Last week we talked about the lost art of seeing heaven. Looking at Matthew 6:1 we focussed on why we find it easier to practice our righteousness ‘in front of others to be seen by them’, than it is to look for ‘reward from [our] father in heaven’.
This week we’re going to take a look at another passage in this same chapter of Matthew and talk further about heaven—but also about money.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, 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. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (6:19-24)
We need to start by re-emphasizing a point that we made last week: heaven is not where we go when we die; heaven is God’s dimension of the world that we live in. We must avoid the temptation of thinking of earth as here and heaven as there in any kind of physical sense. If we don’t grasp this, we will fail to fully appreciate so much of what the New Testament teaches—not least this passage we’re looking at today.
Tom Wright, the New Testament scholar, offers a helpful explanation in his For Everyone commentary series on the book of Matthew:
As with other references to heaven and earth, we shouldn’t imagine [Jesus] means ‘don’t worry about this life - get ready for the next one’. ‘Heaven’ here is where God is right now, and where, if you learn to love and serve God right now, you will have treasure in the present, not just in the future. Of course Jesus (like almost all Jews of his day) believed that after death God would have a wonderful future in store for his faithful people; but they didn’t normally refer to that future as ‘heaven’. He wanted his followers to establish heavenly treasure right now, treasure which they could enjoy in the present as well as the future, treasure that wasn’t subject to the problems that face all earthly hoards. How can one do this? Learn to live in the presence of the loving father. Learn to do everything for him and him alone. Get your priorities right.
The next section in the passage we’re focussing on today helps to shed some light on what it means to get our priorities right. This is one of the trickier sections of Jesus’ teaching to understand. What on earth does Jesus mean by healthy and unhealthy eyes? The key to figuring out what Jesus meant is to actually do a bit of research into how the Jews in Jesus’ day would have heard this saying. And the Jews would have heard loud and clear what Jesus meant.
Let’s start by including the the translation David Stern offers in his ‘Complete Jewish Bible’:
So if you have a ‘good eye’ your whole body will be full of light; but if you have an ‘evil eye’ your whole body will be full of darkness.
Instead of healthy and unhealthy eyes as translated in the NIV, Sterne refers to a good and evil eye. And that matters. The phases ‘good eye’ and ‘evil eye’ had very clear and specific meanings to the Jews in Jesus’ day. To have a good eye meant that you were generous; to have an evil eye meant that you were stingy.
So, let’s re-read the whole section, but update the NIV version to include the meaning:
The eye is the lamp of the body. If you are generous, your whole body will be full of light. But if you are stingy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Having a good, healthy eye is about seeing the needs of those around and being generous in our giving towards meeting those needs. Having an evil, unhealthy eye means that we are blind to the needs around us and are greedy and self-centred.
Lois Tverberg expands on this in her book ‘Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus’:
Why is a person’s “eye” toward others so critical to Jesus? Because our relationship with money reveals our relationship with God. To have a “bad eye” is to cling to the little that you have, resenting those with more and refusing to help those with less. Your attitude shows how convinced you are that God is stingy, that he is either unwilling or unable to care for you. And it reveals how disconnected you are from the struggles of others. No wonder Jesus says that life becomes dark indeed when you’ve cut yourself off from both God and those around you.
On the other hand, if you’re radically convinced of God’s caring presence in your life, you’re also confident that God will provide for your needs — not just materially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. You may not be wealthy by the world’s standard, but you have a rock-solid understanding that what you have is enough, that ultimately your own situation is secure. The fruit is a generous attitude, a “good eye” toward others. How can your life not brighten when you think this way?
Shedding this light on having a good and evil eye immediately makes this section fit perfectly with the prior and subsequent sections where Jesus talks about treasure in heaven, and then not being able to serve God and money. All three sections in this short passage are about our attitudes towards money, material possessions, God, and others.
In essence, Jesus is challenging all of us who would listen to live lives that are God and other-focussed, lives that look for the reward - the treasure - from heaven rather than than from earth. He is calling us to be generous and other-centred rather than stingy and self-centred. And he warns us that the choice we face is either/or, not both/and. We can’t be generous and stingy, we can’t be other-centred and self-centred, and we can’t serve God and money. We must choose.
Let’s choose to rediscover the art of storing up treasure in heaven.
Facebook has been in the news a lot lately ahead of it - today - becoming a publicly traded company on the stock market. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought in light of both that, and also a new statistic just out suggesting that as many people use Facebook today as used the Internet in 2004. Crazy.
Despite the growth of both Twitter and Google+, neither of these have come close to the level of ubiquitous use that there is of Facebook.
Everyone (more or less) uses Facebook; niche groups use Twitter and Google+. And in that sense, Facebook has become almost like email. It is now - socially at least - the default means of communicating and staying in touch with people.
But rather like email in the workplace, Facebook has gone from being a new, exciting means of communication to something you feel you have to use. Just like email, the joy has gone. We’d like a better alternative (lots of us tried Google+), but we don’t see one. We’d like to drop Facebook in the same way we wish we could scrap email—but we can’t. We don’t really have a choice.
The challenge for Facebook is to discover if they can keep making money when - for so many of us - using Facebook is a function rather than a joy.
And I’m very excited about the latest venture which is to offer a free foundation course for anyone in the South Yorkshire region. Here’s the details from Isaac:
Hi all, some very very very exciting news from MB Improv - we are running an 8 week Improv Foundation Course which starts with 2 taster sessions so that YOU can try it out first!!!!! The even better new is that it is FREE. All the key info is below:
MB Improv Foundation Course - give Improv a Try! FREE!
MB Improv is running an improv comedy foundation course for anyone with absolutely any level of improvising or performing experience (down to zero).
The course includes the following:
Two taster sessions:
- Tuesday 15th May, 7:00pm - 8:15pm
- Tuesday, 22nd May, 7:00pm - 8:15pm
Followed by an 8-week foundation course (FREE, with £20 deposit)
Tuesday, 29th May - Tuesday, 24th July, 7:00pm - 8:15pm
All Sessions held at Showroom Cinema, Cinema 5 (15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 2BX))
You will learn the foundations of great improvisational comedy.
- Spontaneity through improvisation – being ‘in the moment’
- Thinking and acting without knowing what comes next
- Exercises that boost listening and unlock creativity
- Collaboration games
- Building teamwork and trust (‘yes and…’)
- Making others look amazing
- We believe that anxiety can block creativity and improvisation - that’s why we create a fun, relaxed environment where you can really go for it and enjoy all of the activities and games.
Through the MB Improv Foundation Course you will:
- Develop a solid improv foundation
- Learn the skills to build an amazing improv comedy scene
- Boost your creativity and spontaneity
- Improve your listening and public speaking skills
- Build your self-confidence
- Scratch your comedy itch
- Most importantly, have a great time with a bunch of fantastic people!
You can register for the course - or request any further information - by emailing Isaac.