Fourth, in the area of finances, let’s practice what Jesus says here.
Matt 6:24 – Jesus mentions that if you boil it down, there are only 2 masters out there: God or Money. How do we know if our master is God or if it’s Money? The verses prior to Matt 6:24 and the verses following provide some insight.
Matt 6:19-21 – Jesus talks about where we invest our treasure. You might think, my treasure is not money. Money doesn’t master me. I’m not thinking about money all day long. But things are not so clear cut. Why do you invest so much of your energy to excel in school? To get a job, to gain respect, to maintain a certain respectable standard of living so that I can provide for my family and buy what I need and go on a vacation whenever I want. Money may not be at the forefront of your mind and heart, but there is an undercurrent of money in virtually all that we do. And Money is a sinister master because you and I may be enslaved by it and we might not have a clue.
The verses that follow Matt 6:24 also give us insight into discerning the identity of our master, whether it’s God or Money. Jesus talks extensively about our worries. What do you worry about? Do your worries revolve around spiritual things and your physical needs, OR do you worry about non-essentials?
If you are actually poor materially speaking and you are a believer who is worrying about having enough food on the table for dinner tonight, then this passage applies directly. Don’t worry about what you will eat or wear, God cares for you and so don’t worry. Seek first my kingdom. God is a Father who cares and who provides.
What about us? I don’t think many of us are worrying about where our next meal is coming from. So how do we put the words of Jesus into practice? Examine your worries because they may reveal who your Master is. You may start with, I worry about my grades. Why do I worry about my grades? Because what if do poorly and I don’t get into a good grad school. Then, I won’t get a good job. I’ll be a loser. My parents will not approve of me. No one will want to marry me. And I’ll be poor and I won’t be able to buy my dream house along the beach. Examine your worries–they may lead you to your Master.
Read Matt 6:20-21.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What is Jesus saying? He’s saying, stop focusing your attention on earthbound things. Instead, focus on heaven. Whatever you invest your time in and whatever you invest your talent for and your energy and your effort, whatever you define as valuable, worthy, immediate, urgent, over and over again, that’s your treasure. And wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A few chapters later, Jesus likens salvation to hidden treasure. Please turn with me to Matt 13:44.
44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
When your heart is gripped by Christ and the amazing debt that he paid with his life to save you, then everything else fades into the background. It’s a treasure of immeasurable worth and in comparison, everything else, even the best the world has to offer is just a handful of pennies. There is no comparison. And so a person who stumbles upon this treasure will gladly sell everything joyfully. In his joy, he went and sold all he had.
You don’t have to tell a person like this to put the words of Jesus into practice. He just does it. You don’t have to tell Zacchaeus about this truth. On his own, he gives away most of his wealth the moment after he is saved. In joy, this man finds a treasure in a field and with reckless abandon, he sells everything. Why? Because he gets it. Heaven and eternity and being with the God of the universe. How can I compare that against anything I could have on earth?
If your heart is bound by things you see on earth, could it be that Money might be your master? We need to be deliberate about focusing our attention on things above, not on earthly things. Our relationship with God, His words, the souls of people. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The more you invest in heavenly treasure, your heart will shift to a new Master, God Himself.
We want to be more than mere hearers of the Word, we want to be doers of the Word. And in these 3 chapters, Jesus gives us ample ways in which we can put his words into practice.
- First, in personal life, Jesus urges us to examine ourselves.
- Second, in public life, he urges us to let our faith shine publicly before the world.
- Third, in church life, he urges us to live privately before other believers and to not judge with a judgmental spirit.
- Fourth, in the area of finances, he urges us to invest in heavenly treasure and to not worry about our physical needs.
- Fifth and finally, in terms of decision-making, Jesus urges us to choose wisely.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus basically is giving 2 choices for life. False religion and authentic faith. And he ends by hammering home this last point using a few final examples.
Matt 7:13-14, Jesus says, you have a choice between a wide gate filled with many people that leads to destruction and a narrow gate that only a few find which leads to eternal life.
Matt 7:15-23 – this is not so much a choice as it is a consequence of a choice. If you unknowingly choose religion instead of authentic faith, how would you know? You would know by the fruit. Just like a tree, if it is a good tree, it bears good fruit. If the tree is bad, then only bad fruit grows out of it. The fruit reveals whether the root of the tree is good or bad. You can tell by the outcome of one’s life what lies at the core.
And then you have the ultimate outcome or consequence, religious people who say, I know Jesus, Jesus, it’s me, remember what I did in your name? They claim to know Jesus, but our claim that we know Jesus doesn’t matter ultimately. It is not saving faith to know about Jesus. The key, what matters is that JESUS knows YOU personally and you know him personally.
And in the final section of his Sermon, we return to the passage we read at the outset. Examine your life, your choices. Have you lived wisely or foolishly? Have you been building your faith on the rock, on Jesus Christ, knowing him, abiding in him, being transformed on the inside out by him, or have you been building on the sand? The difference is simple. One puts these challenging, impossible words of Jesus into practice and the other doesn’t.
Jesus is asking us to put into practice things that go against our default human nature. We can’t do these things on our own. But if our heart is changed and we have been given a new spiritual nature, then it is possible.
What if my heart is not ready to put these things into practice? We all go through seasons when we don’t feel like obeying. Seasons when we just need to hear the Word of God and be healed and restored and receive grace. But eventually, we just have to decide that I need to start obeying. If you’re in a rut but you feel it’s time to get moving again, I encourage you to put the words of this Sermon on the Mount into practice, even when you might not feel like it. Obey first. As a parent, do I always feel like being a parent each morning? No, but I wake up each day and put being a parent into practice. Regardless of how I feel. And because I obeyed first, often, I find that the feeling returns. In the same way, when we obey Christ first, often our love for Jesus is rekindled.
Practice first and eventually by the grace of God, it will become natural to live out this Sermon. At first, swinging a baseball bat is unnatural because you have to remember so many mechanics: wrists straight, elbows in, rotate the hips. But with practice, what was once unnatural can become natural. This applies to spiritual life as well. With the help of the Holy Spirit, what seems incredibly unnatural will in time flow out from our heart to our hands naturally.
Don’t settle for religion. Seek out an intimate relationship with Christ. And when you fail, and we all will, go back and start over with Jesus. He is the rock. He is a sure foundation on which to build our lives.