Part 2 of the Things Jesus Said series.
February 28, 2016 | text: Matthew 6
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. -Matthew 6:19-21
Understanding treasures on earth should be pretty straightforward. Treasure used to be a wooden chest filled with gold coins and jewels. Today it looks more like a healthy IRA with a diversified portfolio but some things never change. Rust and moth can corrupt physically tangible treasures, and a bad turn of the stock market can wipe out a profitable 401-K. The key to understanding treasures in heaven is Jesus statement “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” He gave three specific examples of how to put Matt. 6:1 into practice.
Giving to the Needy (Matt 6:1-4)
Hypocrite is a Greek term that basically means stage actor. The New Testament writers did not have anything against actors. The sin of hypocrisy is about pretending to be something one is not particularly acting godly or righteous in public when God knows otherwise. Recall how Israel was “playing church” in Isaiah 1. They went through all of the motions, said and did all the right things, but they were guilty of shedding innocent blood. God desires worship in spirit and in truth; pretend worship, fake worship, is worse than not worshipping at all. In each of these cases in Matthew 6 Jesus exhorts his listeners to not be like the hypocrites. If we sound a trumpet, if we loudly advertise, what we are doing then it’s all for show. It’s nothing more than theatrics. If your goal is to be seen and heard by others then that’s all the reward you will get. Jesus says give to the needy but do it in such a way that your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing. Being discreet is exactly the opposite of what the hypocrites do and “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
When You Pray (Matt 6:5-8)
Much like their public giving, the hypocrites stood on street corners and prayed long and loud. Verse 8 mentions vain repetitions and many words. There is a limit to the value of public prayer. If any one of us leads a prayer in Sunday School or during the worship service, I would certainly hope that is not the first or the only prayer you will say today. Prayer is worship and corporate prayer is one component of our worship service. Public worship is an opportunity for us to worship together and it builds up the collective body of believers present. Public worship is good for us to do together but your private worship is good for your spirit in a way that public worship alone is not. If Sunday at church is the only time that you pray and/or read the scripture then you are not going to grow spiritually or be filled with the Holy Spirit the way a believer should be. I’m not trying to guilt you into worshipping more often; I want you to know that you are missing out on the peace and fellowship with God that he desires for you. You do not have a spirit; you are a spirit and you have a body. If we only get spiritual food and water one day a week we will be spiritually starved the rest of the week. Public worship and public prayer have a place in the life of believers, but the Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Prayer is a not a chore to check off a daily list but Christ is the vine, we are the branches, and we must abide in him. It’s good for you, pleasing to God, and when you come in on Sunday read up and prayed up that’s good for the whole body of believers.
Fasting (Matt 6:16-18)
The Pharisees fasted twice a week, every Monday and Thursday. Fasting for the Christian is a matter of freedom not one of Law or obligation. You do not have to fast. But recall the evil spirit that the Apostles could not cast out (Matt 17). Jesus said that kind only came by prayer and fasting. It is a spiritual discipline that can be part of your overall spiritual growth. It should be noted that v. 16 says when you fast not if you fast. Jesus seemed to take for granted that faithful believers that who gave to the poor and prayed would also be fasting. And when you do, make sure it’s not like the hypocrites who put on a big show so that everyone knows they are fasting. What your Father sees in secret will be rewarded openly.
There are things we all need; groceries, transportation, healthcare; and it is necessary to manage our financial resources. There is nothing sinful about saving for retirement. But some people work for a lifetime building a fortune their kids will inherit and their grandkids will later squander. Jesus said “where your treasure is your heart will be there also.” Plan ahead, not just for the years to come but for all time and eternity. On the day of judgement I don’t believe any of us will wish we had done less for the Kingdom.