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Sermon on the Mount
“It’s a Matter of Choice”
We are all like a little child hovering over a box of candy. Our tongues are busy licking our lips over the choices before us. There’s chocolate covered cherry crème, chocolate peppermint, chocolate caramel, chocolate turtles, and the list goes on all containing the word chocolate.
But here’s the catch; we can only choose one. Should we choose the biggest, the longest lasting, or the one that says, “no calories?” (Kidding, there aren’t any with no calories)
In this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He’s telling us that we have choices to make, and these choices will affect our future. And while the choices we have as outlined here are not as trivial as to which chocolate candy to pick, the reality is that there are no trivial choices when it comes to our eternal destiny.
We all have choices, but they’re not always simple. They’re not between eating chocolate and death, but rather it’s between what’s important and what’s the most important. Is it the good life now, or the good life in the future?
A wealthy woman dies and went to heaven where she was escorted to her new home, a small plain house. Next door, however, was a huge mansion. When she asked if she could stay there she was told it was being built for her gardener.
Her guide said, “The houses are prepared from the materials sent up by a person’s faithfulness while on earth.”
The whole point is that the choices we make now have a direct affect on our future. Jesus is therefore letting us know that we have choices to make in this life that will affect our future life.
“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 NKJV)
When Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” it’s important to understand what He wasn’t saying.
He wasn’t prohibiting possessions
Nowhere in the bible does it state we’re supposed to have nothing, nor does it ever forbid private property. It’s the love of money, the Bible says, not money itself that’s the root of all evil.
He wasn’t prohibiting savings
Solomon tells us to learn the lessons of the ants
“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8 NKJV)
Instead Jesus was warning us about is selfish accumulation, which is found in the wording, “for yourselves.” Jesus is telling us not to be covetous, or hording our possessions while others perish.
A rich man went to a rabbi because he felt miserable. The rabbi took him to a window and asked what he saw. He said, “People.” The rabbi then took him to a mirror and asked him what he saw, and he said, “Myself.”
The rabbi explained that both the window and the mirror were made of glass. The only difference is that the mirror was covered with a little silver. As soon as silver is added we cease to see others and we only see ourselves.
Jesus goes on to say these earthly treasures are only temporary and easily destroyed.
Nothing in this world is safe. There’s no real security.
And even if we’re able to keep some of it, in the end we can’t take it with us. This was the mistaken thinking of ancient religions. When the tombs of the Pharaohs were unearthed, all they found were mummies and a lot of stuff gathering dust.
One woman had in her Will that when we died she was to be buried in her fur coat and behind the wheel of her Fiarri. Where did she think she was going, and did she really think a buried Fiarri would get her there?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” (Job 1:21a NKJV)
Treasure in heaven, however, is a different story. These are secure and exempt from decay and theft.
How do we store up these treasures? Jesus never really tells us, but it seems it has to do with God’s will and what will affect eternity; like faithfulness to God’s calling.
This isn’t, however, some sort of merit system. Good works won’t earn us gold stars in heaven. Instead the Bible says,
“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Jesus goes on to say that wherever our treasure is located, that’s where our hearts are going to be.
The heart is considered the center of our person. Therefore, those things we highly treasure will be what occupy the whole of who we are. If we’re interested in accumulating wealth, that’s what’s going to occupy our hearts, not the Lord.
When the Lord is front and center, then it will be reflected in our living and in our giving.
When the offering plate came by, a small boy searched for something to give. Finding nothing he placed the offering plate on the floor and stood with both feet inside.
He was giving all of himself to God.
If we want a safe investment that yields a good return then we need to invest in heaven and in our eternity. It begins with giving our lives to Jesus Christ, and like this small boy offering the whole of who we are to God.
“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.” (Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV)
Everything we do depends a lot upon our ability to see, and when we lose our sight we walk around blind and in darkness becoming susceptible to harm.
God’s plans and purpose for our lives only becomes illuminated when we set our eyes upon Him. But we lose our way when our vision becomes clouded by greed and materialism.
In near Eastern cultures, an evil eye was said to be an eye filled with envy, an eye that coveted another’s possessions. It was an eye filled with greed.
The tragedy is that most people don’t realize they’re in darkness. They think that they’ve got the light. In people’s thought if someone was rich it was because God was blessing them. Therefore the accumulation of wealth became a person’s highest goal.
Unfortunately this kind of thinking has trickled down into the church where people think that if the church is big and rich the God must be blessing, which we know it isn’t the case.
Jesus’ use of good and evil has another meaning as well beyond generosity and greed. It also means having an undivided loyalty. A single eye would then a person who is completely devoted and sold out to God.
This brings us to the next choice Jesus places before us
“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.” (Matthew 6:24 NKJV)
This third choice is a culmination of the first two. Its’ the ultimate choice as to who we’re going to serve, God or money.
It was this very choice that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler.
In Matthew 19:21 He said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
It says the young man left sorrowful because he had great possessions, and while he wanted to serve God, he also wanted His wealth to serve Him.
Jesus gave him a choice, to serve Him or his wealth.
No one can serve two masters. While today we consider ourselves multi-takers, it was different back in those days. A slave could not properly serve two masters. A slave served only one master.
Since we are called God’s bondservants, we are His, and we are to serve Him with a singleness of devotion and with undivided loyalty. If we’re not serving God like this then we’re not serving Him at all.
John Stott said, “Anybody who divides his allegiance between God and mammon has already given it to mammon, since God can be served only with an entire and exclusive devotion.”
Jesus is asking for an uncompromising commitment. The real issue isn’t about money or wealth; rather it’s about discipleship. How we earn and use our wealth is the best example of true discipleship.
Once these choices are made, Jesus then tells us how we’re to act. We’re no longer to be anxious for wealth, because we have rejected it as our god. Instead we’re to focus on God.
Read Matthew 6:26-34
Jesus says not to worry, which means not to be anxious, concerned, and not to lose any sleep over it.
Since God has given us life, He’ll give us what we need to maintain it. To worry about such things betrays our faith in Him.
The argument is a lesser to greater one. If God cares so much for the birds and flowers, aren’t we as His children of greater worth, and therefore shouldn’t God care for us to an even greater degree?
Now this doesn’t mean we don’t work, because we’re told that it’s our responsibility.
“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8 NKJV)
Jesus isn’t coming against work, but worry. Birds are not lazy, unless their pigeons, which is another story, but God designed birds with a specific purpose and God takes care of them as a result.
A poem says,
“Said the Robin to the sparrow: I should really like to know
What these anxious humans rush about and worry so
“Said the sparrow to the robin: Friend, I think that it might be
That they haven’t a heavenly Father, such as cares for you and me.
God never tells us not to work, but rather focus our faith upon Him, because He is our ultimate supplier and provider. God provides for us in so many ways. Mainly it’s through our jobs. Yet even so the inevitable happens. There are illnesses, death, losses, layoffs, and so much more that is beyond our control, and as a result many people stop trusting God.
But God never promised that He would keep us from hard times. In fact, He uses them to help grow our faith.
And so when stuff happens, instead of focusing on the circumstances we need to re-focus on God and His kingdom and righteousness, and then God will provide what we need when we need it.
That’s His promise. Like the birds of the air and the flower of the field God will provide.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
When we focus upon God and His righteousness, we don’t need to worry or to be anxious, because God knows what we need when we need it. That’s why He says not to worry about tomorrow, because He’s got it under control.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study