As an example, go into your living room late at night and turn off the lights. How long until you bump into things? When your eyes cannot see, your whole body is lost.
Jesus applies this example to our treasures. If we are seeking a worldly treasure, then our eyes are filled with the things of this world. And when we see only the things of this world, we have lost our sight on Jesus Christ himself. He is our hope, our guide, and our reason that we exist. When we lose track of Him, we lose track of our purpose in life.
It is when we lose sight of Jesus Christ, when our eyes are bad, that we are the most vulnerable to temptation. These are the times when we are in darkness and are at risk of being misled and being pulled farther away from God. See the link here for further study on temptation.
“People say, ‘I read my Bible, but I do not get much out of it.’ The reason is that the eye is not sound; it has become dull, partially blinded and occupied with things that are opposed to the truth of God and the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.” – H.A. Ironside 3
“If we turn away to paths of self-will, we go into willful darkness and will soon lose our way.” – H.A. ironside 2
1 John 1:5-9
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Earthly treasure darkens your life; heavenly treasure lightens your life!
How important is the dollar?
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 money.
Jesus’ final warning is also the most specific. You cannot serve God and money! If money is the focus of your life, then you have no room for God.
Sadly, I have known young people who started out wanting to serve Jesus Christ, but as the years went by, time has shown that He was never their priority. They spent their years building their wealth, but the kingdom of God is unknown to them. Jesus has become only a social connection. It is easy to see how a rich person can be deluded into worshipping money.
But I have also known others who did not have much, yet were obsessed with every dollar they could find. Their entire lives were dominated by their savings, their working hours, their additional jobs, and any other ways to make a buck. They did not have much, but they were equally guilty of worshipping their money.
Jesus had a famous encounter with a rich man later during His ministry. The rich man came to Jesus, asking specifically for eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). He came to Jesus asking to be saved, and Jesus sent Him away! This man would not let go of his riches, therefore he was no use to God.
Jesus never gave us a number for how much money you could have. The issue is not whether you are rich or poor, but what is important to you. Whether you have one dollar or a million dollars, what matters most is that God is more important!
“We cannot serve two masters simultaneously. Either Jesus Christ is our Lord, or money is our lord.” – Warren Wiersbe 5
“Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost his authority.” – John Calvin
1 Timothy 6:8-10
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Earthly treasure leads you away from God; heavenly treasure leads you toward God!
What is heavenly treasure?
What is the heavenly treasure that Jesus is talking about? How can we be sure that we are building up treasures in heaven if we don’t know what they are?
Jesus gives the answer to this later in the same sermon. The conclusion of this entire section is provided in Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
How do you build treasures in heaven? You store heavenly treasure when you build up God’s kingdom. When you serve God directly and not for your own reward (see here), and when you work toward His kingdom, you are laying up treasures in heaven.
It is important to remember that Jesus is teaching His disciples at this point. Laying up treasures in heaven does not give you entrance into God’s kingdom; as is discussed here, you can never gain eternal life by keeping the Sermon on the Mount.
Whether we are rich or poor, we need to always ask ourselves, where are we investing?
What is our treasure?
“We live our lives on earth for the glory that awaits us in heaven.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 10
“It is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.” – Warren Wiersbe 5
1 Timothy 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.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 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. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
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Notes / References
 Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 6:19-34, pages 112-113
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 6, The Principles of the Kingdom, Part 2
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 42, Responsibility According to Light, Luke 11:29-36
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 46, Living without Anxiety, Luke 12:22-34
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 6:19-34, pages 23-24
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 12:22-34, pages 178-179
 Stephen Davey, The Truth about Treasure, Matthew 6:19-24, 9/21/2014
 John MacArthur, Treasures in Heaven, Part 1, Matthew 6:19a, Mar 16, 1980
 John MacArthur, Treasures in Heaven, Part 2, Matthew 6:19-24, Mar 23, 1980
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 7, Treasures on Earth and in Heaven, Matthew 6:19-20, pages 351-357
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 8, God or Mammon, Matthew 6:19-24, pages 358-367
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 9, Sin’s Foul Bondage, Matthew 6:19-24, pages 368-377
 The word which is translated as “rust” here is brōsis (βρῶσις), which literally means “eating”. While this word could be understood as the corrosion from rust, I tend to agree with many Bible commentators who interpret Jesus’ warning in Matthew 6:19-20 as grain reserves being eaten by vermin, rather than metal valuables being corroded through rust. 7 9 The culture of Jesus’ day had iron tools and weapons, but there were much less metal objects in day to day life than there are today. Iron metal working was very expensive, and it did not produce objects of currency.
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[…] This message is directly related to the previous passage where Jesus teaches us to invest in treasures in heaven and not on earth (see here). […]
[…] a common practice for first-century Jews to secure valuables by burying them on their property (see here), and this would frequently leave unknown treasures buried in the fields (e.g. if the original […]