Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:19-21

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(NET Bible)

Where do you do your spiritual banking?

At the shooting range, you learn early that the proper sequence is: Ready; Aim; Fire!

Too many of Jesus disciples are living their lives by the sequence: Ready; Fire; Aim. If you leave the aiming of your life to the end, do not be surprised when that trajectory takes you somewhere you do not want to go. What is the spiritual target you are shooting for? How is your aim?

The introduction to this lesson asserts that too many Christians are aimless about how they conduct their lives. Of course, they are not the only ones. Recently an American actor died after living a life in which he starred in two popular movies, drank a lot of alcohol and took a lot of drugs. Yet he was called a legend. I think not! But he did accomplish what he aimed for.

Jesus raises with his disciples the question of how their lives are being lived; he does so using the metaphor of accumulating treasures. He combines that metaphor with the powerful contrast between the phrases on earth (6:19) and in heaven (6:20). Those two locations describe potential storage points for the accumulated treasures (6:19, 20).

Craig Keener informs us about wealth in the world of the first century: Views on wealth varied among thinkers in the Greco-Roman world, but most people then like most people today pursued whatever material advancement was available. . . . Because people often kept all their monetary savings in strongboxes in their own homes or buried beneath their floor, the danger of thieves and corruption was quite real.[1] Since homes for most people were made of sun-dried mud bricks, a thief had only to dig through the outer wall of the house.

Greek grammar experts[2] make the point that Jesus was likely using forms that mean the disciples must stop storing up for yourselves treasures on earth (my translation of 6:19a). In other words, they had already been doing the wrong thing and must quit!

The strongly parallel wording of verses 5:19-20 focuses attention on the few words which differ. The word not, present in verse 19, disappears in verse 20, because Jesus switches from a prohibition (5:19) to a positive command (5:20). The main focus falls on the phrases on earth (5:19) and in heaven (5:20). This means that any disciple aiming earthward is making a dire mistake; instead, they must focus heavenward. Obeying Jesus is all a matter of where a disciple aims.

Verse 5:21 gives the reason for what Jesus commands. Treasures exert something similar to gravitational attraction. The more we accumulate treasures on earth, the more our hearts will be pulled to the concerns of the earth. But the disciple of Jesus will give priority to the demands of the kingdom, and that will result in treasure in heaven. For this reason, one mark of a Christ-follower is to give generously to the needs of others; that giving is contrary to earthly values. So is serving selflessly, another mark of one who obeys Jesus words.

The pronoun you in the form your (6:21) is singular. Jesus is bringing the responsibility to guard the heart right down to the individual level. No one can do this for you!

David Turner makes a significant point when he says, Seeking heavenly treasure, however, does not amount to avoidance of earthly involvement.[3] We are sojourners on the earth as we watch for the return of Christ, and he does not call on us to retreat into monasteries.

Time to check your aim

Since we have found that living aimlessly is opposite to what Jesus commands his disciples, we have to assess what we are aiming at.

You may strike out on earth, but the chief goal of life is to hit a home run with God. Make sure you are swinging for that heavenly fence!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 230.

[2] See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 724, and A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 3rd rev. ed. (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1919) 851852.

[3] David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008) 196.

 

Theology: The Word and the Spirit

Since the Word of God and the Spirit of God have both been given to us to lead us to Christ and then on toward maturity, there should never be any conflict between the two. Yet the history of the church shows that some Christians gravitate toward the Bible and its analysis while others cultivate the life of the Spirit. (No such split is justified!)

Each group stresses its own advantages and tends to reject the other emphasis. Spirit-led Christians think of Bible-led believers as spiritually lifeless and lacking in intensity of devotion. Bible-led believers often consider Spirit-led Christians to be shallow in understanding and subject to gross distortions of ideas such as prosperity and healing. It seems that some Christians are all heart and the other believers are all head.

One man who bucked the trend is Gordon Fee, who Charisma magazine says is the “first Bible scholar of the modern Pentecostal movement.” Fee is a New Testament scholar who has made strong contributions in the areas of Christology, commentaries (1 Corinthians, Revelation), and Bible translation.

In relation to the Pentecostal movement, Fee has proven both an inspiration and an irritant. I recommend you read this article from Charisma to see how a home-grown biblical scholar has shaken up a Christian movement that is wary of such critters. Interesting!

Several of Gordon Fee’s most important works are the following:

How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth (with Douglas Stuart)

Pauline Christology

The First Epistle to the Corinthians

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

A Model for Christian Life – Part 3 (end)

[This post ends this three-part series. Be sure to read the first two parts!]

Our Identity in Christ: “New Man”

A second aspect of our identity is that of the “new man.” Consider the following verses from the Bible:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices 10 and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator” (Col. 3:9–10, HCSB[1]).

“you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s [likeness] in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Eph. 4:22–24, HCSB).

“knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6, NKJV).

The person-you-were-before-salvation died with Christ, and that person is the “old man” or “old self” (NIV) that Col. 2:9 says we have stripped off. The person-we-became-after-giving-our-allegiance-to-Jesus is the new man that Col. 3:10 says we have put on.

Romans 6:6 states a crucial truth about the old man when it says, “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (NKJV). We learn here the crucial facts that our old man was crucified with Christ, and the purpose was to break the dominion of sin by rendering it powerless.

I draw your attention to the fact that the “new man” language refers to both men and women in Christ. As we find in Gal. 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our Identity in Christ: “People of God”

While the previous two aspects of Christian identity take on an individualistic hue, the fact that we are part of “the people of God” is plainly relational. The “people of God” language is key to 1 Pet. 2:9–10. However, in 1 Cor. 12:12–14 and Eph. 4:4–7, 15–16, we find that we are corporately called the body of Christ. Consider as well that of the hundreds of commands to believers in the New Testament, almost all are given in verbal forms that are second-person plural. In other words, we are responsible as the people of God to carry them out.

The Touchstone: Pleasing Christ

As life-managers, new men and women in Christ, who together comprise the people of God, we should make decisions and take actions with only one principle in mind: pleasing Christ. Consider the following verses:

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9–10). See also Col. 3:17.

Resources for Our Journey

As we think about the resources we have for living to please Christ, we must start with the knowledge that, by God’s kindness, we lack nothing:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet. 1:3)

Our first resource is knowledge of the Word of God. See 1 Pet. 1:23–25; Col. 1:9–10, 3:10; 2 Tim. 3:14–16; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 7:24. Remember that Jesus said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

The Holy Spirit indwells us to provide a constant infusion of insight, power and protection. See John 14:26; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16.

By Christ’s powerful sacrifice to win us access to God, we may approach God with our prayers at any time. See Heb. 4:16; Col. 4:2; Phil 4:6.

We also enjoy the company of the people of God as our companions on the journey. See Eph. 4:1–13 and the numerous “one another” commands.

Context for Life-Management

God has given us a great deal of information about the context in which we live out our Christian lives. First, it is not a monastic life of individualism (“just-me-and-God”) but a shared life of shared joy and challenge (Eph. 4:1–13).

It is also a life of continuous transformation. Sometimes the Word speaks of this change as something being done to us by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), but in most cases this transformation is embodied in a command to us (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 2:12-13; Eph. 4:23).

While the transformation process has many elements, several deserve special attention. First, there is growth in knowledge (Col. 1:9–10; Eph. 4:13–14). Second, there is our exercise of faith as an active, open response to the truth (Matt. 9:17–22; Luke 8:4–15; Heb. 4:2, 11:6; James 2:22; Gal. 5:6). Third, we are expected to manifest active love (Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 13; John 13:35; Matt. 25:40). Fourth, we are reminded that the purity of our perception makes a profound difference (Matt. 6:22-23; Col. 3:2–3).

Another major element in the context of our life journey has two sides. On the one hand, we are dead to sin, and so we can and should refuse to commit acts of sin (Col. 3:5; Rom. 6:11; 1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 8:13). On the other hand, we are free to serve God, making the members of our bodies weapons for righteousness in his hands (Rom. 6:18, 22; 1 Pet. 2:16).

Finally our life-management takes place in a setting of spiritual warfare and suffering (Eph. 6:11–12; 1 Pet. 2:11; John 16:33).

To sum up, we live in a shared setting of continuous transformation, spiritual warfare and suffering, while we refuse any expression of sin and live lives of love and righteousness to glorify God.

Responsibilities of Life-Management

We have already seen that the context of life-management includes both the Holy Spirit’s action as well as our own. In this section the focus is on what Christ expects of us.

Perhaps the hallmark of Christian life is obedience (John 14:15; Matt. 7:24; Matt. 28:20; Rom. 6:17; Heb. 5:9; Phil 2:12). Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:40). It is fitting to note that this obedience often occurs through acts of love and kindness.

Among those commands we are to obey, a wise manager should take note of the great commandments (Matt. 22:36–39; Matt. 7:12) as well as the great commission (Matt. 28:18–20. We should emphasize what our King emphasized.

Another critical area of obedience is to actively cooperate with the transformation process (Phil. 2:12–13; Rom. 6:13, 8:13). Give attention to maximizing things like exposure to the truth, the active exercise of faith and love, and refusal of sin.

Next, our Lord requires us to remain alert at all times, because he may return at any moment (Matt. 24:36–44). We are to watch, not wait, for his return

Expectations That Motivate

Every manager lives with the knowledge that his or her management will come under review, and our life-management for Christ is no exception. We live today knowing that our deeds will be judged for reward (2 Cor. 5:9–10; 1 Cor. 3:12–15).

We live for Christ, knowing there is no greater cause! We look forward to receiving glory and honor in his service (Rom. 2:9–10, 8:17, 8:30; Phil. 3:21).

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.


[1] HCSB means Holman Christian Standard Bible.