Matthew 6:19–34. How to Beat Materialism. The Single Eye.
Key Notes: Our money. Our nervousness. Three threats to our treasure. The single eye. Serving two masters. Seven arguments against anxiety. Our anxieties.
If “the universe is all there is, all there ever was and all there ever will be”, beating materialism is a vain effort. But if God exists and is the Maker of all there is, we have hope of getting out of our anxiety about money and stuff. Jesus teaches us how to deal with it in this well-known passage. He could have simply issued edicts, but He reasoned through the struggle with the disciples in a way that was loving and patient.
The passage is divided into two parts:
6:19–24 Our attitude toward money;
6:25–34 Our resulting nervousness.
6:19–24. Jesus poses three questions, really the same question in three forms.
Is your treasure in heaven or on earth?
Is your vision single or double?
Will you serve God or material stuff?
6:19–21 Treasures on earth have three kinds of enemies: moth, rust and thief.
*the moth symbolizes attacks from the animal (eg. mice) and vegetable (eg.molds ) kingdoms,
*rust represents the destructive effects of oxidation and time. “Five house-moves equal one fire.”
*the thief summarizes the destructive effects of our fellow humans and the economy. We have to index for inflation: a car used to cost $2500.
If your heart is on materialism, please know that all your stuff will be lost—and yourself as well.
Treasures in heaven have none of these enemies.
If your heart is set upon God in heaven, know that your treasure is safe.
What is treasure in heaven? What is earthly that we know will get into heaven? Human souls. That is God’s paramount investment in this world. That must to be our priority as well. Jesus said getting people into Heaven is an excellent use of money.
“…make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails, they (your friends) may receive you into the eternal habitations.” Lk.16:9
6:22–23 The eye allows us to perceive light, and two eyes give us a single image with depth perception. If the eyes muscles are out of balance, we see two images and our minds are confused. Or the visual image may be distorted by any of a number of diseases. Which target should I shoot at? Imagine driving I-90 at 65mph at night in a rain-storm and seeing two images of oncoming traffic.
If your eye is healthy (Gr. “haplous” means simple, pure, without ulterior motives, whole-hearted, generous) your vision is clear and you are on target. The single eye is a metaphor for the character of a loving, generous and godly person. Paul uses the "single eye" word four times in II Cor.8–10 in his appeal for charitable giving.
6:24 No one can serve two masters. In the Greco-Roman world the slave was not like the worker in the modern world who works 7–10 hours per day and has the rest of the time for personal activities. The slave was on call 24 hours a day with no moon-lighting. He could not possibly serve two masters. And Jesus reiterates the “cannot”. We will serve God or material stuff. We cannot serve both.
6:25–34 The prospect of turning away from all the material stuff as our primary source of security is bound to arouse anxiety. Jesus knows that we should not be anxious. He knows about our knit brows, our bitten fingernails, our sleepless nights, and our gastric acidity. The Greek word for anxiety (“merimna”) comes from two roots that express the idea of dividing the mind. So the anxious person is pulled in two directions and wants treasures on earth as well as in heaven, has double vision, and two masters-- a great source of anxiety.
The burden of things, the harassment of everyday living, falls heavy on us. Modern life is complex and Roman life was simple by comparison.
*Income, bills, and credit card debt. Investments and the Stock Market.
*The kids. Their soccer practice, and music lessons, and tutoring for math, and their friends.
*Inflation, the rising price of everything. Taxes.
*Oil prices and energy and the Middle East.
* Wars and rumors of wars.
*The apartment or house and yard. The work is never done.
*The computer and its mischief: bombs and disappearing files and new features.
*Water and food and vitamins and supplements. Organic? Mercury, lead, manganese, salt and PCB’s? Antioxidants?
*TV and newspapers and Internet –truth and fiction.
*Crime, alcohol and drugs.
“*I have nothing to wear.” Keeping up with everyone else's style.
*The epidemic is coming. West Nile Virus or bird flu or Ebola or some unknown killer virus is out there.
* Christmas and my bad back and there’s no… time…
Jesus gives us seven arguments against anxiety.
Get a life! Don’t concentrate your energy on eating, drinking, and dressing up.
2. The birds don’t worry about their food. God feeds them. (Psa.104). People are worth more than birds!
3. Anxiety will not lengthen your life. [It may shorten it.]
4. The flowers do not worry about their looks and their blossoms are more beautiful than anything humans can fabricate.
5. God sows the flowers and they are soon gone. He cares much more for people and their clothes. [Really? Our clothes?] We have little faith.
6. The Gentiles fret over food and drink and clothes.
7. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. Live your life in day-tight compartments. William Osler, a physician-philosopher of the previous century, said the same.
6:33 Jesus gives us His sovereign remedy for dealing with our stuff:
‘Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.”
Priority One is God’s Righteousness for us, and God’s Kingdom for His glory. Everything else falls into line and will sort itself out.
He has given you a testable proposal. Set your priorities. Find out for yourself if it is true.
“Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our feverish ways.
Reclothe us in our rightful minds.
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
Breath through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm.
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire
O still, small voice of calm.”
--John Greenleaf Whittier.