Having a Right Focus in Connection with Material Things
Matthew 6:19-34
 
Having a Right Focus in Connection with Material Things. One of the most important things for a disciples to have is a correct view of material things. If we become overly occupied with material things, it can distract us from service, and change our whole outlook. This is especially applicable to those who live in wealthy countries, but materialism can really be a snare to anyone.
 
 

Having a Right Focus Will Cause Us to Avoid Avarice (vv.19-24)

Two Treasures: Our Focus Affects Our Future Gain / Loss (vv.19-21)

 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust spoils, and where thieves dig through and steal; v.19 Treasure on Earth. If we have our focus on the earthly possessions, they become our treasures. Eventually, we will lose them to corruption (“moth and rust”) or violence (“thieves”), the two things that characterize the earth since sin’s invasion. Therefore, if our treasure is upon earth, we are bound to lose it. Another has said, moths destroy what women treasure, rust destroys what men treasure, and thieves take what both treasure.
 
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust spoils, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; v.20 Treasure in Heaven. If we have our focus on heavenly things (the interests of Christ), those things will become our treasure. They will become more and more precious to us. We will never lose them, because they are outside the reach of sin and death.
 
21 for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart. v.21 The Result. This is a principle that can be applied in both ways. Our hearts will go out to what we have invested in. If we invest in spiritual things, our thoughts will constantly be about things for profit, and the result will be happiness (Col. 3:1-4). The more things we have in this world, the more fear and anxiety we will have. If we have little, we can rest knowing our treasure is eternally secure.

Two Eyes: Our Focus Affects Our Moral Discernment (vv.22-23)

22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body will be light: v.22 We need to have a single or healthy eye… by having our focus on Christ. What are we taking in? What we are focused on will affect what is morally formed within us. If we focus on Christ, light will characterize our walk and ways, such that we will “glow”. Moses and Stephen are two examples of those who radiated the glory of God!
 
23 but if thine eye be wicked, thy whole body will be dark. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great the darkness! v.23 If our focus is divided (a wicked or unhealthy eye), not fixed solely on Christ, we will take in evil things, and then evil will be formed in us. The warning is, that if we have a wrong focus, “the light that is in thee” – or, the light that we think we have – will become “darkness”, because we are blocking the true light. The darkness will be “great” because we have become unmoored from the only absolute moral standard. This is the case whenever we reject the true light of God.1

Two Masters: Our Focus Affects Our Faithfulness to God (v.24)

24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. v.24 Why does focus in connection with material things result in moral change? Because materialism has a spiritual root… it is covetousness. Serving two masters is a moral impossibility, because there are two roots (principles) that are mutually exclusive. Self-serving, and God-serving. “Mammon” is the name of a Canaanite god of materialism, which the disciples would have been very familiar with. All over the world today, people are still serving Mammon, in a certain sense.2
 

Having a Right Focus Will Cause Us to Avoid Anxiety (vv.25-34)

Examples from Nature showing that Anxiety is Pointless (vv.25-30)

25 For this cause I say unto you, Do not be careful about your life, what ye should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what ye should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? v.25 Having been told the spiritual dangers of being overly taken up with material things (a danger to the wealthy), we are now exhorted not to worry about our material needs (a danger to the poor). “Do not be careful [anxious] about your life [material living]. For the believer, our “life” is more than our material needs. Our priority in employment is not to provide for retirement, but to further God’s dispensation. We need to “roll” our burdens onto the Lord, so that we can share the burden together (Psa. 55:22). Following are instances from the natural world to illustrate this.
 
26 Look at the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, nor reap, nor gather into granaries, and your heavenly Father nourishes them. Are “ye” not much more excellent than they? v.26 Anxiety is a denial of the love of God. The birds of the air are not anxious about their provision. There is no obvious storing up of food for the winter, like the ants (Prov. 6:8). Yet somehow, beyond human understanding, God devises means that they can be fed. This is not an excuse to be lazy. The emphasis is on “your heavenly Father” who nourishes the birds. If He does so for them, how much more will He care for His own children! To deny that He will take care of us is to deny His love.
 
27 But which of you by carefulness can add to his growth one cubit? v.27 Anxiety is a denial of the power of God. We can’t help ourselves anyway. Anxiety doesn’t accomplish anything. All our strength is from God… to worry about it is to deny His power! Note: it is possible to read this verse as about extending our lifespan… “add to his growth [age] one cubit”. Either way, the meaning is the same.
 
28 And why are ye careful about clothing? Observe with attention the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; 29 but I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. 30 But if God so clothe the herbage of the field, which is to-day, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, will he not much rather you, O ye of little faith? vv.28-30 Anxiety is a denial of the wisdom of God. The beauty of the flowers is incredible. An artist would spend countless hours to create a painting that was only half as beautiful, but the flowers appear effortlessly. Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, yet in all his glory, he was not arrayed like one of these simple flowers! How much greater the wisdom of God than man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25). If God’s wisdom in provision for the temporary and transient foliage is so evident, how much more can we count on His provision for us, for whom He has paid such an infinite price! It all comes down to faith. Do we believe what God has said? Do we trust Him for these details?

The expression "O ye of little faith" is a gentle rebuke, repeated four times in Matthew: first in Matt. 6:30 in regard to care; second in Matt. 8:23 in regard to fear; third in Matt. 14:31 in regard to doubt; and fourth in Matt. 16:7-8 in regard to reasoning in divine things. All four instances have to do with failure in simple faith. And yet the Lord never says to His own "O ye of no faith".

Our Focus will Mark us as Either a Heathen, or a Christian! (vv.31-32)

31 Be not therefore careful, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we put on? v.31 This is a summarizing verse, saying essentially, ‘Don’t be anxious about material things’. Whether it be what we “eat” (sustenance), “drink” (refreshment), or “put on” (protection). He isn’t saying to be careless (reckless), but to bring those burdens to the Father, and not be anxious.
 
32 for all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. v.32 This is what characterized the Gentile world: materialism. But a Christian has a conscious knowledge that God in heaven is his Father, and looks upon him with favor, knowing all his needs. God has abundant power and wisdom to “supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The Proper Focus for Subjects in the Kingdom (vv.33-34)

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. v.33 Focus on the kingdom of God. This is perhaps one of the most practical verses in the Bible. It isn’t saying that we should put the kingdom first, then worry about material things. Rather, we should focus on the kingdom and God will take care of the rest! Live in today. What are we to seek? Rom. 14:17 explains what the kingdom of God is… “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”. The righteousness of God in this context is practical conformity to the character of God.
 
34 Be not careful therefore for the morrow, for the morrow shall be careful about itself. Sufficient to the day is its own evil. v.34 Don’t be anxious for the future. Anxiety, which dreads an evil thing tomorrow, is nothing but unbelief. When tomorrow comes, the evil may not be there. But if it does come, God will be there. God will give us the grace to meet the evil we face each day. Therefore, to be anxious about evil is not faith.
 

Footnotes

  1. As Nietzsche put it: “What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God?” – Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Parable of the Madman. 1882.
  2. As Voltaire put it: “When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.” – Voltaire, 1760
Can you provide comments, suggestions, or corrections?

[recaptcha]