We are on our fifth week exploring Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. We will delve into the next deeply probing section of how Jesus' taught we should be living out His Words. Jesus has just finished illustrating that the heart from which all of our actions stem, good and bad, shows the true condition of our souls. Now He begins to focus on the things which our misguided hearts will often latch onto instead of Him and His love.
Matthew 6:19-23: I want us to put this into proper perspective right from the start (because this is often misrepresented). Jesus does not mean that we cannot have things, and that we must take a vow of poverty to be holy (don’t let that set you at ease just yet though). He does not mean that we should not be wise and prepare for the future to the best of our ability: Proverbs 6:6-8. Jesus says when we are completely focused on our stuff—when our stuff has us more than we have the stuff—then we are in danger, because our heart is far from Him. In our narcissism that we discussed last week, we have the idea that all of these blessings are my doings, and we develop an unhealthy obsession with what we have, with what we can acquire. Sometimes even with the misguided, but good intentions that my family deserves this and I owe it to them. And then we develop a fear of losing what we have acquired, of maintaining that status quo. Jesus is saying, it is not a sin of working and providing and having; it is the sin of letting that be your heart's main focus and concern. It is the sin of being overly concerned, overly involved, in obtaining more than you will ever need. In a poll taken in 1992 in America, asking households what it would take for them to live the "American Dream" comfortably and securely—no matter where that household was financially—they almost always said double the amount they had currently, would be what it would take to be happy. Standard of living has gone up 2500% since 1820. Right this moment, the worst-case scenario in this room is extremely rich according to most places, times and cultures of history. And think on this: what could you lose today, in a heartbeat [material security, health, relationships, loved ones] to make you immediately realize that where you are right now was the rich, blessed time you wish you could return to?
So, I ask you: Are most of us rich right now? Here is the danger: Jesus said that what our eye is focused on most—what you take into your heart with the most desire and focus—affects your entire being. Your thoughts, emotions, integrity, character, plans, likes, dislikes—all controlled by what you see as important. And it also controls the worth you place on any person, object or situation. Jesus said an eye focused on this world brings darkness into your very soul because it brings self-focus, lust, worry, anxiety, jealousy, fear—and distracts from everything God says is important (living for others, faith, contentment, sacrifice). And Jesus says an eye focused on Him will bring light into your soul—not later, but now, because our worries will fade in our concern and love for doing His will. What we have or lose will not be our focus—we will see everything in His worth—not the value the world, or our wants place on it/them: Matthew 13:22: the rich young ruler whom Jesus challenged to give up all he had if he was to follow as a disciple, went away sad because the things he had, really had him; because they were his real treasure, proven when he was asked to put them under his love for God. What would your real answer be, right this moment, if He asked you to give up your savings, house, car, level of social living, security, looks, health, to have Christ? Jesus' next words in the sermon He is giving, address this quandary: Matthew 6:24: mammon. Think on this: We are called to have a different love—a different motive—and therefore, a totally different focus and lifestyle than the world, which should be apparent in the way we are living our very lives. We are to be serving a different Master than the world. If you are not consciously, clearly doing that, you are, at best, trying to serve two masters—and Jesus says it is not possible, because He gave you His all, it is what He wants in return: Matthew 13:44.
Jesus then tells His disciples what their heart's eye should be focused on if they truly love Him: Matthew 6:25-27, 32. Jesus is not saying don't work and plan and provide. He is saying do not fret, obsess and focus solely on these things. He is saying do not make your life about these things primarily. Most think that doesn't describe them at all—the truth may surprise you. Ask yourself these questions: Are money and things your main consideration when making almost all decisions? (Or is it His will and purpose?) Is money one of the main sources of anxiety in your life? (#1 source of stress for adults in America) Do you find it hard to give generously to needs? Or at all? Are you failing to put God first even with a small, regular percentage of your money (All have moments, but months or years?) because you are so strapped financially? Or so self-focused in spending? (Even if you are giving to others?) Do you live in constant, massive consumer debt because of your lifestyle? Now do you see why Jesus talks about it so much? Matthew 6:33-34: Jesus says to literally, consciously be living for Him and His Kingdom as your primary focus—using what you have. And in return, He will be sure these things are taken care of in your life. Do you and I live this way? Infatuated with His work first? Focused on loving and helping others with all we have first? Knowing He will always provide? Or is our preoccupation with our life and things first, with all of His work as a side note? With all of our possessions guarded furiously like the rich young ruler, rather than using our blessings in service? If we lived with Him and His Kingdom in mind first, much of the debt that has you as a slave, would not occur. Think seriously about this: other than what it does for your social status (or conscience), even just a few generations from now, will it matter that your house was that much bigger than you needed? That you had the absolute best cell phone available? That your car was always the nicest, newest? That you were able to take more vacations than anyone else? That your kids dressed the cutest, had every toy they wanted? That you had all of the time-wasting, useless toys you wanted? But what will the worth be of one person who comes to you a thousand years from now, still thankful that God used you to show them the way? What will be the worth of literally hearing the words one day, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"? It all comes down to these two questions: Do I truly believe He exists? Do I truly love Him more than anything else? You know the age-old adage, "You can't take it with you?" Well, that is true, but there is a way you can send it on ahead of you: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 19:21. In all of these verses, if we act and give in passion for God and others, using what we have now, we are literally putting a deposit in our future account, and, He promises to take care of our needs in return—now. And, He promises more joy and peace in this life as well. Do you believe that account is real? If you do, there should be no hesitation with that kind of return. Listen closely to this last parable, often misunderstood by many: Luke 16:1-9: Jesus is not praising the sinful works of the steward. He is saying that often, people of this world see more clearly, and have greater cunning in how they use their worldly possessions to benefit themselves than my own children. Jesus is saying that He wished His own people would have that kind of passion and purposeful skill in using their possessions for what they say is important to them. He wishes they would understand they are going to "leave this job" one day as well, and they should use the possessions and money they have now to help those around them, who owe a debt they can't pay as well, so those people may be there to warmly welcome them when they leave this job, and reach the other side. What an awesome parable; what an eye-opening comparison. Then Jesus says something very powerful at the end of this parable: Luke 16:10-13. If God can't even trust you with simple, filthy, temporary money and possessions of this world that don't even truly belong to you anyway, but Him; if He can't trust you to use them in true love for Him and others, how can He trust you with the wonderful, eternal, Blood-worthy people of His Kingdom? How can He trust you with the deep secrets of His Own heart and will? And how can He ever give you riches of your own in confidence?
Jesus talked of money and possessions quite a bit. Why would the, "Lord of all Things Eternal", be so focused on our material goods? Well, it certainly isn't because He needs what you have. He gave it to you! He owns it all. Here is the reason Jesus cares about your attitude towards your money: your focus on it, is the window to affecting your very soul. Your use of it, shows the true treasure of your heart. Your reliance on it, hording of it, lusting after it, shows your trust is not in Him. Put all we are saying into proper perspective, or we've missed it again: What has this entire sermon truly been about thus far? The heart. Don't turn this into a debate in your own head about whether you are giving enough, or you own too much, or you live too extravagantly. This is everything it is about: [The Crown] This could have been Jesus' Treasure: Perfect love, power, comfort. But He gave it all away [Thorns]. Down to thinking His Own Soul was destined for hell, because He saw you as the real treasure. You were His treasure buried in a field; not these things. He used what we would call real treasures to win His real treasure. That is what makes Him the treasure above all treasures. For that reason alone—do you live your life passionately wanting to use everything you have for Him first? And because anything He loves (His people), becomes more important than your things. As Blood-bought children of the Holy, Righteous and Loving King, who are living in a world that is just the opposite: an unloving and broken world, you and I should be living very different from the world. And since money makes the world go around, one of the biggest differences should be in how we use it. Is our focus on getting more of it, and spending more of it? (Debt!) On spending and hoarding it for me?
(Self-focus, dissatisfaction!) Or is it just a tool? Given to me by my Master anyway (So used wisely- less debt) to be used in faith and passion for Him? (selfless contentment). Do you use money and things to serve God? Or use God to try and acquire more things? Because my friend, He showed what His real treasure was: when He spent all He had on you and me.
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