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Kaitha Seventh Sunday

Season of Kaitha

KAITHA SEVENTH SUNDAY
MATTHEW 6:19-24
KEEP THE TREASURE IN HEAVEN

INTRODUCTION

While teaching the disciples along with the public on a mountain, Jesus taught the principles his followers should practice. He taught the folly of relying on wealth that thieves can steal, or moth and rust can destroy. Our goal should be to raise treasure for us in heaven. For that, we must make use of the opportunities in this world by following the teachings of Jesus. If our passion in life is for a worldly treasure, we will be prone to evil and lose entry into heaven. Our views should be based on the teachings of Jesus, who came as the light of the world. If we ignore that light or blow it off, our darkness will become dreadful. Jesus wants his followers to shed spiritual light on the world. Hence, he warns us not to enslave ourselves to wealth, but to remain serving God.

BIBLE TEXT (MATTHEW 6:19-24)

Treasure in Heaven

(Mt 6:19) Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can break in and steal it. (20) Store up treasure for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief break in and steal it. (21) For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

The Lamp of the Body

(Mt 6:22) The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. (23) If your eyes are diseased your whole body will be in darkness. Then, if your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkness!

God and Money

(Mt 6:24) No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be loyal to one and neglect the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

INTERPRETATION

Background

This portion of Jesus’ discourse is part of his teaching during the Sermon on the Mount that Matthew presents in chapters five to seven. It can be a collection of his teachings addressed to the disciples and the crowds at a mountain while sitting like a Jewish teacher (Mt 5:1). Prior to the passage we reflect now, Jesus taught to avoid publicity for popularity’s sake so we may get God’s reward rather than human recognition (Mt 6:1-4). Then he taught about prayer with a similar message of avoiding show up and “babble like pagans” assuring that the Father is aware of our needs (Mt 6:5-8). Matthew presents the Lord’s prayer in this context (Mt 6:9-15). Teaching about fasting is the next topic. Here also, Jesus criticizes the Jewish leaders’ hypocrisy in religious practices and their craving for public recognition. The Lord would repay for fasting if we do that in private (Mt 6:16-18). Jesus continues to teach on accumulating non-perishable treasure in heaven rather than relying on the perishable wealth of this world.

Treasure in Heaven

(Mt 6:19) Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can break in and steal it.

Treasure

Jesus used the singular word ‘treasure’ for all the valuable contents of the treasury. The treasury collection includes coins, jewels, spices, food, or any other item for the benefit of enjoyment, luxury, and power. When the Magi visited Infant Jesus, “They opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2:11b). So, they were valuable treasures of the time. In the past, the kings, the temples, the property owners, and the wealthy people kept the valuable items. The owner would hide or guard it from the robbers. While the rich enjoyed and preserved resources for themselves, the common people were in poverty.

The Bible speaks of the worldly, spiritual, and heavenly treasure.

1. The Worldly Treasure: One can inherit or gain wealth by royal birth, arduous work, divine providence, luck, or exploitation of others. They are usable only in this world and will not benefit in the afterlife unless we support the poor to become rich in heaven. Jesus taught the parable of a rich man who had an abundance of harvest. He planned to tear down his barns and build large ones to store all his grains for his own continuous enjoyment. God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” He is known as a “rich fool” (Lk 12:26-21).

The rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is another example. Abraham clarified the wealthy person the reason for the reversal of his and Lazarus’ life after their earthly life: “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.” The rich man failed in his selfish life with no consideration for the less fortunate (Lk 16:19-31).

Because of the selfishness of the rich, Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23-24).

2. The Spiritual Treasure: A spiritual person gains and preserves the treasure of faith and morals that will gain him honor in this world and reward in heaven. Examples of his treasure are:

Faith in the Lord is a precious treasure.The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack (Ps 23:1).

Fear of the Lord is also a treasure (Isa 33:6), though it is a part of the faith in God. This fear is the reverential awe and submission to the Lord. Such a devotion is the spiritual powerhouse for us to gain treasure in heaven.

Wisdom is of high value in the Bible. “Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding! Her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue; She is more precious than corals, and no treasure of yours can compare with her” (Prov 3:13-15; 8:11). When Solomon offered thousand burned offerings in Gibeon, the LORD appeared to him in a dream at night and said: “Whatever you ask, I shall give you.” Solomon asked only for wisdom to govern God’s people. Pleased with his choice, the Lord gave him more than wisdom. He also gained riches, glory, and a long life (1 Kgs 3:1-15).

Justice is another treasure of the God-loving people. “The righteous will inherit the earth and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks what is right. God’s teaching is in his heart; his steps do not falter” (Ps 37:29-31). “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but like green leaves the just will flourish” (Prov 11:28).

The Kingdom of God is the most valuable treasure. Jesus said the one who finds it would sacrifice everything else he owns to inherit it. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it” (Mt 13:44-46).

The apostles and the later ministers of the church considered the church as their treasure, for which they gave up everything and accepted hardships and suffered persecutions. Paul wrote the paradox of his ministry: “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (2 Cor 4:7-10).

3. The Heavenly Treasure: Jesus taught we can transform our earthly wealth into heavenly treasure by the spiritual treasure that we gain through the teachings of Jesus and his church. Our faith in God, devotion towards Him, wisdom from Him, the justice we practice, participation in the church, and our Christian witnessing will help to make use of our God-given opportunities for accumulating heavenly treasure in our afterlife. We achieve this by sharing our worldly resources like wealth, time, talents, and opportunities for the welfare of the less fortunate in the society based on our faith in Jesus. To the young man who wanted to be perfect in heaven, Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21; Mk 10:21).  

The lives of the apostles are other examples. Peter asked Jesus, “‘We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life’” (Mt 19:27-29). Thus, sacrifices for the Kingdom of God in this life are beneficial for the afterlife.

Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth

Jesus taught against storing excess wealth with the motive of selfish use. The resource of this world is from God, who is the Father for all humanity. All have the right to enjoy the resources for their survival. The distribution of wealth and talents is uneven. God wants those who have sufficient to take care of the needs of others who deserve it. By doing so, we are taking care of the less fortunate as our siblings, which pleases God. While preparing people for the kingdom of God, John the Baptist taught, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). So, humanity has to share the resource of the world for the welfare of all. Selfishness is a sin, as with the rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth

The people who believe in the afterlife and others who deny it differ in their goals, values, and lifestyle. Our beliefs and views affect our actions. A person who looks forward to heaven will set the goal for the afterlife. He will find less value in the riches, positions, popularity, and power in this world and would try to have resources in heaven. So, his values will be faith-based philanthropy. That person will lead a simple life by sharing his resources with others. As Jesus taught, we must make use of the wealth of this life for the non-perishable and everlasting treasure in heaven.

Paul wrote on the folly of the rich. “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:9-10). During the ministry of Jesus, the elite were self-centered and enjoyed their wealth for themselves.

Whatever we attain in the world has an expiration date. Our earthly earnings, such as wealth, prominent positions, popularity, and power, will end later, or at least with the end of our lives. Paul reminds us, “The world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

where moth and rust destroy it

In the past, when there was no banking system or lockers, the rich people hid their treasure underground in their houses, fields, or caves. Moth and rust could destroy the hidden treasures over the years.

1. Moth: During the past, when fashion design would not change frequently, rich people preserved costly garments as their treasure. They made outfits colored with expensive dye and embroidered with gold and silver (Job 27:16). The moth shall eat such precious clothes (Job 13:28; Isa 50:9; 51:8). The "moth" is a small pest that destroys fabric and certain materials like food items. “They feed exclusively on animal fibers, especially wool, fur, silk, feathers, felt, and leather. These materials contain keratin, a fibrous protein that the worm-like larvae of the clothes moth can digest” (https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef609#). So, the moth would destroy high-cost garments kept for a long time. Pests destroy the grain and corn kept in reserve for a lengthy period. Joseph kept grains as a treasure for the seven-year draught in Egypt (Ex 41:47-47). How he prevented the grains from pests for over seven years is still a mystery.

2. Rust: Corrosion causes rust changing the original color of the metals to a greenish color. “Many materials, including metals, change over time because they come in contact with various other materials. Air, water, gases, acids and alkalis can all effect metals. This process is called corrosion. The best-known corrosion is rust. However, strictly speaking, rust is merely the result of the process of corrosion” (https://academy.ampcometal.com/corrosion-can-destroy-metals-but-how-does-it-work#:). Hence, rust can damage metals and even lose their functionality and value. Thus, the long-preserved treasure is not dependable. James wrote, “Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded” (Jm 5:2-3).

where thieves can break in and steal it.

Countries fought one another for the hidden treasures in the temples, palaces, and mansions. “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt, attacked Jerusalem. He took everything, including the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the house of the king, even the gold shields Solomon had made” (I Kgs 14:25-26). Thus, the Jews lost unexpectedly what they had gained and preserved as precious for years.

The Greek name of the burglar was “wall-digger.” The thieves could easily break into the walls of the ancient houses made of sun-burned bricks or loose stones (Job 24:16; Ezek 12:5). Thus, the thieves could easily steal the treasure kept inside the house or hidden underneath the floor. So, everything one earned and kept for the future with selfish motives could lose suddenly, resulting in his despair.

Ecclesiastes presents the anguish of one who relied on worldly treasure: “And I detested all the fruits of my toil under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who is to come after me. And who knows whether that one will be wise or a fool? Yet that one will take control of all the fruits of my toil and wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So my heart turned to despair over all the fruits of my toil under the sun. For here is one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and that one’s legacy must be left to another who has not toiled for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what profit comes to mortals from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which they toil under the sun?” (Eccl 2:18-22). Jesus gives a solution to this by asking us to make use of our toil to gain treasure in heaven. That will bring us the joy of supporting others and the reward from God.

Based on Jesus’ teachings, James warns the rich, “You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance” (Jm 5:3b-6).

(20) Store up treasure for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief break in and steal it.

When we migrate to another country, we must sell our property in our homeland and convert the money into the currency of the new nation. If we cannot do that, our migration will be empty-handed. As Christians, we are already members of the kingdom of God and eligible for migration to heaven after death. Jesus taught us, while we are alive on earth, we can deposit spiritual savings for ourselves with God. That is the safest place, free from moth, rust, and robbery. When we make use of our time, health, wealth, and talents to support those in need in the name of Jesus, we are adding up our savings in heaven.

Paul wrote to Timothy about the right use of wealth. “Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). At the last judgement, Jesus will tell such people, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36). He will clarify, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

A third-century Syriac text, known as the Acts of Thomas, presents a story on the missionary work of Thomas in India related to this teaching of Jesus. According to the legend, while the apostle was in India, the local King Gundaphorus entrusted money to Thomas to build a magnificent palace for him. Thomas preached the gospel and helped the poor with the money he received from the king. Finding that Thomas was “misusing” his money and not building the palace, the king summoned Thomas and questioned him. Thomas replied he was building the palace in heaven with the money and the king can occupy it after his death. The king imprisoned Thomas, assuming he was a fraud.

While Thomas was in prison, the king’s brother Gad died. Realizing that Thomas was a miracle-worker, the king summoned Thomas from prison to pray over his brother’s dead body. At the prayer of Thomas, Gad came back to life. He explained to the king that in his lifeless state, he saw a beautiful palace that Thomas had built in heaven for the king. King Gundaphorus prostrated in front of Thomas and apologized for his mistake. This incident led to the king’s conversion along with his people.

(21) For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

your treasure

Treasure is any valuable item we have in excess that we preserve for the future. It gives us a sense of security in the event of an accident, sickness, or poor harvest. That was why, while interpreting the dream of Pharaoh, Joseph advised to store the excess grains during the seven years of a wonderful harvest for the draught to come. That saved the lives of Egyptians and the neighboring people (Gen 41:34-36). Thus, the treasure is the security and reserve for the future enjoyment. Similarly, we can have spiritual treasure in heaven for the enjoyment of our afterlife.

The type of our treasure depends upon what we value most in life as desirable and worth achieving. That determines our life-goal, motivates our actions, develops our lifestyle, and determines our feeling of success or failure. Depending upon our goal like wealth, position, popularity, family welfare, or spirituality, we will do everything possible to achieve it at the expense of everything that stands against it. Hence, there are achievements and sacrifice involved in gaining and keeping the treasure, whether it is worldly, spiritual, or heavenly. Even if we have these together, what dominates among them will determine our behavior.

your heart

Besides the physical functions of the heart, it has a spiritual implication of love, sacrifice, suffering, emotion, and morality. Unlike the modern understanding of the functions of brain and heart, the ancient people believed that the heart maintains our intentions and moves the human actions. God knows one’s heart and judges accordingly. “God does not see as a mortal who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). “I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds” (Jer 17:10).

According to Jesus, the heart is the source of our good or bad actions. “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Mt 15:18-19). When the Lord comes, he “will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God” (1 Cor 4:5).

Conversion of heart

According to the Bible, the heart is the center of our values, virtues, vices, spirituality, and actions. It sets our goals and priorities. Since heart is the motivating organ, a conversion of heart is necessary to change the mindset of the immoral and irreligious people. God intervened during the Old Testament times through the prophets with this message when the Israelites turned away from Him. Though the Israelites circumcised as a sign of their covenant with God, they went after other gods and engaged in immoral activities. So, God demanded a circumcision of their heart. “The LORD, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart and your whole being, in order that you may live” (Deut 30:6). Later Jeremiah instructed the Israelites, “Be circumcised for the LORD, remove the foreskins of your hearts” (Jer 4:4a).

In preparation to welcome the Kingdom of God, John the Baptist preached for conversion (Mt 3:2) which in Greek is Metanoia. It means a change of heart. When the Pharisees, who loved money, sneered at Jesus, he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 26:15). In the ancient church, Peter said that God, who knows the heart of the faithful, purifies the hearts by faith and grants them the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9).  

The heart is also the seat of our desires, upon which we set our goals and formulate our actions. The godly people seek God and walk according to His precepts. “Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the LORD. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in his ways” (Ps 119:1-3). Their treasure is God’s promise. “With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you” (Ps 119:10-11).

A complaint God had against Israel was that their hearts were far from him and their devotion to Him was only lip service (Isa 29:13). Through Ezekiel, God promised Israel, “I will give them another heart and a new spirit I will put within them. From their bodies I will remove the hearts of stone, and give them hearts of flesh, so that they walk according to my statutes, taking care to keep my ordinances. Thus they will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their atrocities and abominations, I will bring their conduct down upon their heads—oracle of the Lord GOD” (Ezek 11:19-21).

The heart of the ungodly thirsts for worldly achievements and its pleasures. A father advises his lustful son, “Keeping you from another’s wife, from the smooth tongue of the foreign woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty, do not let her captivate you with her glance! For the price of a harlot may be scarcely a loaf of bread, But a married woman is a trap for your precious life” (Prov 6:24-26). Instead of following the sinners, he should imitate the God-fearing people. “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but only those who always fear the LORD; For you will surely have a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart in the right way” (Prov 23:17-19).

For a Christian, the treasure to wish is in heaven at the expense of what is attractive on earth. Paul advised, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Moses assured the Israelites “You shall indeed find him (LORD) if you search after him with all your heart and soul” (Deut 4:29). So, David prayed to purify him with a clean heart, keeping the Holy Spirit within him (Ps 51:12-13).

The heart is also the seat of love and compassion. Jesus summarized the Law and Prophets in the love of God and fellow humans. In answer to a scholar of the law on which commandment is the greatest, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:37-40). In the Good Samaritan story, when the Samaritan saw the victim of robbers, he “was moved with compassion at the sight” (Lk 10:33) and took relief actions.

Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

Since we value our treasure and are concerned about its safety, our focus will be on it. If our treasure is with God, we will concentrate on the heavenly realm. The followers of Jesus should find God as their treasure and fill their treasury in heaven with virtues while we are in the world. If we ignore that and consider the worldly achievements as our treasure, our heart will be stuck here, and we will miss our afterlife destination.

If our treasure is in this world only, we will avoid the narrow way to eternal life and enter through the wide gate and broad road to destruction (Mt 7:13-14). Whereas, if we consider God and his kingdom as our treasure, our life will change like Levi, the tax collector who became Matthew the apostle and evangelist. Jesus and his followers changed the life destination of many by helping them to find the genuine treasure in heaven.

The Lamp of the Body

In the previous verses, Jesus gave importance to the metaphorical meaning of the heart in the spiritual sense. If the heart finds God and his Kingdom as the treasure, our approach will differ from those who seek treasure in the worldly achievements. We will be compassionate about the needs of others like the Good Samaritan. His view of the victim on the street differed from the priest and the Levite who passed by before him. Jesus now turns our attention from the heart to the eye with a similar teaching.

(Mt 6:22) The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. (23) If your eyes are diseased your whole body will be in darkness. Then, if your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkness!

the eye

Like the symbolic meaning of the heart, the eye also has a similar spiritual significance. The Hebrews considered the eye as the window to the heart or soul of a person. Since about 80% of a person’s perception comes through eyesight, the eye represents the understanding of a person. Before the scientific study on the eye, people believed eye is the light of the body that helps to see things.

The metaphorical meaning of eyesight in the Bible is the gift of understanding the spiritual truth in life. The Israelites lacked faith and disobeyed God in the desert despite witnessing the miracles He did for them. So, Moses told them, “the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day” (Deut 29:3). Though they had the physical eyesight, they lacked spiritual meaning of what they saw. So, the Israelites prayed, “Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your law” (Ps 119:18). When we turn away from God, we end up in spiritual darkness that affects our spiritual destiny. During Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance, “he opened their (disciples’) minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk 24:45). Though they could read or listen to the scriptures, they needed additional gift to understand them. That is the eyes of the heart or the eye of understanding (Eph 1:18).

The eye also represents the spiritual or philosophical view of a person. So, a person who has the physical eye can have a positive or negative understanding depending on how he perceives things. That is why people interpret the same reality differently. The society considers those who practice morality or faith as people of light and those who behave badly as people of darkness.

The lamp of the body is the eye

Here, Jesus compares the eye (singular) to a lamp. Since people in the past understood the eye as the doorway to our soul, they considered it as a lamp to perceive the spiritual meaning. Babies take weeks and even months after birth to see things clearly. In our spiritual birth, we must be born in the Spirit of God for our spiritual vision. Hence Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3:3). Such persons “look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. (23) If your eyes are diseased

Here, the reference is not on physical eyesight or blindness, but spiritual vision. While Jesus was traveling through Jericho, a blind beggar shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” When people asked him to keep quiet, he repeated the same (Lk 18:35-39). Though physically blind, he had the spiritual sight to understand Jesus as the Messiah. Whereas people who had physical eyesight failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. (23) If your eyes are diseased your whole body will be in darkness.

In the metaphorical sense, a person with a sound eye means an upright person, or the one who has the right vision of the world. Hence, such a person would radiate goodness or light from his spiritual eyesight. A person with a bad or diseased eye stands for an evil person who causes trouble for himself and to the people around. Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Similarly, a believer sees God’s providence in the trials of life and acts based on the promptings of the Holy Spirit that dwells in him. A non-believer would try to understand based on the natural law only and would lack the inner sight.

Paul distinguishes between the natural and spiritual persons. Only those who have the Spirit of God within them can understand the underlying spiritual realities. “And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms. Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:11-16).

If the lamp is bright, we can view everything well, and if it is dim or does not light, then we cannot do so. Same is the case with the spiritual eyesight. When people saw the miracles of Jesus, they believed in him. Others found fault with him and rejected his message. Thus, the views differed among the listeners of Jesus. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus spoke to his disciples about those who rejected him, “Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’ ‘But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear’” (Mt 13:13-16). So, looking with the eyes of faith is essential for conversion and eternal salvation.

John the Baptist and John the Evangelist introduced Jesus as the light that illumines the world. “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:3-9). Jesus presented himself as the light of the world. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

Jesus wanted his disciples also to become the light of those around them who are in darkness. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14-16). So, the light we receive from Jesus and his church would help us illumine ourselves and brighten the lives of others in this world of darkness.

If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. (23) If your eyes are diseased your whole body will be in darkness.

Our spiritual or moral views will determine our behavior that we express in our words and deeds. Thus, depending upon our positive or negative outlook, we will do good or bad that affects our whole body. People viewed Jesus and his teachings differently and treated him based on their understanding. The open-minded became followers of Jesus; while the conservatives criticized him and crucified him. The Christian community experienced the same, especially during the early stage of the church. Those who joined the church faced persecution for their faith, while the enemies persecuted the Christians. Once Paul was in spiritual darkness and persecuted Christians. When he received the light from Christ, he became an apostle of Christ, suffered for it, ending up in his martyrdom. Thus, the light or darkness in a person affects his whole life, including his body, mind, and activity.

Then, if your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkness!

When the religious persons like the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees deviated from the genuine spirit of religion, they ended up in spiritual darkness. Jesus compares this to the blind people moving around hitting obstacles and falling into ditches.

When leaders become corrupt, they cause destruction to their followers. Hence, their spiritual blindness is more dangerous than the ordinary people. Referring to the scribes and Pharisees who came from Jerusalem, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit” (Mt 15:14). Hence, their spiritual darkness led the people away from God. So, Jesus warns, “Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness” (Lk 11:35). Instead, he advises to illumine others with the spiritual light we receive from Jesus like a lamp lit on a lampstand. “No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light” (Lk 11:33).

God and Money

(Mt 6:24) No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be loyal to one and neglect the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

No one can serve two masters

Jesus used examples from the life experience of the ordinary people to teach the Theological and spiritual values. When slavery was prevalent, a slave was working for his own master unless sold to another. He could not be under two owners at the same time. In the modern times, an employee cannot serve two competitive employers or firms during the same period because both would suspect him. He can be in trouble in case of a conflict between employers accusing him of spying or acting as agent of the opponent.

For he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be loyal to one and neglect the other.

It is natural that if an employee serves two employers, he might find favor with one superior to the other and his loyalty can be conflicting. In our spiritual life, our worldly goals can contradict with our heavenly aim. Paul wrote from his pastoral experience, “Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ” (Gal 1:10).

You cannot serve both God and money.

Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property. Greed for it has association with evil like injustice, exploitation, bribery, crime, pride, immorality, and dishonesty. God wants our undivided reliance and love towards Him. The first commandment God gave to the Israelites through Moses was to avoid idolatry. “You shall not have other gods beside me” (Ex 20:3).

The conflict here is not between God and wealth, but the attitude of the person towards God and wealth. The resources of this world belong to God. Instead of making use of them for the glory of God and for the welfare of others, if one is keeping all he could attain as treasure for himself, he will consider wealth as his god and rely on it instead of God. He will seek only the happiness, influence, popularity, and power of this world. Out of his greed for money, he might exploit others and do injustice. Thus, he will be in spiritual darkness.

Jesus who taught, “where your treasure is, there also your heart will be” (Mt 6:21), told the official who wanted to be perfect, “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Lk 18:22). Reliance on wealth and finding enjoyment in it with no care for others was the failure of the rich man and his five brothers in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Though this rich man had treasure on earth, he lost everything at his death, and he had nothing for his afterlife. Whereas for Lazarus, who relied on God, found his treasure in heaven.

When Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus, he “stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost’” (Lk 19:8-10). When Zacchaeus was greedy for wealth, he did not care about the poor and did injustice to others. When he loved Jesus, he became a different person, compensating for the injustice done, and voluntarily helping the poor. Thus, he found God as his treasure and became a lover of God by renouncing greed for wealth.

A follower of Jesus must rely on the divine providence while working for the kingdom of God. Jesus instructed the apostles and his seventy-two disciples to carry nothing with them except the essentials during their missionary journey (Mt 10:9-10; Lk 10:4). They lacked nothing when they followed Jesus’ instruction (Lk 22:35) because the people whom they served took care of their needs. However, Jesus asked them to take more items with them when they went to unwelcoming areas (Lk 22:36-37).

Paul wrote on the danger of greed for wealth,Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:6-10).

MESSAGE

1. All humans are born empty handed. What we have inherited and gained in this world are under God’s providence. All the resources of this world belong to God, and He entrusts us with what we have for ourselves and to help others around us.

2. Saints and sinners face sufferings in this world. We cannot consider earthly prosperity or poverty as divine reward or punishment. Let us rely on God, and not on the wealth of this world, and take up our cross to follow Jesus.

3. Greed for wealth would lead a person to spiritual darkness because of the evil means he might use for accumulating wealth. Our actions based on the love of God and fellow human beings will make us children of light.

4. People respect and honor generous people, and not the greedy. Let us be careful that Satan will not enslave us with the worldly ambitions.

5. Our resources comprise not just money and investments, but also our time, talents, and opportunities in life. We have to make use of them to serve the church and humanity. Thus, even the poor can build up his or her treasure in heaven.

6. The missionaries who work to build up Jesus’ church lacked nothing when they leave everything for Jesus. God uses us and others to support them. Are we missing such opportunities?

7. Jesus said, “If your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkness!” Let us be cautious to keep bright the light of faith we have received from Jesus through our family and the church.

8. The earthly treasure we accumulate will become worthless for us once we die. People would speak good of us only if we were generous in our life and God will reward us only if we build up treasure in heaven with the talents He gave us in this world. How much spiritual earnings we have in heaven now?

9. Rich becomes bankrupt suddenly. Some lost their popularity and public approval by an unexpected scandal. Power or prestige may not last long. Those live in mansions can become homeless. The healthy can instantly become sick or die. What lasts is the love of God and the practice of charity that will build mansions for us in the afterlife.