Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV)…”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust 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. 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.”
Listening to a message is not the same thing as “hearing” it. It is always physically possible to “listen” to someone’s words while spiritually not “hearing” so much as a syllable. That is to say, the content of what one may say, may well ring in our ears while failing to register in our heart. The reason this happens is that we are quite often convinced that what is being said, though true enough in itself, does not apply to us personally. We pray silently that someone else would pay close attention, but we are persuaded that we need not do so. Experience has taught me that there is one particular message that virtually everyone treats that way. It is a message that we believe applies to others but not in the least to ourselves. The result is that many “listen” to it, but few actually “hear” it. The subject of that message is materialism. Most Christians, if pressed, would have to acknowledge that, whereas they occasionally experience a slight twinge of materialism, on the whole they fancy themselves free of it.
One of the primary reasons for this is that virtually everyone compares himself/herself either with those who are their equal in monetary status or with those who are above them on the socio-economic ladder. When everyone is either as well or better off than you, it is easy to carry on with a clear conscience! Another reason we do not readily confess to being materialistic is that we mistakenly define materialism as the possession of great wealth. But poor people can be just as materialistic as the rich! Materialism, as the Bible portrays it, does not consist in the acquisition of money and property but in the attitude one has with respect to money and property, however much or little of it we may actually own. Some of the more greedy people I have known actually own very little. And I know some extremely wealthy people who maintain a very loose grip on their possessions. It is true, of course, that the Bible issues stern warnings to the wealthy (or, better still, to those who want to be wealthy). The wealthy are exposed to certain temptations of which the poor know nothing. But the Bible nowhere tells the wealthy to be ashamed of their wealth, unless they obtained it by dishonest means. The Bible nowhere tells the poor to be ashamed of their poverty, unless they became poor because of sloth and irresponsible behaviour. My point is this: Materialism is not a problem with possessions but with perspective. I say this only to awaken the middle class and even the poor to the very real threat that materialism poses to them.
The issue is not how much you have in your grasp but how tightly your grasp is on what you have.
Jesus begins by issuing two exhortations or commands, the first of which is negative (v.19) and the second of which is positive (v.20). Note: Everyone has treasures, even the poor. A treasure is whatever you value and protect. It may have minimal monetary value. This is not a divine prohibition on possessions. It is not a ban on private property. Many of Jesus’ followers were quite wealthy: Joseph of Arimathea, Zacchaeus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha (who financially supported His ministry). Although Peter left all to follow Jesus, he retained his house in Capernaum and after the resurrection briefly returned to his fishing business. Most of Jesus’ parables presuppose a property-owning society. His point is that we must be careful not to hoard wealth as if it had no other purpose than to be possessed. He does not denounce having things, but rather having for having’s sake. Jesus has in view that sort of unnecessary extravagance and excessive opulence, which betrays a greedy spirit and a callous disregard for those in need.