God or Mammon

The following text is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is on the subject of wealth and worldly-mindedness; and it is meant mainly for Christians, but also for non-Christians. 

Matthew 6:19-24

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

We will look at this teaching in three parts: 1) general observations, negative and positive, from verses 19 and 20; 2) spiritual dangers, from verses 21-23; and 3) On God and mammon, from verse 24.

General Observations (vv. 19 and 20)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (v. 19).

Here are three general or common-sense observations of this verse:

  • Worldly treasures do not last. They are impure and corruptible like moth and rust. They are like beautiful flowers that will soon wilt and die.
  • Earthly treasures never fully satisfy. They always lack something and we are soon tired of them.
  • Earthly treasures are never safe from robbers.  

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (v. 20).

Here are four general or common-sense observations of this verse:

  • Treasures in heaven will not be corrupted. They are incorruptible or imperishable.
  • Treasures in heaven cannot be stolen. They are in a place that is impregnable and will be kept for us for eternity.
  • The love of God is our greatest treasure and nothing can separate us from that (Rom. 8:38-39).
  • Heaven is the realm of life and light and purity, and nothing tainted or polluted can enter there.

Spiritual Dangers (vv. 21-23)

21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

     Let’s look at verse 21 first: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This tells us that our treasures tend to put a power-grip on our heart—and the heart involves the mind; so, we will also have a power-grip on our mind. This power-grip is very subtle, and to those who are not truly spiritual (who have not given themselves fully to Christ), a subtle change will happen to them (to their mind and heart). They will soon become influenced by a worldly-minded outlook on life, which will eventually master them and make them slaves to the world.

In verses 22 and 23 Jesus begins talking about the eye. He says,

“The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Normally or naturally the eye is clear (or single). This describes the spiritual vision of a spiritual person. But, in keeping with the context, if a person allows himself to be worldly-minded and in love with his treasures, he will develop an evil eye, or one who has double vision or blurred vision, vision colored by prejudices, or lusts, etc.; hence our earthly treasures affect us morally.

The last part of verse 23 is interesting. I think it means that a man who is so attached to his earthly treasures may actually not see anything wrong in it; so that the light that he thinks he sees in himself (and in his treasures) is actually darkness—a darkness that comes out of his hypocrisy and delusion. This is a person who has lost his mind and no longer knows right from wrong, good from evil.

God and Mammon

In verse 24 Jesus comes to the climax of the matter.

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

So it all comes down to this: which do we love, God or mammon (our wealth)? God wants all our love; He wants our total attention. But so does the world; and the world comes after our attention through all the things of the would—earthly treasures. And we have to choose between the two. Jesus said no man can have two masters.

Now it seems to me that we can evaluate where we are by our attitude toward our things. If we are holding on to our things tightly so that we can’t imagine parting with them we have a problem. Since if we love our things, that means that we hate God (that is what verse 24 says). So, if you want to maintain a relationship with God and love Him, you must let go of your things. You must trust God to give you all you need, and all the things you have, recognize that they come from Him. Make God your only master. Love Him alone.

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