Matthew 6:16-24: Serve God
January 15, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Continuing his teaching on “practicing our righteousness,” Jesus now moves on from prayer to its logical and often paired companion: fasting (6:16-18). Christian fasting is distinctive and distinguished by its concern not to show off before others. In fact, when someone fasts, they are to avoid looking gloomy or emphasizing their emaciated feelings from lack of food, but instead of making it obvious by what they wear that they are fasting, they are to anoint their heads and wash their faces—to look and come across as not fasting. The reason for this is so that the fasting will be seen by the Father God and not others, and the Father God will reward us for the fasting. What exactly fasting is, how it is to be performed, when, and with what wise, even medical, counsel, is beyond the confines of this devotional. Here the point is simply that fasting is not a public act, but a private act, one that gives time and space for our prayer life with God.
Now Jesus moves on to the material aspect of living, and in particular money (6:19-24) (and from there he will move to anxieties, 6:25-34, so often connected to the material matters of life). Jesus gives several concrete, quite specific instructions, advice and commands with regard to money. First, there is no point emphasizing and making your whole life about getting more and more money, because thieves and rust can destroy financial reserves (6:19). In modern life, we might say the same about the stock market. Money can be made on the stock market, but it can also be lost. Instead, Jesus says, store up money in heaven where rust and thieves cannot impact the treasure (6:20). We store up money in heaven by (as Jesus will tell us in a moment) seeking first the kingdom of God (6:33), bringing our resources of time, talent and treasure to be prioritized around glorifying God and building his kingdom. And this, Jesus then adds, is because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21). If we are investing all our resources and finances and efforts in this world, our heart is there too. It is a diagnostic and a warning: Make sure your treasure is in heaven if you want your heart and life to be there too.
Then, in verse 22, Jesus uses this image of the lamp and of the eye to talk about where we are focusing our time, energy, efforts and attention. “The eye is the lamp of the body,” in the sense that through the eye we can see where we are going. If you’re focused in the wrong place, then your body will be full of darkness. If your focus is this world, then you will be full of darkness. There is a darkness within that is a terrible experience: “how great is the darkness!” (6:23).
Then Jesus makes this issue of money and God binary: “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). So not only is it unwise to invest our resources here because finances disappear and are unreliable in this world; not only does focusing on this world bring us darkness, now and forever, it is also simply impossible to serve both God and money. There is a binary choice. You will either hate one or love the other. You cannot serve both God and money (6:24). Note Jesus says “serve”; he does not say you cannot “have” both God and money. The issue is what we are serving. Are we utilizing our time, talent and treasure for God and his kingdom? Or are we primarily serving money, in the sense of simply trying to get more of it and store it up and keep it in this world for as long as possible—a foolish attempt indeed.
Would you then today commit yourself to serve God—and not to serve money.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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