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Matthew 6:19-34

Kingdom Ambitions in a Fallen World

Sermon Notes + Quotes

We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel and today is no different. If you need a paper copy, raise your hand high and someone will hand deliver it to you. 

We’re going to be continuing our study this morning in the Gospel of Matthew that we call “The King and His Kingdom” and we’ll be finishing up Chapter 6 this morning that I’ve called “Kingdom Ambitions in a Fallen World.” And I was actually thinking about calling it, “What’s in Your Wallet?”  But (true story) the voice of reason which resides in our household politely suggested that I might not want to do that. So, “Kingdom Ambitions in a Fallen World” it is.  

And speaking of your wallet, so this morning, if you got gas or coffee on way in, you spent $5 for a gallon of gas and $5 for a cup of coffee, and it’s just painful. But here’s a slide that might make you feel better about just spending $5. I did a little search this week at the top 10 most expensive auction purchases. And as of 2021, here’s the top five. 

Number one, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” $450.3 million (2017).  And if any of you all were here last week and saw that picture of Jim and the “Mona Lisa,” I’m just saying I don’t have a picture of that painting, but the “Salvator Mundi,” it just looks a little bit like Jim. Okay, so second on the list. Pablo Picasso’s “Le Femmes d’Alger,” $179.4 million. And third on the list, The Gigayacht, $168 million. Bought by a Russian billionaire off of eBay. Thank you very much. And this guy also bought a $500 million yacht called The Eclipse in 2010. And I had to think, I wonder if the guy still has those yachts or if they’ve been confiscated at some port, because that’s been happening over the last few weeks?  Number four on the list, Giacometti’s “Pointing Man,” sculpture. It’s a gorgeous sculpture. It’s life size. $141.3 million. And number five on the list, Jeff Koon’s “Rabbit,” sculpture, which went for $91.1 million. And FYI, that rabbit is made of plastic because Mr. Koon is a plastics artist. I don’t know anything about him. I’m sure he is really great, but I’ve just got to say, that’s a lot of money for a plastic rabbit, right? I’m thinking like $5 at Walmart or something and you’re going to be able to get yourself a nice plastic rabbit. 

But it just comes down to people spend a lot of money on things they value and they treasure, don’t they? And we saw that in the last week or so when Mr. Elon Musk spent $44 billion to buy Twitter (2022). $44 billion, that’s a lot of money. Did he write him a check? Send him a Venmo transfer? 

Has anybody seen the Expedia commercial that came out?  I think it came out in the Super Bowl with Ewan McGregor. It’s for Expedia, the travel company. It’s so great. He starts off, he’s walking around the sound stage and he talks about stuff. He says, “Stuff. We love stuff. There’s all this great stuff.” But he says, “But I doubt any of us are going to look back on our lives and wish we bought like a thinner TV, or a sportier SUV, or a smarter smartphone.” And he says, “Do you think any of us will look back on our lives and regret the things we didn’t buy or the places we didn’t go?” And then, he walks out the door and he’s on a beach with this family on the beach.  So, obviously, it’s an ad for a travel services company that’s hoping you’ll use them to book your next getaway. But man, it’s profound. 

We love our stuff. We treasure it. We can’t wait to get the next thinnest, fastest, best Apple Watch or iPad, or computer, or car, or whatever. But you can’t take it with you, right? And at some point, as we “look back on our lives,” if we’re at the very end of our lives, are we going to be wishing, I wish I had a little more time to buy that next iPhone that’s coming out? No, we’re not going to long for more stuff. We’re going to long for more time to be with the people we love. And that concept about stuff and people and the way we value and treasure things, that’s what Jesus is going to be talking about in this passage today. 

So he’s delving right where it hurts, right to the very heart of the matter. He’s going deep and talking about our material possessions, how we view our possessions, and our need for daily sustenance.  These are all affected by the condition and posture of our heart. And it’s the condition of our heart that Jesus is most concerned with, because the condition of our heart affects everything else in our lives. 

Earlier in Chapter 6 Jesus talked about our appetites. Pastor Tommy led us through hungering and thirsting after righteousness and how we perform our private worship. Jim led us through, last week, the teaching on the Lord’s prayer. Now, we’re talking about values, what we hold most dear, what we’re most ambitious about, what we’re most anxious about, that which we want with all our heart to obtain, that which we want with all our heart not to lose, that which we’re desperate to get, and that which we’re desperate to keep. This is the stuff that Jesus is going to be talking to us about today. 

He’s not binding us to rules and regulations, but he’s offering a choice of two ways of looking at things: the way of the world or the way of the kingdom. And His desire is that we live lives of wholehearted devotion to God and that we lead flourishing lives as human beings. Jonathan T. Pennington says this in his commentary in The Sermon on the Mountain and Human Flourishing, about this very thing: 

“The Sermon is Christianity’s answer to the greatest metaphysical question that humanity has always faced. How can we experience true human flourishing? What is happiness, blessedness, shalom, and how does one obtain and sustain it?” 

Those are good questions. 

I’m super, super excited about this passage, but I’ve got to warn you. I’ve been pretty convicted by it this week and it’s definitely one that’s going to make us squirm a little bit. And honestly, I hope it does. I hope it tugs at your heart and that Jesus is kind of poking you just a little bit, just to say, ‘Where’s your relationship with your stuff as opposed to where is your relationship with me?’  What’s standing in first place? 

Let’s pray church, and then we’ll read our passage. This is from Thomas Aquinas: 

“Bestow upon us, oh Lord, our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom, to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally rest in you.” Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Thomas Aquinas

Alrighty, so let’s read our text. Matthew 6, starting in verse 19: 

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 eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious of about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gathering to barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Therefore do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” 

Amen. Anybody squirming yet at all? So, let’s dig into this. 

This passage, it’s so rich in metaphor, isn’t it? And we have a word for that at home. We call it “word pictures.”  Jesus is painting these amazing “word pictures” here.  In the first part of the passage, he offers these three short little metaphors with a little axiom at the end of each metaphor—little nugget of truth. And then, he gets to the last section where he is, again, offering us two choices, we can live a life of security or we can live a life of anxious and insecurity. 

Okay, verse 19, the first metaphor where he tells us to not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth. He’s not telling us today, take a vow of poverty, okay?  1 Timothy 6 says “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” But in spite of that, Jesus is not encouraging us to take a vow of poverty, and nowhere in the Bible are we taught that possessions, or wealth, or private property are inherently bad things, like this dollar bill.  I’ll just put that there and see what happens with it while we talk. And Jesus, by the way, he’s not teaching against the concept either of working hard and caring for your family and preparing for the future. In Proverbs 6, we’re encouraged to follow the example of ants who do that very thing, who store up their food all summer and then they’re able to live through the winter. We’re encouraged to live like that. 

Have you ever been robbed? I don’t know if anybody here has. It’s a horrible feeling. And a few years ago, we were down in Atlanta and somebody broke into our car and smashed out a window and took a couple of backpacks, and some iPads and just some other stuff. And I remember being so irritated that the thoughtless way the thief had broken into the car and done some damage. And then, I just kind of had to laugh because if somebody’s going to break into your car and steal your property, they don’t really care about whether they’re considerate or if they clean up after themselves, right? But it’s still thieves breaking in and stealing, and that’s a bad feeling. 

Jesus is pointing out about our earthly possessions. They’re all susceptible to decay. Whether it’s moths (which is nature’s corrosion by moths, rats, mice, termites) or rust (which is the effects of corrosion over time) or robbers (thieves breaking in and stealing which is the corrosion of the sin of humanity), all three of those represent the insecurity of a life lived primarily for accumulation. When we’re looking to accumulate and we’re relying on that for our security, just like we read in the creed this morning, we end up being insecure because all those things are just susceptible to evaporating.  

Jesus contrasts this by encouraging us to store up treasures in heaven.  And he’s not encouraging us to build up a system of credits like, ‘Look at all the work I’ve done. I opened three doors. I helped a little old lady across the sidewalk.’ That’s not what he’s doing. What he’s saying is ‘Live your life with eternal consequence in mind. Become more Christ like. Live your life with faith, hope and love in mind. Do things for the kingdom. Witness and pray for people, so that you’re able to introduce them to Jesus. Do things that have eternal consequence.’ 

And then after this, here’s the axiom. He speaks his plain and simple truth, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There’s no way around it. We can’t help but go after and hold most dear the things we value most.  It’s just the way we’re made. 

I remember as a kid, my mom used to hang all the clothes up with the hangers facing the same way, which kind of, in general, you do, because nothing’s more annoying than trying to get a shirt out when one hanger is facing one way and the other the other way. But part of her reasoning for doing this was if the house is ever on fire, I can just go grab some clothes and run out the door. Which, I’ve got to say, if your house is on fire, you’re probably not getting a couple of t-shirts and a pair of jeans, right? You’re getting out of the house!  That concept, it shows what is dear to us in our lives. 

If we have just seconds to flee the house or to get it down to the basement in case of a tornado, what do we grab on our way out? A lot of times that’s going to be what’s most valuable to us. I know there’s times when we’re expecting the possibility of strong tornadoes. I’ll take a few things down the basement, maybe some charging devices for our iPhones, flash light. I’ve got a 1937 Kay Upright Bass and that usually is pretty, pretty high. That always goes to the basement (I’m just saying).  But what would you save if your house was on fire or you had to leave in a hurry? Think of the people in Ukraine that we’ve seen fleeing their country with just a pack or just a suitcase.  That reveals to us what we’re holding dear is, doesn’t it?  Jesus says regard what your treasure is, regard that with care because it holds your heart. 

Well then, moving on to the second metaphor, Jesus talks about the eye being the lamp of the soul. And he says that if your eye is healthy, it floods your whole being with light. And if your eye is unhealthy then your whole being is in darkness. Remember, metaphor. 

So, if you’ll pardon the pun, there’s a couple of ways to look at this metaphor. We can look at it as a way of telling us what we look to, what we focus on.  It’s extremely important in the same way that what we treasure is important. But then, there’s also a second way to view it. This idea that the eye is also similar to the idea of the heart, the center of the will, the thought, the emotion. The word for a healthy eye in a Greek hapalus ophthalmos, which means “unified, single, and generous, a heart that is unselfish and holy, wholeheartedly belonging to God.” The word for the unhealthy eye poneros ophthalmos, meaning “bad, evil, selfish, implying a heart bent on one’s own desires.” So, do you see how that’s similar to the first metaphor? What is our eye fixed on? What is our heart focused on? Because that’s going to affect our whole life, the condition of the heart. 

And then finally, Jesus adds a third metaphor. He says we can’t serve two masters. And he’s not just about talking about having two jobs. The conversation here is more about the relationship between a master and a servant or a master and a slave, which was highly prevalent in this time. 

None of these metaphors are value judgements. It’s just a simple statement of fact and truth. Jesus says that it’s impossible to serve two masters. It’s not hard. It’s not inconvenient. It’s not time consuming. It’s impossible. The divided allegiance simply doesn’t work, which leaves us with a choice. Do we serve God or do we serve money? Do we serve the Creator or do we serve a created thing? (The dollar bill hasn’t moved yet, has it? I don’t think it has.) 

So after Jesus has given these three examples of the two waves of being, he says, “Therefore,” and what we always say about that word “therefore” is ‘what is it there for?’  So, he’s given us these examples and then he says, ‘Gosh, in light of what I just told you, don’t be anxious about your life. Don’t be consumed with your sustenance, what you need to eat and drink or your clothes. Because there’s more to life than this. More to life than a reductionist view that our identity and our self and our worth is only in what we drink, what we eat, what we wear.’ 

And then he gives us the example of the birds. He says, “Look at the birds. They don’t work. They don’t sow. They don’t reap. They don’t store up food in barns for the winter. And yet, your heavenly Father feeds them.” That’s so good, so revealing of God’s character. And He tells us that if God so provides for the birds, which are of little value, He’ll provide even more for us. And He doesn’t say that birds don’t have any value. What He’s saying here is that you’re created in my image. We bear the imago Dei, the stamp of God on our being. And therefore, we have a different value than the birds. 

Notice something too. That even though God provides for the birds, it’s not like He’s holding out worms and seeds, and just dropping them into their beaks. If you watch birds at all, including our chickens, which do the same thing, they forage constantly, but God is providing for them in that way. And in the same sense, God is providing for us our sustenance, but He doesn’t intend for us to just lay back on the couch all day and sit around while he drops Pringles into our mouth!  That’s not the point, right? We’re supposed to have skin in the game. 

And after this, He asks a question, which is really a rhetorical question: “Which one of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of your life?”  Well, we know that answer. No matter how much I worry and fret, I’m not going to add an hour, or a day, or a second to my life. And actually, we know that it’s the opposite. Stress kills. The more we’re anxious and the more we worry, it’s detrimental to our lives. 

Then He follows up with yet another metaphor to show us about the folly of being consumed with things. He questions why we should be anxious about what we wear because look at the wildflowers. They don’t work and yet the hillside is clothed with this amazing array of wildflowers that even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed alike. So if God clothes the hillside with these flowers, which are here today and tomorrow just thrown in the fire, isn’t he going to provide more than that for us? And He asks the question, again, ‘Why be anxious? Why be fearful? Why be consumed with all of these things? Because isn’t life more than stuff?’ 

So now, verse 33, Jesus gets to the main point. He says, ‘Therefore, don’t be anxious for all this stuff.’ And then he gets to verse 33 and this is the main point, “But instead seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Which, by the way, seek first doesn’t indicate chronological order in the day or anything like that. It’s just indicating priority of order. Live with the kingdom in mind. And when he talks about the righteousness of God, think of God’s pursuit of righteousness is because he loves justice and setting things right. And he’s encouraging us to live the same way. Live your life with God’s righteousness in mind, social responsibility. Meaning people, and your life, is worth more than stuff, and so is your neighbor. Your neighbor is worth more than stuff.  That’s what Jesus is telling us to pursue. Pursue the righteousness of the kingdom. And then because God is our provider, all of the stuff will be added to us. 

Okay, I know this is being like sprayed with a fire hose. There’s a lot of information here. What can we take away from this and carry with us this week? I think there’s three things that Jesus is inviting us to dig deeper with in this passage. 

First one, I think Jesus is inviting us to reorder our priorities. We have to worship something. We can’t not worship something—whatever it is, bass fishing. I mean we can’t not worship something. We can’t escape it. Literally, it’s how we’re made. We’re always going to be moving forward, moving towards something that for us encompasses a blessed and flourishing life. We worship something. Martin Luther said this some 700 years ago, (pretty smart guy, in my opinion) he says, 

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.” No matter what else you say, what your heart clings to and confides in, that’s what is functioning as your God.

Martin Luther

That’s my question for all of us, myself included. What’s your heart clinging to? What’s your treasure? What’s occupying first place in your heart right now at 10 minutes to 12:00pm on a Sunday morning? 

I came across this quote the other day from celebrated American author, David Foster Wallace. And it comes from a famous commencement speech he gave at Kenyon University. And man, I think he operated on the fringes of faith for most of his life. But gosh, this is just right up next to the truth here. Listen to this and I’ll follow up and add some. It’s quite a long quote: 

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there’s no such thing as atheism. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god…to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”

David Foster Wallace

I think there’s some truth in that. He goes onto say that if you worship money and things, then you’re never going to have enough because if that’s what is your security, then enough is always just a little bit more than you have right now. That’ll be enough. If I just make a little bit more money, that’ll be enough. Then if you worship your own body, or beauty, or sexual allure. You’re always going to feel a less than beautiful because you’re trying to attain something that’s always beyond your reach. And then when age finally starts showing up, you’re going to die a thousand little deaths before you die for real. And if you worship power, if that’s your treasure, you’re always going to feel a little weak and you’re always going to be striving to gain more power so you won’t feel weak. Those things will eat us alive.

So in addition to our worship—which we have to do because that’s the way we’re made—I’d like to suggest that we cannot help but also perform liturgy in our daily life. Our habits, our daily routines, the way we spend our money, it’s also a liturgy of what we worship, whether it’s going to the movies, or playing top golf, or high price coffee, boutique coffee shops. If highbrow baristas and high price coffee is what you really love, then regular visits to the ‘coffee shop temple’ is part of your liturgy of your life. Every Sunday morning—and this happens probably to all of us, I think it always happens on Sundays—in the early service, I get this little notification on my iPhone, “Screen Time.” Your screen time was up or down or whatever. And it’s indicating how much screen time I used in the past week.  Another example of a daily routine, a daily liturgy. What am I doing when I’ve got five extra minutes? When you just kind of drift and daydream, what do you typically think about?  That’s an indication of what’s holding front and center in your life. 

Pastor Garrett Kell tweeted this out last week and he must have known what we were going to talk about today (That’s all I’m saying). Look at what he says, 

“Your credit card and bank statements are theological statements. They highlight what we treasure, what we run to for comfort, what idols we hope in, and also how we invest in God’s kingdom. You might do well to open your account statements with a trusted friend for evaluation.” 

Pastor Garrett Kell

Boy, that makes me squirm because I know the truth of it!  Things like that, how we spend our spare time, how we spend our dollars, that reveals what we run to for comfort, what we run to for pleasure, how we’re benefiting God’s kingdom. 

So if all we live for is stuff or money, for acquisition and accumulation of wealth and power, then we can get to where we’re looking at everybody else around us as just a means to an end. If you can help me get where I want to go or what I want to get, awesome. I’m with you. But you might be hindering me from what I want to get or where I want to go. And in that case, I’m just going to mow right over you. That’s the danger of living a life focused on accumulation. 

Jesus also invites us to refocus our worldview. CS Lewis says, 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

C.S. Lewis

What’s in your wallet? What’s your worldview? How do you see your life? Because how you see things will be how you are. Do you look at your gifts and talents to be hoarded and used strictly for your own benefit? Or are your gifts just those gifts given to you by the Lord in order to hone them, to develop them, to share them, and to use them for God’s glory and everyone’s good. What’s your worldview? How are you looking at your talents, and your gifts, and your possessions? 

And the same thing with our ambitions. Are your ambitions front and center in your life? Do you think of them apart from God, ahead of God, instead of God? Or are you looking at your ambitions through the lens of Christ and God’s kingdom? 

How do we see things? What’s our worldview? And just to encourage us, that Jesus doesn’t want to turn us into robots and not have ambitions and desires, there’s this great quote from Frederick Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew, The Christbook, he says: 

“Jesus does not remove desire; He redirects it. Rather than uproot all human ambition and passion, Jesus counsels us to make it our ambition to be a success before the Father. Jesus does not quash ambition; He elevates it.” 

Frederick Dale Bruner

I encourage you today: Feed that ambition that’s looking through the lens of Christ first. Jesus wants us to flourish. He does not want us to settle for life that is not life.

Lastly, He also invites us to rest, to be reassured in his presence, his promise, and his provision. I love the last verse of this passage, verse 34, because it’s such a realistic statement.  Jesus says after everything He said, ‘Therefore, in light of all of this, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ And Jesus is saying, ‘In light of everything that I’ve just told you about how we’re cared for by our Father, don’t be afraid. Walk we with me today. Trust me for today. Don’t be anxious for tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes, walk with me again tomorrow and trust me, trust me again tomorrow. Yeah, you’re going to have trouble. Things are not going to go right, but I’ve overcome the world. Trust me. Rest in that.’ 

Look at this painting by Claude Monet and think about how God adorns the fields with wildflowers. I just love that painting. It’s just fantastic. God is so lavish in his provision. I read a couple of studies this week about the things that we’re anxious about and afraid of, what percentage of that actually comes true. And there was one study, Penn State. And it was like more than 92% of the things we worry about don’t come true. So, it’s like less than 8%.  Less than one thing out of 10 that we’re worried about right now, maybe one of those things is going to happen.  But for the most part, it’s just useless—useless worry consumed with something that’s not God. Winston Churchill once said, 

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who sit on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

Winston Churchill

So when we’re anxious for tomorrow, you could say that we’re actually being anxious twice.  Because if tomorrow’s really rough, we’ll be stressed about it then. But why be stressed about it today? Because then you’re wasting today!  I know that when I get fearful and anxious about things, it’s indicative that I’m trusting some of this created stuff. (That dollar bill hadn’t moved yet, has it? Nope. No life in that dollar bill.)  I’m trusting stuff like that, like jobs, or health, or money, “little g” gods, instead of God. 

Tim Keller says, “Anxiety is always the result of a collapsing false god.” Ah, squirmy isn’t it? So good. Those “little g” gods, they just don’t show up and do their job well. They leave us in the lurch every time. The “little g” gods are just that, “little g.”  They themselves are a created thing. They are not God. Everything you know in creation, there’s a line. God’s on this side of the line. Everything else is on the other side of line. 

So instead of trusting these false “little g” gods, Jesus is offering us these two ways of thinking this morning. Instead of trusting the “little g,” He’s saying, ‘I’m inviting you to participate in glorious, real abundant life with our Creator and Redeemer, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords—who is not false, but true. He’s not dark, He’s light and is our real and lasting treasure. 

I’ll close with this quote from Dane Ortlund. He’s got a new book out called, Deeper

“What must happen in the individual human heart, most fundamentally, most deeply for a man or woman to get traction and grow? The way we grow is receiving the heartful love of Jesus. So, let your union and communion with Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, take you deeper, ever deeper, into the wonders of the gospel. And watch your heart and therefore your whole life, blossom.” 

Dane Ortlund

Amen, church? Let’s pray: 

Lord, we are grateful for your word. Grateful that you are the way, the truth, and the life. Lord, we return to you. We rest in you. We find life in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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