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The Quest for the Treasure in Your Chest


This is part 5/9 in our Sermon on the Mount series where we discuss Matthew 6:19-24. In this passage, Jesus teaches about how our earthly treasures can distract you from God’s purposes and keep you from living a Kingdom life. Ultimately, what Jesus is after, is your heart - the treasure in your chest. He teaches that God wants your full attention, your complete trust and your undivided loyalty.

As disciples of Jesus, we are living and anticipating the Kingdom of God, with hearts fully devoted to God. Jesus knew that living as citizens of heaven in a world with other priorities would be hard, and that is why He teaches in very clear words about what it means to give God our full attention, trust and loyalty.

Matthew 619-24 (NKJV)

“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 lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

What do you treasure?

As human beings, we are always going to treasure something. Even in the poorest of circumstances, people will have something they deeply treasure – a picture, a toy, a book or an ornament.

A beautiful example of this is found in the movie Cast Away, where Tom Hanks desperately cries out: “Wilson!!!” to the old volleyball with a face on it that is drifting away as if he is losing his child.

Treasures don’t always have to be objects. We can treasure a certain dream or idea or even a memory.


What do you treasure? Here’s two questions that may help to answer it: What would be the one thing in your house you would grab if a fire broke out? What do you spend most of your time thinking about?

It’s good to have certain treasures. Some say that, to not treasure anything is to lose some of your humanness. Treasures are things that make us unique, and that give value to our lives.


The part of our lives addressed in every single section of the Sermon on the Mount is the heart – the treasure in your chest.

When we read this teaching of Jesus, it is important to understand that He isn’t just talking about how we deal with our possessions. Yes, wealth and possessions are surely something that Jesus is pointing toward as a possible treasure, but it goes further than that.

The part of our lives addressed in every single section of the Sermon on the Mount is the heart – the treasure in your chest. Jesus is not giving us a certain rule about how much we can own, or if we can treasure anything, but focusses on the condition of our heart. Is it divided? Or perhaps distracted? Or is it fully devoted to God?

Dallas Willard says this about it:

“The person who treasures what lies within the Kingdom sees everything in its true worth and relationship. The person who treasures what is 'on earth', by contrast, sees everything from a perspective that distorts it and systematically misleads in practice.”

The thing that we treasure most, has got our attention, our trust and our loyalty. It becomes the lens we see the world through.

Compare it to a drug. For an addict, all else is seen as in relationship to the object of addiction and enjoyment of it – even one's own body and soul. A true addict has eyes for only one thing: the treasure, or in the words of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings: “my precious”.

Kingdom people first and foremost treasure God Himself and the things that God treasures. Nothing else can take God’s rightful place. To Him alone belongs our treasure: our full attention, our complete trust and undivided loyalty.

Attention

What has got your first attention in the morning?

What takes up most of your free time in the day?

What drives you in carrying out your daily responsibilities?

Last week I watched the very interesting documentary called The Social Dilemma about the dangers of social networking. One of the main dangers is that they are designed to hold your attention for as long as possible, so that you will see a lot of ads and potentially buy something. They were showing numbers about how much of our time we waste on social media and how this distracts us from what is going on around us.

Ironically, the documentary is made by Netflix, the company responsible for the term binge-watching… and probably the biggest time waster in the world!

More than ever, we are distracted. There is a constant fight for our attention, which makes it hard to really focus on one thing.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal said:

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone”.

So much of our distraction is a flight not to deal with our thoughts, or to engage with our circumstances, or to face our difficulties. And so, we seek fulfilment and rest in things that will ultimately leave us empty.


Whatever you give your eyes to will have a huge effect on the condition of heart.

When Jesus speaks about the eye being the lamp that provides light for your body, I think He was talking about our attention. After all, what your eyes are focused on is what has your attention in that moment. What you give your eyes to tells you what you treasure.

There is an invitation here from Jesus to give God your full attention.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Jesus says that whatever you give your eyes to will indeed have a huge effect on the condition of heart. Make sure that you give your attention to things that matter and that give light to your body.


Trust

The second thing Jesus is pointing to, is where our trust is. We discover where our trust is, when our security is tested.

When Jacob heard that Esau, the brother he had deceived half a lifetime ago, was on his way to him with 400 men, what did he do? He sent three caravans of gifts his way. He hoped that would persuade Esau to have mercy on him. When his life was threatened, he trusted that his wealth would save him. That night, he wrestled with God, and the next day, he himself went ahead to face his brother.

The woman who had suffered constant blood loss for 12 years had spent all her money on physicians looking for healing. When she touched Jesus’ cloak, she was instantly healed.

When our security and wellbeing is put under pressure, it will reveal where our trust truly is.

Jesus teaches us that all earthly riches are temporary and ultimately not trustworthy.

Clothes can be eaten by mots. A piece of art can be stolen. Jobs can be lost. Beauty will inevitably disappear. Cars eventually rust away. Even top athletes can die of cancer. Stocks can plummet. Houses can burn down

There are no earthly riches that can provide unconditional security. Only an eternal God, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, who holds the world in the palm of His hand and promises that He will sustain those who call out to Him can be trusted unconditionally.

I love how Jeremiah illustrates this.

Jeremiah 17:7 (NLT)

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord

and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank,

with roots that reach deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered by the heat

or worried by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green,

and they never stop producing fruit.

A tree needs water to live. It depends on external resources to survive. They need rain.

Jeremiah compares those who trust in the Lord to a tree planted by a riverbank. They don’t depend on rain. External circumstances don’t bother them. They are connected to a constant source of water – and so will always stay green, even in a time of drought.

Loyalty

Jesus will move the discussion one step further, when it comes to our treasure. It’s not just about our full attention and our complete trust – but also our undivided loyalty.

Jesus puts it in words that we cannot misunderstand:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

When we accumulate more of what we focus on, we will begin to trust it. Ultimately it will demand our loyalty. And loyalty is something you can only give in one place, not two.


When we accumulate more of what we focus on, we will begin to trust it. Ultimately it will demand our loyalty.

Jesus brings His teaching even sharper into focus, saying that money, or wealth, is something that is a powerful tool of the devil to persuade you to break down your loyalty to God. First it gets your attention, then your trust, and ultimately it will demand your loyalty.

I intentionally chose a translation that leaves the word mammon untranslated. Many translations will use the word ‘money’ or ‘wealth’, which are good translations, but, in my view, miss a very powerful point.

Mammon was the Syrian god of wealth. Money in itself is not good or bad, it’s neutral. It just is. Regularly the Bible even talks about wealth as a blessing of God, and this is how we should look at our possessions as well – as received out of God’s generous hand. What the Bible teaches, though, is that the LOVE for money is the root of all evil.

Mammon is an idol. It is a god that demands worship. There are very real spiritual forces behind every single one of the idols you will find mentioned in the Bible.

The Bible consistently treats the small ‘g’ gods of the other nations as very real entities. They are not fictional. They are spiritual beings that demand worship – the worship that only belongs to the One True God.


Mammon is an idol. It is a god that demands worship

The goddess Ashtoreth in the OT, known as Astarte or Aphrodite in Greek cultures, was the goddess of lust. Even though no one worships her image anymore, I think we can agree she still holds some power in our world today. The same goes for Mammon. Even though we don’t worship his image anymore, the love for money still holds many lives in a death grip. He’s even infiltrated the church through the lies of the prosperity gospel.

This is why Jesus puts it in such strong terms. Mammon is a very real spiritual force and he is after your loyalty and your worship, and this is not something you can split! Your worship and loyalty belong to God alone.

If you would like to understand better how you can break the power of Mammon in your life, let me refer you to a second video we’ll upload this week where I re-record a message that I did 1,5 years ago at Vineyard. See it as some bonus content.

Living the Kingdom

How are these teachings of Jesus going to affect your daily lives?

Let go of selfishness

I think the first implication is that we let go of selfishness. The Bible is never against possessing things. Often, it is seen as a form of blessing. Note that Jesus talks about accumulating treasures on earth for yourselves.

Part of our calling as people of the Kingdom is to make this world a better place for everyone – and this may very well include giving things away, or producing beautiful and sustainable things. It’s the heaping up and storing up that Jesus warns about. When will you have enough? And when will you begin to share some of that?


When our hearts are after God, we will begin to value what He values, and that is: people.

When our hearts are after God, we will begin to value what He values, and that is: people. God values people so much that Jesus gave His own life to save them. He is willing to leave the 99 to find the 1.

Full devotion to God

Secondly, Jesus is teaching that God wants our full devotion. Further in this chapter, Jesus will say this:

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

God understands that there are other things that will demand our attention. We are given certain responsibilities in life, and we have certain needs – food, shelter and safety being some of the most fundamental of those needs. Yet, He knows, that there are things in this life that can swallow us up and ultimately lead to a divided heart. Seek God and His Kingdom first, Jesus says, and He’ll take care of the rest!

Again, Jesus is after your heart. Is it set on self-provision, control, accumulation, status and comfort, or is it set in God and His Kingdom?

When He said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, He talked about the very real danger of the sliding scale of your attention – then trust, and ultimately loyalty.

When you treasure something that is not God, it will ultimately demand your loyalty as well.

Our souls come alive in the presence of God, so make sure to treasure Him by giving Him your attention, trust and loyalty day after day. Seek Him first.

Anticipating the Kingdom

Lastly, how can we anticipate the Kingdom of God in our daily lives? This is where we need to discuss that term ‘treasures in heaven’. What does it mean to collect them?

Well, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean. It’s certainly not saying that you’ll drive a Lamborgini through the golden streets of the new Jerusalem. That sort of talk unveils a very distorted view of heaven and true blessing.

Treasures in heaven are the things of value in God’s Kingdom; justice, love, peace, healing and salvation. Contrary to the treasures on earth, they won’t decay, can’t be stolen and have eternal impact and value.


Treasures in heaven are the things of value in God’s Kingdom; justice, love, peace, healing and salvation.

What a wonderful privilege we have that in this life we can have an impact and leave a heritage that cannot be expressed in a certain amount of money, but can only be measured in heavenly valuta.

Two questions that may help you to digest this message:

  • What has the Holy Spirit been highlighting to you when it comes to your attention, trust and loyalty?

  • How do you see this ‘storing up treasures in heaven’ and how is this changing your priorities?

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