Matthew 6:19-24

6.19 Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται διορύσσουσιν καὶ κλέπτουσιν· 6.20 θησαυρίζετε δὲ ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ, ὅπου οὔτε σὴς οὔτε βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται οὐ διορύσσουσιν οὐδὲ κλέπτουσιν· 6.21 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρός σου, ἐκεῖ ἔσται καὶ ἡ καρδία σου.

6.22 Ὁ λύκνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός. ἐὰν οὖν ᾖ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς, ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινὸν ἔσται· 6.23 ἐὰν δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρὸς ᾖ, ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινὸν ἔσται. εἰ οὖν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστιν, τὸ σκότος πόσον.

6.24 Οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.

6.19 Do not store up treasures for yourself here in this world, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves dig through and steal; 6.20 but store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not dig through and steal; 6.21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

6.22 The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is working properly, your entire body will be fully lit; 6.23 but if your eye is diseased, your entire body will be in deep darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how great the darkness.

6.24 No one is able to serve two lords; For he will either hate the one and love the other or he will cling to one and despise the other. You are cannot be a servant to both God and Money.

At 6:19 Jesus turns to a new topic, which we can see based on the lack of connectives. The topic now changes to how we approach the treasures of this world. Before, Jesus spoke of how our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and scribes, now he turns to his hearers own priorities and interests. Through the rest of the chapter we no longer find comparisons between the law and Jesus’ teaching, or critiques of the hypocrites and their pretensions. Now it becomes very practical. Where is your heart? Is it in your retirement savings, or in your eternal inheritance?

As mentioned in the last post, we find the word ἀφανίζει which describes something vanishing, being removed, becoming disfigured. I used the word “corrupt” because I think it brings out the idea of the destruction brought out by moths and rust, and the usefulness of the objects once corrupted.

In both verses 19 and 20 there is a paralleling of structure in Greek that I don’t read any theological significance in, but find interesting anyway. The first “where” phrase is two subjects performing a singular action, “corrupt”; the second “where” phrase is a single subject performing two actions, “digging in” and “stealing”. Interesting, yes. Significant, probably not.

Jesus is direct. Don’t store up treasure here and now. There are numerous natural forces at work in the present destroying the value of what you store away. Instead, we should store up our treasure in heaven. And by this we are not talking money and riches, but a rich relationship with God and a good conscience as we follow his commands out of a changed heart. “For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.”

The natural me wants to add that it is not unwise to save for our future within reason, but I would be softening what Jesus is saying. He is not primarily interested in us having a worry-free retirement. And though we may all want that, we might consider whether a life spent preparing for the future isn’t a waste of present potential and God-filled opportunities. Maybe we ought work ourselves to the point of death, not at burdensome jobs, but at ministry and service, rather than spending extra time at a job to give ourselves an easy spot by the pool once we are too old to really enjoy it.

Jesus’ life certainly wasn’t described by a rabid race to prepare for a time of luxury or relaxation. He both worked hard and enjoyed his work and relationships immensely, moment-by-moment. He knew his father had a purpose that was worth far more than short-term satisfaction – short-term on God’s scale, that is.

6:22 introduces a strange illustration. The eye is described as a λύκνος, “lamp,” which causes the whole body to be φωτεινὸν, “well lit” when it is ἁπλοῦς, “sound”. This “lamp” is the kind of light or candle that would be mounted up high to provide light. To be sound, when speaking of the eye, is to be good, serviceable or in working order. 6:23 follows in similar tone, that if the eye is πονηρὸς, “damaged” or “diseased,” that the body will be plunged into darkness, σκοτεινὸν. Jesus notes that if what should be providing light is not – and especially if you are blissfully unaware of the problem – you really are in darkness.

It’s a matter of perspective. If you think that your eyes are fine, it’s hard to really tell. Eyesight gets worse, but often you are left with nothing more than a vague impression that something is going wrong. When vision is corrected by glasses, contacts or surgery, the difference can be startling. More than once I’ve been in a conversation where someone has noted, “I never realized my vision had gotten so bad!”

So why this illustration? It seems an odd comment stuck between two different statements about worldly wealth and security. As I have considered it, I began to think about how the illustration focused on the inlet for light into the body. if we are properly illuminated, our lives will produce fruit that indicates that illumination. If we are in the dark, we will stumble around as one who has yet to “flick the switch”. If our life is lit by a search for worldly treasures, then we are really blinded. We likely won’t even be able to recognize the darkness we live under unless someone flips on the lights and shows us what we have been missing. Jesus’ words are the light switch, provoking his disciples to walk in light of eternity rather than have a short-sighted materialism.

In 6:24, we find Jesus using the term δουλεύειν. This is the present infinitive, “to serve”, indicating habitual or continuing aspect. Jesus tells his hearers that they cannot keep up a servant relationship with two masters. Now, the initial thing might be to think, “Sure, you would burn out. That’s just too much work to serve two masters.” But that is not Jesus’ reasoning at all. Instead, Jesus notes with parallel statements that one master will always be loved more than the other. One will always be given more devotion and better service. And so one can only truly “be a servant to” one master. This word comes from the same root as to the word “servant”, or maybe a stronger but less culturally acceptable word today, “slave”. Imagine what the master who is receiving less love and devotion would think. “Not a very good servant/slave.” So I guess the call is to pick which master you would rather have praise from.

And Jesus clarifies who the two masters in question are. The first is God. The second is μαμωνᾶς. That is, treasure or a personified view of riches. This has its roots in “what provides us confidence”. The master in a true master-servant relationship looks out and provides security – confidence. So a follower of Jesus must choose between finding their confidence in God, or finding their confidence in what they can do for themselves. Overall, I don’t think we have an equal set of choices. Nevertheless, it seems people tend to choose confidence in their own ability-to-produce over God’s ability-to-provide. Crying shame, really.

God wants us to serve him exclusively. He wants our full love and attention. He wants us to cling to him. Every moment of distraction is time and energy wasted. And it is like stabbing your boss in the back.

So Jesus moves from speaking about “storing up treasure” to what “lights” our existence and finally moves to who or what we serve. Jesus addresses self-interest, proceeds to illustrate the importance of God’s perspective on wealth, and then makes it clear that perspective is more than just a minor consideration. Who we serve is manifest before God, if not men. Following God is a life at odds with seeking our own material advancement.

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like complete darkness. Those who follow it have no idea what they are stumbling over.

Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully. Don’t lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.

Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

Proverbs 4:18-27

From here we are prepared by Jesus to consider what our daily concerns ought to be. If our confidence is found in our service to God rather than storing up treasure for ourselves, then our outlook on the day’s tasks will change. So that’s what’s next…

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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