"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."
- Matthew 6:19-24
We are reading through the Sermon on the Mount, which began with last Monday's reading, The Beatitudes. In yesterday's reading, Jesus gave us what we know as the Lord's Prayer. He taught, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
"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." My study bible says that by attaching ourselves to treasures on earth, we cut ourselves off from heavenly treasures. There is a distinct conflict between freedom in Christ and being slaves to earthly things. It says that the heart of discipleship is in disentangling ourselves from the chains of earthly things, and in attaching ourselves to God, the true treasure. Once again, Jesus emphasizes the life of the Kingdom even as we live our lives in the world; a set of values by which His disciples live in order to bear the Kingdom in the world, "on earth as it is in heaven."
"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!" My study bible explains that the mind (nous in Greek) is the spiritual eye of the soul; it illuminates the inner person and governs the will. Keeping one's mind wholesome and pure is fundamental to the Christian life. How we "see" life and our place in it, our identity, is the centerpiece of the call of Christ's teachings. For proper sight in this sense, we need God's light.
"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." My study bible says that as slaves who serve two masters, people seek to maintain attachment to both earthly and heavenly things. But this is not possible, since both demand our full allegiance. Jesus calls mammon ("riches") a master not because wealth is evil by nature, but because of the control it has over people.
There's a clear split, a distinction made in Jesus' teaching, between the "worldly" (or "mammon") and the life of the Kingdom. It's not that He's teaching that the two can never meet. What He is teaching is that we must endeavor to bring the life of the Kingdom into the world, even as we live worldly lives. But in order to do that, we need to focus on God first, the life of the Kingdom must be what we really desire. In yesterday's reading, He gave us the Lord's Prayer, and taught us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is the substance of His teachings to us about how we live our lives, and what we put first as a priority -- even what it is that illumines the eye of the mind. Our very thinking becomes paramount, as a way to walk in the light of God. What He's calling for is a worldly life conditioned in that light, following a true desire -- our greatest treasure -- for the things of the Kingdom. A "worldly" life, in this language, isn't about the world as a bad or inferior place; far from it! On the contrary, the world is Creation, made for the light of God, for glory. But if we are separate from God, if our mind is in darkness, then the glory of God is missing from the world, we fail to bear that Kingdom into the world. In this sense, "worldly" means without the light of God -- "mammon" as object of worship becomes the color of our world, the thing that shuts out beauty, love, and righteousness. We focus on the light of God so that we may bring it into the world, and live lives that glorify God by bringing everything into right relationship, using and caring for what we have in the world in ways illumined by faith and spiritual truth. This is an image of wholeness, of a union of God's kingdom and the world, a restoration of who we are, what we are, how man was meant to live and even of the beauty and care of the world. But there's one way to do it; we must choose what we worship, and God who illumines our way back to the beauty of Creation must help us to find this way, this light, to do so. The Incarnation speaks to us of this union, and Jesus points the way by teaching us the essential importance of our choices. As disciples, it is we who bear the Kingdom in the world. So much depends on what we treasure, how we choose, who we choose to be and who we think we are. Jesus emphasizes the heart, the center of who we are. Where our heart is focused becomes the guiding and unifying point of our lives -- or the focus that separates and divides us from the potentials of light and love.