The New Economy, Matthew 6:19-34

Jesus Money Monday: The New Economy

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels is from Matthew 6:19-34.*

For the past several weeks this devotional has covered some of the references to money in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This teaching is early in his ministry, and it was groundbreaking, for he taught a totally new, radical way of thinking and living. If you were to try to describe Jesus’ approach to money, you could say it was Kingdom oriented and not self centered, and it taught us to rely on Jesus to provide–a new economic system.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Looking back 2,000 years, we see that it is obvious little has changed in terms of man’s striving after economic resources. We worry about having enough money to buy more clothes, shelter, and food. It is not bad to build wealth–in fact it is a good thing. Accumulating wealth is good for alleviating poverty, avoiding debt, helping our families and society. However, what Jesus was concerned about for his kids was a life with wealth at the center. He used the image of a slave and its master. Jesus’ words are pretty sharp indicating that we can’t have two masters. Considering times of forced slavery prior to emancipation in America, or for those captured today in the sexual slave industry, no one could have two slave masters or two pimps. If we try to do so, Jesus advised, we will love one of the masters and hate the other. Jesus indicated that we should choose to serve  either him or something else, and we are slaves to those things we choose to serve.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult things for Christians to conquer in America today. We live in a society dominated by consumerism and greed. Economic issues are one of the top 5 news stories every day, right up there with war, sports, politics and celebrities. Finances affect our decisions about careers, where we live and go to school, and often our friendships. We live in a society of great material expectations where many strive for the American Dream. We are guilty of wanting the materially good life as well as wanting to serve Christ, so we often go after both and risk trying to serve two masters. Jesus says it can’t be done.

Jesus goes on to encourage us in verses 25 – 34 by telling everyone about his new economic system–one that is not based upon worry for self and striving for material things, but on going after his Kingdom and righteousness. Jesus promises that he will take care of the rest. Seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness, means turning from the world and giving our hearts to him. It means being obedient to his word and following him in the new abundant life he calls us to. For some believers it may mean repenting of greed, or of trying to serve two masters. The exciting part is living a life no longer consumed by worry and anxiety but a life based on trusting God, who is always good and reliable.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves  money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the seventh post in this series.

1 thought on “The New Economy, Matthew 6:19-34

  1. Wanda Stubbart

    Several years ago I preached a sermon that incorporated Matthew 6:19-24 as my scripture reading. Here are some excerpts that explain the Hebrew nature of the scripture.
    When Jesus said that we should not lay up for ourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, he was talking about the way the people of his time took care of their money. They didn’t have banks to put the money in, so they would dig holes in the earth and bury their money, or they would hide the money under stones. The metal in the coins would become damp, and the money would rust. He then went on to say that they should lay up treasures in heaven.
    What did Jesus mean when he said to lay up treasures in heaven? The Hebrew language is full of idioms. “Laying up treasures in heaven” is another way of saying “Give to the poor and needy.” The Hebrew religion did not dwell on some future life, but it emphasized living a Godly life here and now. So Jesus wasn’t talking about something that would happen after the people had died; he was telling them to give to the needy instead of burying their money and letting it rust.
    The next statement from our scripture reading now takes on a whole new meaning. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If you give to the poor and needy, your heart will be full of compassion for them, and you will care what happens to them.
    The next part of our scripture reading has baffled many a translator. I have a New Testament at home with eight translations side by side. None of these translations seems to capture the real meaning of this statement: “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, they whole body shall be full of darkness.” Of the eight translations that I have, one refers to the eye as being single, one as pure, one as clear, one as good, and four as sound. By studying Rabbinic literature, scholars have found a reference that unlocks this puzzle. Looking at a condensed version of the Talmud, which is a collection of the Jewish oral law, written law, and commentary on the oral law, we find this statement: “The term ‘Evil Eye’ is employed … in two distinct senses, … The first signification is ‘envy’ or ‘an ungenerous disposition,’ and is found in the Bible. … It denotes lack of generosity in the verse, ‘Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye’ (Proverbs 23:6), and its opposite is the ‘good eye’ as in the verse, ‘He that hath a bountiful (lit. good) eye shall be blessed’ (Proverbs 22:9). … Obviously no superstitious notions are connected with the phrases ‘a good eye’ and ‘an evil eye’; they refer to magnanimity (generosity) and its reverse (stinginess or miserliness).” From this reference we see that Jesus is talking about being generous and not miserly. He says that those who are generous will be full of light, but those who are miserly will be full of darkness.
    In verse 24, Jesus says that no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. He says, “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” This Mammon that Jesus referred to was an image of an idol named “Wealth.” Jesus was saying that we have to decide which is God — God or wealth? In other words, do we use our money in the service of God, or do we make money our God?
    Now that we have tried to unscramble some of the puzzle, let’s go back and restate the scripture to reflect our new understanding: “Don’t bury your treasure in the ground where it can rust or be corrupted, and where thieves can break in and steal it, but give to the needy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The light of the body is the eye; if therefore you have a good eye [are generous], your whole body will be full of light. But if you have an evil eye [are miserly], your whole body will be full of darkness. You can’t serve both God and Mammon [wealth].

    Reply

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