For most people, life is about our stuff. We are always in need or in want of the next thing. We work at jobs that pay us money. We get credit cards, store credit, and borrow from banks so that we can get a place to put our stuff. Then when our place is full of stuff, we get a bigger place to put all our stuff. We get storage units to keep the stuff we don’t use that often and when we go on vacation, we pack our stuff in our stuff haulers and take our stuff to new places where we will get more stuff. It’s kind of insane.
Americans are buried in debt. This is true at all income levels. We always assume that if we earn more, we will live debt free. While higher earnings makes this more achievable, it also makes larger debt more likely. We accumulate stuff and debt, then work really hard to free ourselves by taking on investment risks, new jobs, more education. We’ve made treasures out of our material possessions and their elaborate containers without ever noticing that the cycle is a prison locked from within us.
Most Americans have less than two weeks cash to sustain them. In 2018 the median retirement savings in a 401K was $95,600. This downward trend is despite our markets thriving, and low unemployment rates. While inflation or wage inequality between executives and workers is a problem, it isn’t the real problem. Nobody seems to want to live according to their means, yet alone below them. Debt is not a financial problem, it is a truth problem. Debt is accumulating the wrong things. Debt is placing value or prioritizing stuff. That is a spiritual problem.
“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.” Matthew 6:19-24
Thesaurizo is the Greek word which means to preserve, save up or accumulate. We don’t keep things we don’t value. We clutch to and accumulate that which we value. Materialism is the over valuing of stuff. Money is how we get stuff. Wealth is money that is valued and thus accumulated. There is an entire underworld behind our stuff and our money that this passage is trying to access, and our financial health is is the pry bar that exposes that which lies below the surface. My friend offers financial therapy classes to help people see what lies beneath the surface.
This passage exposes the spiritual darkness that comes with not being able to perceive our deeper motivations, nor appreciate how those motivations impact our lives. Most people think our live’s problems are despite our best efforts when in reality they are because of our best efforts. This means we not only don’t see our real problems, but that we don’t know how to see them and thus change them. As sobering as it may be, most problems in our life are a direct result of our choices. Our choices are a result of thinking. Our thinking is a result of our understanding or our ability to see below the surface (spiritual sight). “If the eye (understanding) is bad (ponerós-wicked, evil, worthless), the whole body (corpus of reality) will be darkness (blindness).”
Jesus is offering what the Chronicles of Narnia call the “deep magic.” This is a fundamental tool for life transformation. If your life is not what you want it to be it is because of something you don’t know (ignorance) or something you won’t do (effort). Are you broke? Can’t find work? Are you in a terrible relationship? Are you unhealthy? Are you bored? Are you lonely? Are you addicted? Are you depressed? Angry? Hateful? Miserable? If so, this passage is your cure. Life is merely a byproduct of our spiritual sight (understanding/ the eye), if we lack conscious awareness (light) the darkness within becomes the hell without.
A new job, a new relationship, or more stuff will never light the darkness within, they only mask or distract us from the malware scripts we keep replaying. The key to a great life is first seeing. Our motives must be first for more understanding, more light, and then we will see clearly to incrementally fix our lives problems. This is how we walk right out of hell. Keep in mind we didn’t get there overnight. Like weight loss or eradicating debt, these problems only go away permanently once we see and fix our “wanter.” We must want health more than pastries. We must want freedom more than stuff. We must want the right thing or we will clutch to the wrong things… that takes spiritual seeing.
When Jesus says you cannot serve both God and money, he is not making a statement against having wealth. He is exposing this principle that wanting financial freedom is not enough. While that can lead you to accumulate more wealth in the long run, in the end it becomes a waste of time and money because its all temporal. Wealth must be a byproduct, not an end product. Wealth is a useful tool for redeeming ones life and the world if the motivation is not on ones wealth but on spiritual seeing. Wealth brings power. That power can be used for good or for evil. We can take our wealth and oppress people or bless people. It is the motivation of the heart that determines what we do.
If we live our lives in a binary (either/or) framework we miss this key principle. If the true treasure of our heart (kardia-mindset, worldview) is first and foremost the love of God and the desire for union and oneness, then wealth loses it’s power to control and deceive. The proof we are liberated from this binary prison is our ability to open our hands rather than clutch to things. There is a flow that brings wealth and abundance and eradicate scarcity when we pursue the truth, but it vaporizes the moment we cling to a thing and forsake what we know.
Jesus is revealing that our minds follow what we treasure, and our lives follow our minds. Every problem in the world is primarily a truth problem in either apprehension or application. Problems are something we either don’t know, or something we won’t do. If we want to be free of our own living hell, the power is within us to change it all around. We must begin to accumulate the treasure of truth. However, the light of truth usually reveals that we prefer our hell to making a change and if that is the case, then how great is that darkness?