Matthew 6:21-24 God or Goods? (part 2)

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church 02 October 2011


6:16 Now, whenever y’all fast, stop being like the gloomy-eyed hypocrites for they cover their faces

      in order that they might be revealed to men as fasting.
            I’m telling you truly, they are holding out on their reward.

6:17 But when you are fasting, anoint your head and wash your face,

    6:18 so that you might not be revealed to men as fasting, but rather to your Father who is in secret,

            and your Father who sees in secret will pay you back.

6:19 Don’t y’all keep treasuring for yourselves treasures upon the earth,

            where moth and consumers are devaluing , and where thieves are breaking in and stealing,

6:20 but keep treasuring for yourselves treasures in heaven,

            where neither moth nor consumers are devaluing and where thieves neither break in nor steal,

    6:21 for where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.


6:22 The lamp of the body is the eye.

      Therefore if your eye happens to have integrity, your whole body will be bright.

    6:23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark.

Therefore if the light which is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?


6:24 No one is able to serve two masters,

            for either he will hate the one and he will love the other,

            or he will stand behind one and he will despise the other.

You are not able to serve God and Mammon.


“The $535 million White House-brokered federal loan guarantee merely aided Solyndra to go public with stock, cash out, then take the money and run before filing for bankruptcy this year. That one of those taking the money and running is also one of the most high profile Democratic Party fund raisers and Solyndra investors, George B. Kaiser, is part of the emerging scandal.”[1]Solyndra did some serious, and misleading, lobbying that other loan guarantee recipients… didn’t do. Lobbyists were assuring government officials that business was good when it apparently wasn’t.”[2] The Fed agreed to provide surety to the Solyndra company if they defaulted on their loans, so that freed up money for the company to pay back initial investors, which meant that half a billion dollars of our taxes did not go toward building the business, as the money had been intended for, but instead went to line the pockets of some of the most wealthy people in America who had made initial investments in the failing company. Now the company is bankrupt and there’s probably no way to recover the money. It’s amazing the level of deception and depravity to which people will stoop when big money is involved. In the last century we saw the Teapot Dome scandal and the Enron scandal. It’s also a good guess that the taxpayer-funded bailouts in recent years of GM and Chrysler and many banks were similarly scandalous.


“Fraud Triangle”: Three things have to be in place before people will deceive others: 1) motivating pressure – felt need for more money - greed, 2) opportunity to gain from being deceitful – esp. without fear of detection, 3) a way to rationalize that they are not a bad person for doing this.[3]


If you believe that there is no God with an objective standard of right and wrong outside of yourself, and if you believe that God will not hold you accountable to His standard of right and wrong, and if you believe there is no sovereign God looking out to provide you with “daily bread” you have built all three sides of the triangle and are ripe for committing fraud – most of us already have done so to some degree or another. This is what happens when we serve Mammon instead of God. Wealth is a terrible master.


But here I am starting with the last verse in the section. Let’s back up and review:

Last time we looked at the problem of seeking honor and wealth from humans:

1) The problem with accumulating earthly praise regarding fasting (vs.16-18)

s         In the Bible, people fasted before doing a special job for God’s glory, after a disaster to ask for God’s restoration, after a death to show mourning, during a time of repentance over sin, as part of making a special request of God, or just as a regular discipline of devotion to God.

s         What is important, however, is that these acts of devotion be done in the context of a relationship with God rather than merely to impress other people.

s         Hypocrites of Jesus’ day who wanted to look like they were godly, spiritual people, would walk around with somber, droopy eyes and cover their faces with ashes so that everybody would notice them. Their hearts were oriented toward praise from men rather than favor with God.

s         Maybe there are other good things you do, but which you do in such a way as to make it look like it was a big deal, so that other people will be impressed with you.
Jesus said that it is hypocrisy to try to get praise from other people for our devotion to God.

2) The problem with accumulating earthly products (vs. 19-21)

s         Jesus also said that we should not organize our lives around collecting things for ourselves on earth.

s         Earthly accumulations are at risk from moths, other consumers, corruption, and theft.

s         We saw that this is not an absolute prohibition against making money, since the Bible commends making an income in order to have money to give to the poor (Eph. 4:28, 1Cor. 16:2), and it recommends leaving an inheritance to your children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22, 2Cor. 12:14)

s         Jesus offers the ultimate investment plan! Lay up treasure in heaven, and you’ll never lose your investment!

s         We also studied the two things we can invest in that will actually accumulate in heaven, and those are: 1) Winning souls for God (Prov. 11:30, Matt. 28:19), and 2) giving to the needy (Malachi 3:10, Luke 12:33, Mat 25:34-40)

21οπου γαρ εστινο θησαυρος υμωνL,W,f1,13,M,sy/σουא,B εκει εσται καιη καρδια σου

s         Jesus said that wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be also.
So the question is, “Where is your heart?”

s         “The heart follows the treasures as the needle follows the lodestone or the sunflower the sun” ~Matthew Henry

s         Either your treasure is on earth and your heart is using God’s blessings to serve your wealth – a situation that leads to darkness and misery, OR your treasure is in heaven, and you are using earthly wealth to serve God’s kingdom – a situation which leads to brightness and joy.


In Matthew 6:22-24, Jesus lays two proverbs out like syllogisms.

o       Both talk about an either/or situation.

o       Both talk about the results of what we focus our lives on.

o       The first one about the eyes talks ostensibly about physical things, but has a spiritual application, and the second one is clearly a spiritual application.

o       “The gist of this section is that carelessness leads men astray, for they are not as intent as they should be on the right goal.” ~John Calvin

Proverb #1 – the eyes, light, and darkness (v.21-23)

22The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye happens to have integrity, your whole body will be bright/full of light. 23But if your eye is evil/bad, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light which is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?


22‘Ο λυχνος του σωματος εστιν ‘ο οφθαλμος εαν ουν η˛ ‘ο οφθαλμος σου απλους ‘ολον το σωμα σου φωτεινον εσται 23εαν δε ‘ο οφθαλμος σου πονηρος ‘η ‘ολον το σωμα σου σκοτεινον εσται ει ουν το φως το εν σοι σκοτος εστιν το σκοτος ποσον


s         εαν ουν η˛ ‘ο οφθαλμος σου ‘απλους

o       “haplous” literally means “without folds,”Vin and it gets quite a variety of translations: singleKJV,ATR/ goodNKJV,NIV/ clearNAS/ healthyESV,Earle,Hendrik./ simpleThay,Str/ sincereA&G/ not looking two ways,JFB, Clarke and, among other things[4], Matthew Henry suggests singlemindedness - as to keeping the end of God’s glory in view.

o       The only other place this word απλους occurs in the Bible is Pro 11:25 “Every sincere soul is blessed: but a passionate man is not graceful.” (Brenton) Which isn’t very specific, but seems to make it the opposite of someone whose passions are easily aroused – perhaps someone who is not easily excitable and thus does not get distracted, but rather stays focused on a single thing – particularly on God, who gives blessing.

o       The root of this word has to do with “braiding” strands together, such as the golden cables on the high priest’s epaulets (Exo 28:14) and the crown of thorns twisted together that was put on Jesus’ head (Matt. 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2)

o       Taking all this together, I think that the word “integrated” connects the root meaning well to what Jesus is saying here.

o       Physical integrity means that all the parts are connected properly into an integrated, well-working, single, whole system where the eye perceives the way light interacts with physical objects around us, and the brain interprets that information so that we can know about our physical environment.

o       Figuratively, integrity means that there is no duplicity, confusion, or deception going on; rather, there is a single, clear, sincere signal being sent, and that signal is seamlessly integrated with a mind that understands what those signals mean and interprets them accurately.

o       “Light signifies that small portion of reason, which continues to exist in men since the fall of Adam: and darkness signifies gross and brutal affections. The meaning is, we ought not to wonder, if men wallow so disgracefully, like beasts, in the filth of vices, for they have no reason which might restrain the blind and dark lusts of the flesh.” ~Calvin

o       The opposite of this integrity is called “evil” in v.23 – the same word used for “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer, and for the evil person in 5:37 who won’t answer simply Yes/No, and the evil person in 5:39 who slaps you on the cheek.

o       “An evil eye was a phrase in use, among the ancient Jews, to denote an envious, covetous man or disposition; a man who repined at his neighbor’s prosperity, loved his own money, and would do nothing in the way of charity for God’s sake.” ~Clarke


s         22‘Ο λυχνος του σωματος εστιν ‘ο οφθαλμος

o       I believe that Jesus is still talking about the human tendency to collect things, but He is shifting from what the hands are doing to what the eyes and mind are doing in this process of collecting. We collect whatever we like to look at – whatever our mind is interested in. So there is a connection between what we look at and what we will invest in collecting.

o       If what we are looking at is good and right (according to God’s way of looking at things), then the data coming into our bodies from our eyes will be good like light and will result in our hands doing what will accumulate treasures in heaven.

o       If, on the other hand, our eyes are focused on things that are evil in God’s sight, it will be those evil things which come in and fill our body, and the treasures we accumulate then by the work of our hands will be earthly things which will not satisfy or last very long.

o       ει ουν το φως το εν σοι σκοτος εστιν το σκοτος ποσονHow great is that darkness?” Well, if it’s the only thing coming into your eye, then it is all that your mind is getting, and the darkness is total. That’s the point. At any given point in time, you’re either filling your mind with light or you are filling your mind with darkness; you can’t be both at the same time.

o       “A mind and heart divided between heaven and earth is all dark.” ~JFB “…spiritual discernment departs and union with God is destroyed” ~Clarke

o       If we set our affections on this world and the things it has to offer, we are taking our eyes off of the light of God’s glory and focusing on darkness. Jesus is comparing that to loosing your eyesight and seeing nothing but darkness anymore with your eyes.

o       Would that it were that easy to discern whether or not a person’s eyes are on God or on wealth. The truth is that when the light coming in is darkness, we think we can still see fine on our own. The problem is we are now seeing things in a distorted way. We see people and things as objects to be coveted or worshipped rather than for what they really are, creations of a brilliant God who made them to worship Him.

o       An artist by the name of Ruskin wrote the following in an art history book: “Seeing falsely is worse than blindness. A man who is too dim-sighted to discern the road from the ditch, may feel which is which; but if the ditch appears manifestly to him to be the road, and the road to be the ditch, what shall become of him? False seeing is unseeing, on the negative side of blindness.” (Ruskin, Modern Painters)

o       What is your eye focused on? If we focus on the wrong thing, the consequences are dark and devastating. We’re talking about having a single eye:

s         How do you maintain this kind of integrity?

o       What do you do if you know your eyes are focused on darkness, or you are having trouble shifting your attention back and forth between God and the world?

o       Prov. 4:18-27 NASB  But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble. My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth And put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.

o       Psalm 101:2-8 I will think on the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil... No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me... He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house...

o       Here’s how to have that kind of integrity: Don’t surround yourself with proud, deceitful people or put worthless things in front of your eyes, instead treasure God’s word in the middle of your heart and imitate other faithful people.

Proverb #2 – Two masters: God and Mammon (v.24)

24No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and he will love the other, or he will hold toKJV/ be loyalNKJV/ devoted toNIV,NAS/ stand behind one and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and MammonKJV/ MoneyNIV,NAS/ wealthNAS.


24ουδεις δυναται δυσιν κυριοις δουλευειν ὴ γαρ τον ‘ενα μισησει και τον ‘ετερον αγαπησει ὴ ‘ενος ανθεξεται και του ‘ετερου καταφρονησει ου δυνασθε θεω δουλευειν και μαμωνα.


s         ILLUSTRATION – Picture of Dog with 2 masters.

o       What will happen if one man says “sic ‘em” and the other master says, “sit”? The dog can’t obey both at the same time.

o       What if one man goes to the left and the other man goes to the right? Something’s gotta give, because the dog can’t go both directions at once. The world and its wealth is going in the opposite direction of God, according to Jesus, and you can’t serve both at the same time.

o       “You gotta serve somebody” ~Bob Dylan

s         Notice the word used to indicate the relationship with these masters: δουλευειν = serve as a slave, belong to. Jesus is not talking about an incidental relationship, but about a foundational one, the one that owns you: One owned by God could own money and use it incidentally, but if owned by money, you cannot serve God incidentally.

1.      Slavery to money:

o       “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.” ~ Billy Graham

o       “Without God’s vision, you may find yourself in the all-too-common position of looking back on a life that was given to accumulating green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them.” ~ Andy Stanley

o       1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

2.      Slavery to God

o        “The more one sees of life… the more one feels, in order to keep from shipwreck, the necessity of steering by the Polar Star, i.e. in a word, leave to God alone and never pay attention to the favors or smiles of man; if He smiles on you, neither the smile or frown of men can affect you.” ~General Charles Gordon of Britain

o       “I have only one audience, Before you I have nothing to prove, nothing to gain, nothing to lose.” ~Os Guinness

o       The 1st and greatest commandment: love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37-38)

o       “We serve what we love most” ~Adam Clarke What do you love most?

Trying to serve God and Mammon is the opposite of the “single eye” that has integrity.

s         Mammon ου δυνασθε θεω δουλευειν και μαμωνα

o       Only other reference comes after the parable of the shrewd servant: Luke 16:9-13 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings… Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

§         We can at least learn from Luke 16, that Mammon is something that will fail, so it is not something to ultimately depend upon, and that we will be held accountable to our use of Mammon - whether we are “faithful” or not, and that Mammon is contrasted with “true riches” in “eternal dwellings.”

o       Some think this word is derived from the Hebrew “aman” which means “believe/trust” (and from which we get the word “Amen”), hence “mammon” would indicate anything besides the true God that people put their confidence in. (JFB, Castel, Earle)

§         “To some their belly is their mammon, and they serve that (Phil. 3:19); to others their ease, their sleep, their sports, and their pastimes are their mammon (Prov 6:9); to others worldly riches (James 4:13); to others honours and preferments; the praise and applause of men was the Pharisees’ mammon; in a word, self.” ~Matthew Henry

o       Mammon is also found as a word for “money” in the Jewish Targums (paraphrastic translations of the O.T. into the Aramaic language which the Jews learned in Babylon).

§         I think Mammon was a Babylonian god of wealth, such that whenever Godly people wanted to characterize the idolatrous use of wealth, they would use the name of this idol, Mammon.


s         So we see from these two proverbial syllogisms that Jesus is trying to draw an either/or contrast: you are either filling up with light or with darkness, It comes down to God or Mammon, Heavenly or Earthly. Your heart and your eye is one place or the other; you are investing in one or the other. You can’t try to serve both.

o       If you try to serve the earthly, you will lose the heavenly; but if you serve the heavenly, you will get both.

o       Judas opted for 30 pieces of silver and became known as the “Son of Perdition.” (John 17:12)

o       Paul, on the other hand, decided to lose all for the sake of Christ: Philippians 3:8 “I reckon all things to be loss on account of the superiority of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I sustained loss; and reckoned (them as) dung, in order that I may gain Christ” (DFZ)

s         This is the same attitude David had: Psalm 123:1-3 “To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He is gracious to us. Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious to us….” (NASB)

s         Helen Lemmel was trained in voice by some of the greatest teachers in Europe and married a wealthy man. However, he left her when she became blind, and she moved to the United States where here parents had moved. She lived the rest of her life apparently destitute, but it was this poor, blind woman who wrote the hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” This chorus was inspired by the writings of a missionary who left all to go to Algeria, Lilias Trotter[5], who wrote: "Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen harmless worlds at once -- art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best." It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His Glory. Turn your soul's vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him."[6]

[1] (accessed 24 Sept 2011)


[3] Thanks to Dr. Mark Linville, of the KSU College of Business and Accounting for his information about business fraud.

[4] Henry plays it safe and suggests 3 ways to translate it: 1) generous, 2) wise judgment, or 3) singleminded.

[5] She was, by the way, mentored by the same Ruskin mentioned earlier as having written a book on art history.