UNDIVIDED ALLEGIANCE AS CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM MUST BE REFLECTED IN OUR VALUE SYSTEM, VISION AND VOLITION (LOYALTIES)
Grant Osborne: The final of the three central sections of the Sermon on the Mount concerns the community citizen’s social responsibilities toward possessions (6:19–34) and others (7:1–12). In the former section, 6:19–21 establishes the theme (earthly vs. heavenly treasures), and 6:22–24 carries it further, centering on the choice between two masters. Then 6:25–34 contrasts worry with trusting God for one’s needs. Thus 6:19–34 flows naturally out of 6:1–18 in the sense that it continues the emphasis on the centrality of God over earthly concerns. In 6:1–18 Jesus centered on the vertical aspect of piety; here he centers on the horizontal aspect of human needs, but the message is the same: center on God and his place in our lives, not on self and worldly concerns. . .
Jesus now turns from piety to possessions. Social values begin with choices regarding priorities. What is most important in one’s life? Jesus narrows this down to the most critical tension—God or this world. Everyone seeks treasure and stores up savings for the future. The question is which will be the master of one’s life: God or earthly concerns. Every person will be a slave to something, and the choice centers on what one treasures most. The ultimate choice is between the things of God and the things of earth. What you see is what you will get. If it is the earthly that is in control, the result will be anxiety. If God is in control, the result will be trust.
John Nolland: There is an easy transition from the call in 6:1-18 to behaviour that God will secretly reward to the challenge here to store up treasure in heaven. Indeed, we have here a fitting conclusion generalising from vv. 1-18. However, vv. 19-21 is a transitional piece, and v. 19 also looks forward to v. 24 in which devotion to ‘mammon’ is somewhat equivalent to ‘stor[ing] up … treasures on the earth’. Vv. 19-24 function as a unit in which the importance of the challenges in vv. 19-21, 24 to single-mindedness are underlined by a centrally positioned call in vv. 22-23 to have clear vision.
R. T. France: There is a clear continuity of thought between the idea of a secret, heavenly reward in vv. 1–6, 16–18 and the subject of treasure in heaven which opens this section of the discourse with its focus on the disciple’s attitude to material security.
Daniel Doriani: Chapter 6 describes three of the forces, the false gods, that keep people from seeking the kingdom. The first is reputation or human honor (6:1–18). The second is wealth (6:19–24). The third is security (6:25–34), which Jesus tackles in terms of worry.
Michael Wilson: Depictions of people praying for the actualization of God’s reign “on earth” (6:10) lead naturally to depictions showing how God’s people ought to align their values with those of the impending kingdom. Specifically, the image of treasures “on earth” (6:19) communicates how the desire for material wealth often competes with spiritual priorities over the direction of a person’s core commitments, or “heart.” Since it is not possible to live in service to both God and money, Jesus demands of his followers undivided allegiance to the kingdom, a requirement dramatized through language that prompts the reader to imagine a human body that is full of either light or darkness, or a slave who tries to serve two masters. . .
The pursuit of earthly goods, meanwhile, results not only in loss but also in failure to acquire imperishable goods. The text assumes that the work of gathering a treasure of some kind represents a basic human drive, and that this drive (signified in 6:21 by the “heart”) can be guided in only one direction. Since Jesus’s followers must “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (22:37), it is not possible for them to love both God and mammon (6:24). The use of material possessions, then, serves as a critical barometer of one’s commitment. A similar appropriation of the topos informs the claim in Job 36.3: “My heart is not fixed on earthly concerns, since the earth and those who dwell in it are unstable; rather my heart is fixed on heavenly concerns, for there is no upset in heaven.”
Those whose hearts are oriented toward God when they give alms have not only treasure in heaven (cf. 6:20–21; cf. 6:3–4) but also selves that are full of light (6:22; cf. 5:14–16). Conversely, those whose hearts are not oriented toward God when they give alms not only fail to have treasure in heaven (6:19; cf. 6:2) but also have selves consumed by darkness (6:23; cf. 15:14).
Richard Gardner: In verses 19-24 we find a cluster of three sayings, which Matthew uses to develop the theme of a life with one focus.
John MacArthur: Now in chapter 6:19 and following He says you must also have the right view toward wealth, luxury, verses 19 to 24; and watch this, then from 25 to 34, you must have the right view of necessities. So He’s talking about things here: First luxuries and then necessities.
And so we have to make a choice.
- We make a choice,first of all, verses 19 and 20 whether we lay up our treasure on earth or in heaven.
- We make a choice,secondly, in verses 22 and 23 of whether we are going to exist in light or whether we’re going to exist in darkness.
- We make another choice in verse 24 whether ourMaster will be God or our master will be money, because it can’t be both.
So the Lord really gives us three choices, which really come together to be one choice, and that is to choose properly how we handle our wealth.
E. Michael Green: The worldliness that we are called to avoid can take a religious or a secular form. And so we differ from those who are not Christians both in our devotional life, which Jesus has dealt with in the first half of the chapter, and also in our ambitions. These are disclosed principally in two ways: ‘What do we really value?’ and ‘What do we worry about?’ It is to these twin areas of money and worry that Jesus now turns, as he seeks to show with embarrassing directness what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom.
I. (:19-21) THE TWO TREASURES — SEEK HEAVENLY TREASURES RATHER THAN EARTHLY – WHERE IS OUR TREASURE?
William Barclay: So Jesus warns people against three kinds of pleasures and possessions.
(1) He warns them against the pleasures which will wear out like an old suit of clothes. The finest garment in the world, moths or no moths, will in the end disintegrate. All purely physical pleasures have a way of wearing out. At each successive enjoyment of them, the thrill becomes less thrilling. It requires more of them to produce the same effect. They are like a drug which loses its initial potency and which becomes increasingly less effective. It is foolish to look for pleasure in things which are bound to offer diminishing returns.
(2) He warns against the pleasures which can be eroded away. The grain store is the inevitable prey of the marauding rats and mice which nibble and gnaw away the grain. There are certain pleasures which inevitably lose their attraction as we grow older. It may be that we become physically less able to enjoy them; it may be that as our minds mature they cease in any sense to satisfy us. In life, we should never give our hearts to the joys the years can take away; we should find our delight in the things whose thrill time is powerless to erode.
(3) He warns against the pleasures which can be stolen away. All material things are like that; not one of them is secure; and if people build their happiness on them, they are building on a most insecure basis. Suppose a person’s life is so arranged that happiness depends on the possession of money; suppose a recession and economic crash comes and that person wakes up to find the money gone; then, with the wealth, happiness has also gone.
If we are wise, we will build our happiness on things which we cannot lose, things which are independent of the chances and the changes of this life.
A. (:19) Futility of Seeking Earthly Treasures
- Command – Expressed Negatively
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,”
Grant Osborne: The present tense directed at stopping future actions (“don’t at any time store up”).
Charles Swindoll: An important point needs to be made here: Jesus wasn’t prohibiting possessions per se. Nowhere does the Bible forbid ownership of property or having possessions. Riches and honor come from God, who ought to be thanked for material blessings when He graciously gives them (1 Chr. 29:12-13). Nor was Jesus warning against planning for the future. Those who would use this passage to teach that buying insurance or investing for retirement constitutes a lack of faith are reading this in a way the Lord didn’t intend. Scripture exhorts us to plan wisely and especially to provide for our families (1 Tim. 5:8; Jas. 4:13-15). The Lord also was not dissuading us from enjoying the gifts He gives us (see 1 Tim. 6:17).
Rather, Jesus was denouncing a life focused on the accumulation of more and more, warning against selfishness and an extravagant lifestyle. He used the term translated “treasures” purposefully. The Greek term thēsauros  is used to refer to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh given to Jesus by the magi (Matt. 2:11) and to “the treasures of Egypt” that Moses forsook (Heb. 11:26). What is being condemned is a this-worldly hoarding of wealth and riches, setting one’s heart and mind on these things. The Bible is clear that “those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches” are wicked (Ps. 49:5-6).
Craig Blomberg: To avoid those dangers, rich Christians must be characterized by generosity in giving and meticulous stewardship in using money for the Lord’s work.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Biblical Examples of Laying up Treasures on Earth:
a) Example of Achan (Joshua 6:17-18, 7:1-26).
b) Example of Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-22)
- Reason – Leads to Futility
“where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.”
Daniel Doriani: But Jesus does ban the godless, selfish accumulation of goods—heaping up possessions and savings beyond the ability to enjoy or spend them. James warns those who live in luxury and self-indulgence, “You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter”—that is, judgment day (James 5:5). The same godlessness that leads to hoarding also leads to a hard heart—to neglect of the needy and exploitation of the poor (James 5:4–6).
Jesus also forbids the dream that life consists in the abundance of our possessions (Luke 12:15). He warns us not to tether our hearts to this world. When Jesus says, “Don’t lay up treasures,” he does not forbid joyful living or financial planning. He does forbid greed and love of money and selfish luxury.
B. (:20) Security of Seeking Heavenly Treasures
- Command – Expressed Positively
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,”
Daniel Doriani: We lay up treasures in heaven by investing in God’s causes and God’s people. The effects of such investments last forever. We store treasures in heaven by worshiping God, growing in knowledge and grace, and growing in love for God and neighbor. Financially, we store treasures in heaven by using money for kingdom causes, by giving money to the church, to missions, to Christian schools, to the poor. When we store treasures in heaven by investing our money in God’s people, our investment will bear dividends for eternity. The Greek roots of the word “philanthropy”—meaning “love” and “mankind”—are apt. By giving, we demonstrate our love for mankind.
- Reason – Leads to Security
“where neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in or steal;”
John Nolland: Heavenly treasure is vulnerable neither to nature nor to one’s fellow humans. What might be involved in storing up treasures in heaven has already been made clear by the principles established in vv. 1-18.
C. (:21) Conclusion: Your Heart Will Align with Your Treasure
“for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Grant Osborne: Jesus concludes that what people “treasure” becomes the guiding principle for their whole life. “Heart” (καρδία) is the whole being, referring to “the inner person, the seat of understanding, knowledge, and will” (EDNT, 2:250). So it means we give total loyalty to that which is of ultimate significance. Jesus is asking whether worldly wealth or the things of God will rule our lives. As Plummer puts it, “We must store our wealth above, in order that our hearts may be drawn upwards. The two act and react upon one another.”
Charles Swindoll: Those words should prompt us to do some soul-searching. Ask yourself some questions:
- Am I living unselfishly?
- Do I demonstrate generosity and care for others? Or am I tightfisted and reluctant to help those in need?
- Do I know when I have acquired enough? Or am I stuck in an endless race grasping for more and more?
- Do I allow things to lure me into a materialistic lifestyle?
- Am I just plain greedy? Or am I content with what God has given me and satisfied with His provision for my simple needs?
II. (:22-23) THE TWO VISIONS – CLARITY OF FOCUS VS DISTORTION – CHOOSE LIGHT OVER DARKNESS – WHERE IS OUR FOCUS?
D. A. Carson: Jesus is therefore saying either
(1) that the man who “divides his interest and tries to focus on both God and possessions … has no clear vision, and will live without clear orientation or direction” (Filson)—an interpretation nicely compatible with v.24; or
(2) that the man who is stingy and selfish cannot really see where he is going; he is morally and spiritually blind—an interpretation compatible with vv.19–21.
A. Role of the Eye as Essential to the Illumination of the Body
“The lamp of the body is the eye;”
R. T. France: Perhaps we can be no more definite than to say that the imagery depends on light being necessary for the proper functioning of the body (person) and that this light is in some way dependent on the condition of the eye.
William Barclay: The Distorted Vision
The idea behind this passage is one of childlike simplicity. The eye is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body. The color and state of a window decide what light gets into a room. If the window is clear, clean, and undistorted, the light will come flooding into the room, and will illuminate every corner of it. If the glass of the window is colored or frosted, distorted, dirty, or obscure, the light will be hindered, and the room will not be lit up… So then, says Jesus, the light which gets into any man’s heart and soul and being depends on the spiritual state of the eye through which it has to pass, for the eye is the window of the whole body.
B. Contrast in Spiritual Illumination Based on Your Approach to Wealth
- Clarity of Vision (Related to Generosity)
“if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”
- Distortion (Related to Stinginess)
“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
Daniel Doriani: Jesus poses a diagnostic question: if your eye is perpetually set on riches, ask yourself, “Why am I fixated on material things?” The answer is, “Because you have given your heart to material things.” It is right, therefore, to repent and ask God to redirect your heart toward him.
R. T. France: The meaning “generous” is suggested by the use of the derivative noun haplotēs for “generosity” in e.g. Rom 12:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11, 13, and the adverb haplōs in Jas 1:5 for God’s giving “generously” (cf. LXX 1 Chron 29:17; Prov 11:25). If generosity is to be understood as the outworking of the “simplicity,” “openness” denoted by haplous, this would form a direct counterpart to the phrase ophthalmos ponēros, “bad eye,” which is used for a jealous stinginess in 20:15. In view of the recognized meaning of the “bad eye” to denote selfish greed or meanness, it seems likely that this saying is meant to indicate that one indication of a person’s spiritual health is their generosity or lack of it in the use of their material possessions. So this rather obscure little saying seems to be using a word-play which the English translator cannot reproduce without extensive paraphrase in order to commend either single-mindedness (in pursuing the values of the kingdom of heaven) or generosity, or more likely both, as a key to the effective life of a disciple.
Charles Swindoll: In this section, Jesus was essentially talking about the need for a singularity of mind-set. We know how sight works —light reflected from objects enters our eyes and the images then enter our minds. The goal of the righteous is that the light that enters their eyes is “clear.” The word translated “clear” is haplous , which means “motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward.”
In other words, we need to have clarity of focus, not double-sightedness or double-mindedness. One commentator puts it well: “Jesus, using this language metaphorically, affirms that if a man’s spiritual sense is healthy and his affections directed towards heavenly treasure, his whole personality will be without blemish; but if that spiritual sense is diseased by a false sense of values, or by covetousness, or by a grudging ungenerous spirit, he will rapidly become disingenuous.”
Seen in this light, the need for a single-minded focus on the things of heaven instead of a blurred double vision held captive by the things of earth leads directly to Jesus’ clear conclusion in 6:24: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Many Christians believe they can balance the passionate pursuit of Christ with the passionate pursuit of riches, or give equal time to both of these. But in the Christian life that has enthroned Jesus alone as Lord, there is no room for competing loyalties. Our possessions and pursuits must be submitted to Christ’s plans and priorities, not the other way around.
Donald Hagner: These difficult verses can only be understood correctly by noting the context in which they stand, i.e., the pericopes on either side, both of which refer to concern with wealth. The ἁπλοῦς eye and the πονηρός eye are not to be understood physically as a healthy and a diseased eye (contra Guelich, Sermon). The eye is referred to metaphorically in this passage. The πονηρός eye is the “evil eye” of Near Eastern cultures—an eye that enviously covets what belongs to another, a greedy or avaricious eye (see G. Harder, TDNT 6:555–56). For the Jewish use of the expression in this sense, see m. ʾAbot 2:12, 15; 5:16, 22 (= Danby, 2:9, 11; 5:13, 19). Other references to an evil eye in this sense are found in Matt 20:15 and Mark 7:22 (cf. Sir 14:8–10; Tob 4:7). The ἁπλοῦς eye, given the symmetrical structure of the passage, is probably the opposite of the evil eye, namely, a generous eye, as in the cognate adverb ἁπλῶς, “generously,” in Jas 1:5 (cf. Rom 12:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11, 13)—an eye that is not attached to wealth but is ready to part with it. It is easier to understand ἁπλοῦς as a synonym for the expected ἀγαθός, “good,” in the ethical sense argued above, than to understand πονηρός in the physiological sense of “unusual” (as does Guelich, Sermon, following Sjöberg). On the other hand, ἁπλοῦς can also mean “single” (BAGD, 86a) in the sense of devotion to one purpose, a meaning consonant with the point made by the following verse (v 24). Cf. too “singleness [ἁπλότης] of heart” in Eph 6:5.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Here are two prime examples of men who had good eternal vision: they saw clearly, they saw eternity, and they saw the reward versus the temporary things that were passing on by. Because of this faith, God used them in mighty ways.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, in whom it was said, IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward (Hebrews 11:17-18).
C. Conclusion: Need for Spiritual Illumination or You Will Live in Darkness
“If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Richard Gardner: A more likely interpretation, however, is that Jesus is dealing with need for a clear vision of God’s will and telling a parable to make his point. When we have good (healthy) eyes, our world is one of light, and we see and walk clearly. But when our eyesight is poor (unhealthy), life is a dark and blurry affair. So it is, Jesus suggests, with the spiritual realm. If we have only a shadowy awareness of God’s will, how dark life will be! If on the other hand our vision is focused on God and illumined by God (cf. Iss. 4:1-6), our lives will be full of light.
Van Parunak: Now the organ of revelation is not a city or a lamp, but the individual’s eye, which can be either “single” or “evil.” The Jews are condemned for their distorted perception. If their eyes were working properly, they would recognize the Lord, but there is a defect that keeps them from perceiving.
What kind of defect is in view? The basic meaning of απλους is “single, without guile, sincere, straightforward” (BDAG). The “single eye” perceives things as they are, without distortion. Correspondingly, the “evil eye” insists on distorting the truth and explaining it away. The Jewish attitude toward the Lord illustrates the distortion of the “evil eye.” They are so committed to their own tradition that they could not recognize the obvious evidence from the Scriptures and from the Lord’s works that identify him as the Messiah. “Single” is a good translation, if we understand it of “clear” vision, contrasted with “double” or “blurred” vision.
This understanding fits well with the context in Matthew 6. Here, we are confronted with a clear conflict in claims to our loyalty. We can serve either God or mammon. We can seek treasure either on earth or in heaven. The “single eye” sees this clearly. It recognizes the folly of claiming to serve the Lord while actually following after material things. But the “evil eye” is distorted and blurred. It thinks it can have it both ways, and rationalizes away the clear claims of God on the devotion of his people.
III. (:24) THE TWO MASTERS — SERVE GOD ALONE RATHER THAN BEING DOUBLEMINDED – WHO (OR WHAT) ARE YOU SERVING?
A. Thesis Statement – Impossibility of Divided Loyalty
“No one can serve two masters;”
Grant Osborne: With two masters it would be impossible to give either total allegiance. In the case of God and wealth this is especially true because the two demand opposite things of the slave: possessions demand self-centered living, while God demands that we serve others. Moreover, God’s demands are absolute; there is no room for serving wealth.
B. Any Attempt at Divided Loyalty Will Fail
“for either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will hold to one and despise the other.”
D. A. Carson: Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all. Attempts at divided loyalty betray not partial commitment to discipleship but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.
C. Conclusion: Restatement of Thesis Statement with Specific Application
“You cannot serve God and mammon.”
As Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Daniel Doriani: This is suggested by the name Jesus chooses for money. The term “mammon,” means “trusted thing” or “that which one trusts.” The name is apt, for we are prone to trust money. Remember the prayer, “Give me neither poverty nor riches. . . . Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’” (Prov. 30:8–9; cf. Hos. 13:6). Jeremiah commands, “Let not . . . the rich man boast of his riches” (Jer. 9:23). Ezekiel says, “Because of your wealth your heart has grown proud” (Ezek. 28:5). Job says a man can speak to gold and say, “You are my security” (Job 31:24). It is all too easy to set the heart on riches (Ps. 62:10).
Craig Blomberg: Jesus proclaims that unless we are willing to serve him wholeheartedly in every area of life, but particularly with our material resources, we cannot claim to be serving him at all.