Matthew 6 is a chapter FULL of assumptions. By assumptions, I mean that when Jesus is teaching, He is not saying that giving, praying, fasting, spending, and living are optional. Far from it! He is assuming that you will do all of these things, and then He tells you how to do them well.
The fourth of these assumptions is found in verses 19-24.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] 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. 21 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."
In these few verses Jesus reveals one of our greatest threats to having God be the Lord of our life: the love of money. It’s in this section that Jesus reminds us that money is to be used, not worshiped.
We love money for a variety of reasons. Some people like the security it brings, others, the pleasure, status symbol, or other benefits it promises. However, Jesus reminds us in the very beginning: it won’t last.
Jesus gives us a sober reminder that thieves and time destroy all wealth. Even today we see people laying down thousands in order to insure that their wealth is protected. Yet even with physical protection, Jesus reminds us that one day we will die and our money will no longer be ours.
After pointing out our desperate situation in regards to our relationship with money, Jesus takes it a step further. He says that not only is your physical relationship to wealth eventually going to deteriorate, but that having your eyes focused on anything other than God will only bring darkness into our lives. He tells us that where we place our desires will be reflected in the rest of our lives and heart. If we place our hearts (our “eyes”, as He says) on money rather than God, then our lives will reflect that darkness rather than God’s light.
As dismal as our situation can appear with Jesus’ harsh reminder of our situation, He brings us hope. He tells us that there is another way. Jesus says in verse 24 that “No one can serve two masters”, and later He rephrases it as “You cannot serve God and money.” In this statement He’s bringing us another option. He’s giving us the choice to repent of our past ways, to repent of our love of money, security, status, pride, etc - and to turn to God as our Master instead.
He alludes to this earlier when He encourages His listeners to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (verse 20). What a hope that we are not constrained to the ongoing problem of accumulating wealth on earth, only to live in constant fear of it being lost, and then to have it all be taken away at our death. Jesus gives us a new story to live by, one where God is our Master, not money. This story may involve riches on earth, but it may not. Regardlessly, God is our goal, our treasure, and our reward, not money.
So how do you lay up treasures in heaven? How do we turn to God as our master?
The first step would be to consider what Jesus has to say about giving. If you haven’t already, go read Part 1 in this series which talks about this subject. After learning more about what Jesus has for us in this area, obey Him in it.
The second step would be to continue to learn more about the character of God and pray that He would put that same Spirit and character into your life. Remember that money is not the only problem we have. Jesus said that "no one can serve TWO masters.” This includes money, however, it also includes the rest of life. So as you continue to learn more about God and become more sensitive to His Spirit and leading, follow Him. When you believe He wants you to give more than what is standard, do so. When you believe He wants you to serve others, talk to a stranger, give someone a ride, get a new job, or anything else - go do it.
In summary, make Jesus be your Lord in every area of your life and in doing so you’ll be storing up treasures in heaven.