VERSES 19-23: POSSESSIONS AND GREED
VERSES 19-21: PERSONAL GREED
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal”
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth”
Literally: “Do not lay up for you treasures on the earth.” Do not have this habit. Jesus here is making another play on words in the Greek: “treasure not for yourselves treasures.” Same play is in verse 20.
Jesus here is making a transition from religious to common actions, and warns us of another snare, the love of money, as being as inconsistent with purity of intention as the love of praise. This not forbid the laying up of treasures, but it does forbid the laying them up on the earth; that is, the hoarding of worldly wealth for worldly purposes. Riches are not sin in themselves, but the improper use of riches is a sin.
What blindness it is for a man to lay up that as a treasure which must necessarily perish! A heart designed for God and eternity is terribly degraded by being fixed on those things which are subject to corruption. Treasures, or wealth, among the ancients consisted in clothes, or changes of raiment, as well as in gold, silver, gems, wine, or lands. It meant an abundance of anything that was held to be conducive to the ornament or comfort of life. “But may we not lay up treasure innocently?”
1. If you can do it without setting your heart on it, which is almost impossible: and,
2. If there be neither widows nor orphans, destitute nor distressed persons in the place where you live.
“moth…rust…thieves”–Jesus is calling up three word pictures of the three common sources of wealth in Palestine:
1. He tells men to avoid the things that moths can destroy:
MOTH: (Grk.–sês)–As those in the East delighted much in display, in splendid equipage, and costly garments; in fact, their treasures consisted much in beautiful and richly ornamented articles of apparel. See Gen. 45:22, where Joseph gave to his brethren changes of raiment and where Achan coveted and secreted a goodly Babylonish garment (Joshua 7:21,. See also Judges 14:12.
This fact will account for the use of the word moth. When we speak of wealth, we think at once of gold, and silver, or lands, and houses. When a Hebrew or an Easterner spoke of wealth, he thought first of what would make display; and included as an essential part would be splendid articles of dress. The moth is a small insect that finds its way to these fine clothes and garments, and destroys them.
2. He tells men to avoid things that rust can destroy:
RUST: Or canker, (Grk.–brôsis), from (Grk.-–bibrôskô), meaning, “I eat, consume.” This word cannot be particularly applied to rust, but to anything that consumes or cankers clothes or metals.
3. He tells men to avoid the treasures which thieves can steal by digging through.
BREAK THROUGH: (Grk.–diorussousi)–literally “dig through.” It would be easy to dig through the mud walls or sun-dried bricks.
In Palestine the walls of most of the houses were made of nothing stronger than baked clay or mud bricks (what today we call adobe). Burglars would make an entry by literally digging through the wall. The Greeks referred to burglars as “mud diggers.” The reference here is to the man who he hoarded up in his house a store of gold, only to find, when he comes home one day that the burglars have dug through his flimsy walls and stolen his treasure.
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
Do not exhaust your strength, and spend your days in providing for the life here, but let your chief anxiety be to be prepared for eternity where nothing corrupts, nothing terminates, and no enemies plunder or destroy. To have treasure in heaven is to possess evidence that its purity and joys will be ours. It means to be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away. The heart, or affections, will of course be fixed on the treasure. To regulate the heart it is therefore important that the treasure, or object of attachment, should be right.
These Jews were familiar with the phrase, “treasure in heaven.” They identified such treasure with two things in particular:
1. They said that the deeds of kindness which a man did upon earth became his treasure in heaven.
2. They connected the phrase “treasure in heaven” with character.
“For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
This states a universal truth. A man's heart will be upon what he treasures most. If his treasure is in heaven, heaven will have his heart.
If everything that a man values and sets his heart upon is on earth, then he will have no interest in any world beyond this world. Jesus never said that this world was unimportant; but He did say and imply that its importance is not in itself, but in that to which it leads This world is not the end of life; rather, it is a stage on the way. The Great Tribulation will begin with the Jews being arrogant and “cocky” and attached to this world, but it will end with them beaten and begging for the return of Messiah—“Thy kingdom come” (v. 10). They will see where their true treasure is.
VERSES 22-23: INNER LIGHTING
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
“The light of the body is the eye:
Literally: “The lamp of the body is the eye.” That is, the eye is to the body what the sun is to the world in the day time, or a lamp to a house at night.
Here, as also in classical Greek, the eye is used figuratively to denote the simplicity of the mind's eye, or singleness of purpose; looking right at its object, as opposed to having two ends in view. (See Prov. 4:25-27).
In the previous verses, Jesus acquainted the Jews with what in their affections and judgments they should esteem their our chief treasure: now this judgment concerning their chief treasure, is by Jesus here compared to the eye; as the eye is the lamp of the body, that enlightens and directs it, so their understanding and judgment of the excellency of heaven, and the things above, will draw their affections towards them, and quicken their endeavors after them.
If one's eye is diseased, all he sees is wrong. So it is with the mind, or conscience. As applied to the outward eye, this means general soundness; particularly, not looking two ways, is the light of the soul. If these be darkened, all is darkenedss; if these see aright, all is light.
“if therefore thine eye be single”
Literally: “If then the eye of you is sound.”
SINGLE: (Grk.–haplous)—“Simple, uncompounded, without folds,” like a piece of cloth unfolded. Here and in Luke 11:34 the eye is called “single” in a moral sense; thus, pure, plain.
That is, so perfect in its structure as to see objects distinctly and clearly, and not confusedly, or in different places to what they are, as is often the case in certain disorders of the eye. Used of a marriage contract when the husband is to repay the dowry “pure and simple” if she is set free; but in case he does not do so promptly, he is to add interest also. There are various other instances of such usage. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and in-decision condemned in verse 24. Steady, devoted to one object. Not confused, as persons' eyes are when they see double.
“thy whole body shall be full of light”
Literally: “All your body is full of light.”
Illuminated–As with the bodily vision, the man who looks with a good, sound eye, walks in light, seeing every object clear; so a simple and persistent purpose to serve and please God in everything will make the whole character consistent and bright. Singly fixed on God and heaven; then your whole soul will be full of holiness and happiness.
“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?”
“if thine eye be evil
Literally: “But if your eye is evil.”–Not single; aiming at anything else. As is often the case in certain disorders of the eye; one object appearing two or more-or else in a different situation, and of a different color to what it really is. This state of the eye is termed, poneros, (Grk.–ponêos)– “evil,” i.e., diseased or defective.
An evil eye was a phrase in use among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who discontented or complaining at his neighbor's prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity. Jesus however, extends and sublimes this meaning, and uses the sound eye as a metaphor to point out that simplicity of intention, and purity of affection with which men should pursue the supreme good. But, if a person who enjoyed this heavenly treasure permited his simplicity of intention to deviate from heavenly to earthly good; and his purity of affection to be contaminated by worldly ambition, secular profits, and animal gratifications; then, the light which was in him becomes darkness, i.e., his spiritual discernment departs, and his union with God is destroyed: all is only a palpable obscure; and, like a man who has totally lost his sight, he walks without direction, certainty, or comfort.
“thy whole body shall be full of darkness”
Literally: “All your body is dark.”–Darkened–As an eye that does not look straight and full at its object, or sees nothing as it is.
So a mind and heart that is divided between heaven and earth is all dark. Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn. Jesus now applies to the human mind the figure of the eye which He has just used. If the eye of your soul be diseased, so that earthly treasurers appear to it better than heavenly, “how great is that darkness!”
VERSE 24: EXCLUSIVE SERVICE
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
“No man can serve two masters”
Literally: “No one is able to serve two lords.”–He cannot give his heart to two services at the same time.
SERVE: (Grk.–douleuô)–Literally meaning, to “belong wholly and be entirely under command to.”– He cannot follow two callings successfully. Many try it, but failure awaits them all.
MASTERS: (Grk.-–kurioi)–Literally meaning, “lords.
Jesus proceeds to illustrate the necessity of laying up treasures in heaven from a well-known fact, that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. The Master of our heart may be fitly termed the love that reigns in it. We serve that only which we love supremely. A man cannot be in perfect indifference betwixt two objects which are incompatible: he is inclined to despise and hate whatever he does not love suprmely, when the necessity of a choice presents itself. Men even try to be slaves to both God and mammon.”
“he will hate the one, and love the other;”
Literally: “For either he will hate the one, and he will love the other.”–Even if the two lords be of same character and have the same object, the servant must take law from either one or the other; though he may do what is agreeable to both, he cannot be servant to more than one.
Much less, if as in the present case, their interests are quite different, and even conflicting. In this case, if our affections be in the service of the one–if we “love the one”–we must of necessity “hate the other”; if we determine resolutely to “hold to the one,” we must at the same time disregard, and (if he insist on his claims upon us) even “despise the other.”
HATE: (Grk.–miseô)–The word hate has the same sense here as it has in many places of Scripture; it merely signifies “to love less”-so Jacob loved Rachel, but “hated” Leah; i.e., He loved Leah much less than He loved Rachel.
God Himself uses it precisely in the same sense: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have ‘I hated;’” i.e., I have loved the posterity of Esau less than I have loved the posterity of Jacob: which means no more than that God, in the course of His providence, gave to the Jews greater earthly privileges than He gave to the Edomites, and chose to make them the progenitors of the Messiah, though they ultimately, through their own obstinacy, derived no more benefit from this privilege than the Edomites did. How strange it is, that with such evidence before their eyes, men will apply this loving and hating to degrees of inclusion and exclusion in which neither the justice nor mercy of God are honored!
OTHER: (Grk.–heteron)–This Greek word implies distinction in quality, rather than numerical distinction. Here this word gives the idea of two masters of distinct or opposite interests, like God and Mammon. We see this same Greek word used in Galatians 1:6-7:
“I marve that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another (heteron–meaning a “another which is a different one”): which is not another (Grk.-allos–meaning a “another which is the same; same kind”)–Gal. 1:6-7.
“God and mammon”
Literally: “God and wealth”–Mammon is used for money in the Targum of Onkelos, (Exodus 18:21); and in theTargum of Jonathan, (Judges 5:19; I Samuel 8:3).
MAMMON: (Grk.–mamônas)–AChaldee, Syriac, and Phoenician word for the god of money (or the devil). It is here personified as an idol. Thus Mammon came to mean money or “riches.”
It is not known that the Jews ever formally worshipped this idol, but they did use the word to denote wealth. The meaning is, you cannot serve the true God, and at the same time be supremely engaged in obtaining the riches of this world. One must interfere with the other, (see Luke 16:9-11).
The slave of mammon (wealth) will obey mammon while pretending to obey God. The word Mammon originally meant “trust,” or confidence, and riches is the trust of worldly men. If God is not the object of supreme trust, something else will be, and it is most likelyit will be money. There can be no doubt Mammon is used for riches, and is to be considered as an idol master, or god of the heart. The service of this god and the true God together is here. But since the teaching of the preceding verses might seem to endanger our falling short of what is requisite for the present life, and so being left destitute, our Lord now comes to speak to that point.