19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 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! 24 “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.
That great preach from yesteryear, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, passed on an interesting story he once heard about a farmer who had two calves.
It is the story of a farmer who one day went happily and with great joy in his heart to report to his wife and family that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. And he said, ‘You know I have suddenly had a feeling and impulse that we must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes we will sell one and keep the proceeds, and we will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord’s work.’ His wife asked him which he was going to dedicate to the Lord. ‘There is no need to bother about that now,’ he replied, ‘we will treat them both in the same way and when the time comes we will do as I say.’ And off he went. In a few months the man entered his kitchen looking very miserable and unhappy. When his wife asked him what was troubling him, he answered, ‘I have bad news to give you. The Lord’s calf is dead.’
We know exactly what has happened here, do we not? Greed is a powerful motivator and an ever-present temptation in our consumer culture. I find it intriguing that we are looking at this text on this morning when we gather for the Lord’s Supper. At the Lord’s Supper, we consume…but it is a consuming that puts all other consuming in proper perspective. Today we come to the table to take, but in taking we are reminded of what really matters.
My points this morning are simple and I commend them to your careful consideration. As we consider these verses, let us look at the second half (v.21-14) first and the first half (v.19-20) second.
I. Your life will inevitably be driven in the direction of the treasures that have captured your heart and eyes. (v.21-24)
Your life will inevitably be driven in the direction of the treasures that have captured your heart and eyes. That is a simple fact. History has demonstrated the truthfulness of this fact and personal experience has verified it. We are driven by the things that capture our souls’ attention. Jesus put it like this:
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 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! 24 “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.
Your treasure will drive your heart. What your heart wants will dictate your life’s trajectory. And your eye will do likewise, for the fixation of your eyes will pour either light or darkness into your body. If the eye looks on good things, it will pull your heart towards those good things. If your eye is fixed on wicked things, it will pull your heart towards wicked things.
Just think how what your eyes are enamored with compel you in the direction of that with which you are enamored. If you keep your eye from lingering too long over a thing, then you break the power of that thing. We should strive to be blind to wickedness and evil, including greed. John Chrysostom asked, “If your eyes were completely blind, would you choose to wear gold and silk?”
This connection between the fixation of the eyes and the condition of the heart is what is behind Jesus’ statement about lust from chapter 5.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
It is better to rip your eye from your body than to let your eye lead you to hell. Which is simply to say that it is quite possible for us to be possessed by what we stare at the longest. If a man or woman spends his or her days staring at wealth, staring at goods, staring at a bigger house, staring at a nicer car, staring at her, staring at him, staring at status, staring at success, or staring at fame, he or she will likely become possessed by that at which he or she is staring.
This is why Jesus says such a startling thing: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away!” In using this unsettling image, Jesus was simply acknowledging that our eyes can steer us to hell. Therefore we should do whatever we need to do to wrench ourselves free from soul-destroying idols that captivate us.
I am struck by one particularly odd episode in the life of St. Francis and his followers. Francis had his followers wear rope belts around their simple robes. The ropes had three knots in them representing the three Franciscan virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Franciscan commitment to poverty meant that they did not touch money, if at all possible. Mark Galli relays an account of the strange episode involving one of the Franciscans touching some money.
According to The Assisi Compilation, one day a layman happened to enter St. Mary of the Angels to pray and, as an offering, he laid some money near the cross. After he left, a brother unthinkingly picked the money up and placed it on a window ledge. When the brother heard that Francis had learned of the incident, he immediately rushed to Francis and implored forgiveness. He even offered his body, saying Francis should whip him for penance. Francis, however, was not so easily placated; he had a better idea. After rebuking the brother sternly, he ordered him to go the windowsill, pick up the money with his mouth and carry it outside. Then, again with his mouth, he was to deposit in on a heap of ass’s dung. The brother obeyed gladly.
This is shocking behavior indeed! To be sure, money, in and of itself, is morally neutral, it is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. But it is dangerous, as this episode from the early Franciscans demonstrates. Did Francis go too far in this? I do not know. You tell me. I know this: it is better to put our idols on the dung heap than to allow them sway over our hearts.
We must be free of those things that enslave the human heart. These are the things on which our hearts fixate and on which our eyes are locked. How do we do this? How do we break free? Simply put, we must let our hearts and eyes become fixated on more beautiful things than mere money or mammon.
Stanley Hauerwas writes:
Possessed by possessions, we discover that we cannot will our way free of our possessions. But if we can be freed our attention may be grasped by that which is so true, so beautiful, we discover we have been dispossessed.
But what is this that is “so true, so beautiful” that it has the power to dispossess us of that which has possessed us? Truly, it is Christ. Our hearts and eyes should be fixed on Christ. When Christ is situated in the center of the human heart, our eyes are now free to see clearly and to attach themselves to more beautiful things.
II. Choose, then, treasures that are eternal and that steer you Godward. (v.19-20)
We must choose to look upon Christ, and, with Him, upon all things that steer us Godward. Jesus says this in v.19-20:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal.
The word that many of our translations translate as “rust” is brosis. That word actually means “eating” and it refers to something that devours, something more like locusts than rust. We are a people obsessed with the accumulation of things that will not last. This is true even of Christians in America today. Clarence Jordan has asked some poignant questions.
Why has the Western world, and America in particular, which measures most of its values on this materialistic scale, been attracted to the religion of Jesus Christ inasmuch as Jesus ruthlessly condemns materialism? What trick of the mind has made it possible for us and him to dwell together in apparent unity?
It is, indeed, a strange union: materialistic Christians and Jesus Christ. Yes, Christ loves and calls materialists too, but He calls us to set aside our materialism. He does so by warning us. In our text this morning, he warns us against moths, devourers, and thieves. The problem with staking your life on temporal things is that they are just that, temporal. This is why great wealth so often brings great anxiety: we must expend so much energy to keep it! We must guard against the moths and the devourers and the thieves. And, on top of that, we must constantly plot new ways to accumulate more, for a little wealth never seems to satisfy. We must not only protect but increase. Calvin Miller has captured this truth well in this little poem from his The Divine Symphony:
A beggar asked a millionaire,
“How many more dollars
Would it take to
Make you truly happy?”
Reaching his gnarled hands
Into the beggar’s cup, replied,
“Only one more!”
It is never enough, and it never lasts. Jesus warns of the inevitable disintegration of our treasures. He also warns of the foolishness of wealth-obsession in light of the inevitable conclusion of our earthly lives. He did this most memorably in Luke 12.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Jesus calls the man a fool. He was a fool because he forgot the temporal nature of his life. He was a fool because he spent the few years allotted to him in the accumulation of goods that would not last, just as his life on earth would not last.
What, then, is the answer? If wealth is bound to decay and disintegrate before moths, devourers, thieves, and death, what then should we do? We should do two things. First, we should see earthly wealth for what it is: temporal. Secondly, we should choose treasures that are eternal and that steer us Godward.
We must choose – really and practically choose – to have our hearts and eyes captured by the beauty of Jesus and His gospel. This means the practical devaluing of temporal things. Devaluing does not mean utter abandonment. The temporal things of life are good in their appropriate measures. Devaluing means no longer allowing these temporal things to hold our hearts and our eyes captive.
It means the devaluing of temporal things and the revaluing of eternal things. It means looking again upon Christ so as to love Him. It means marveling at Christ.
This is what makes our consideration of this passage on Communion Sunday so fascinating to me. Here, on the table, the Lord has given us something to look at, to hold, to touch, to smell, and to taste. It is a memorial feast pointing our hearts and minds to Christ. The beauty of this moment is not in the bread but in the Jesus to whom the bread points. The beauty of this moment is not in the juice but in the Christ to whom the juice points.
Here, friends, is a treasure that lasts, for here we are assisted in coming again before Jesus Christ. Here we are reminded that the Lamb of God has willingly laid down His life for His sheep…for us…for you and for me. Here we see an eternal treasure than no moth, no devourer, and no thief can steal.
The devil cannot steal this! The devil cannot steal the good news that Christ has come, that Christ has walked among us, that Christ has laid down His life, that Christ has risen, and that Christ is coming again! Hallelujah!
Jesus is a treasure indeed, and He is yours this morning if you will but come to Him.
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p.366-367.
 Manlio Simonetti, ed. Matthew 1-13. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, vol.Ia. Thomas C. Oden, ed. (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p.71-78.
 Mark Galli, Francis of Assisi and His World. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p.95.
 Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), p.81.
 Clarence Jordan, Sermon on the Mount. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1952), p.68.
 Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony ((Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2000)), p.116.