But the story goes like this.
There was a very strong Bible church, Bible teaching church, and they had what they called, years ago, “revival meetings.” And so, once a year, they would bring in a great Bible teacher, and they had revival meetings. It was a very small town – it was up in the mountains – and a very small community, and everyone knew everyone. And so, it was a big thing in town, and a lot of people would come from the town. And every year, a number of people would come to Christ, and Christians who needed their priorities realigned would get their priorities realigned.
But they always knew what was going to happen on Friday night. On Friday night – they had a town drunk, and he chose Friday night, and he would come, and he would sit in the back, and he would listen to the message. And near the end of the message, you would hear, “Ohhh! Amen! Um-hmmm-hmmmm-hmmmm! Yes, Lord, that’s what I need to do!” And so, they would give a time of invitation, where people could come forward and deal with God. And everyone knew, on Friday night, the town drunk came through. I mean, for the last 15 years, every Friday night, he would come forward.
So, it was Friday night. He had moaned; he had groaned. He had “amened.” And now, he is walking forward. And he comes, and, you know, he sort of had this down: “Oh, Lord! Ohhhh, Lord! Ohhhh, the cobwebs of sin that I have been entangled in! Oh, Lord, I just ask, once – please, remove the cobwebs! Remove the cobwebs in the tangled sin of my life!” And there was a man – after 15 years – who’d heard this for 14 years, and he stood up in the back and, in a very loud voice, said, “Dear Lord, forget the cobwebs! Kill the spider!”
And I’d like to suggest that we’ve really addressed a lot of the cobwebs of priorities, of time, and money, and relationships, that we have said, “Okay, what’s really important? We wanna put first things first. We wanna keep first things first. We wanna develop some discipline. We wanna do it in the right way. We wanna do it with a perspective that it’s relational and from the heart.”
And my concern is that you’ll go for two weeks, maybe some of you for two months, and you’ll stop knocking out the cobwebs: “Oh, we’ve got a budget now. We’re now giving off the first portion. Okay, I’m starting to spend some time with God.” You know, you’re going to dust off that old Day Timer and you start reading your Bible more, might even join a small group or get in a Bible study. You know, you start changing a little bit what you’re gonna do with your giving.
And all these things are extraordinarily important, you know, you sort of, “Umm,” and then, after three months, six months, eight months, nine months, a year, you might say, “Oh, Lord, the cobwebs of those priorities! Oh, Lord, You know what it’s like. There are so many demands on my time! Oh, Lord, you know, we were on a budget for a while, and we didn’t expect that doctor bill, and then, there was that camp, and then, we really need – and…”
I’m kind of messing with you. But I’d like to suggest that to move beyond the periphery, we need to kill the spider.
What’s at the heart of misplaced priorities? What is it that keeps pulling us in ways that our priorities, over and over and over, get out of whack? And Jesus will teach us, in Matthew 6:19 to the end of the chapter, that the root problem in priority living is – and here’s the word you can write – materialism.
Now, before you get all uptight and think, Oh, he’s gonna talk about I have too much and is it wrong to have this and every time someone brings this up, I feel guilty – just lighten up, okay? Let’s analyze what is materialism.
Materialism, by the way, is a disease of both the rich and the poor, and everyone in between. It has little or nothing to do with what you have. It is a condition of the heart, where I am leaning, trusting, depending, or even believing that the outward props of things, money, and possessions, and the fame, status, and power that they provide, have the ability to achieve for me inward peace, happiness, and satisfaction in my life. Materialism is a condition of the heart.
I can show you people that don’t have two nickels to rub against each other, that are shot through with materialism, as evidenced by, when they get their first three dollars, they go to 7-Eleven and buy a lotto ticket, because, “Man, if I could hit the lotto, then everything would be okay.” And most of ‘em’ll never take the time to read some of the research, and, actually, some of the – it’s sad – books of tracing the lives of people after they’ve won the lotto. The percentage who end in divorce, the percentage that say it ruined their life, the percentage who say, “If I could do it all over again and not get it, I would do it.” But see, it’s a condition of the heart.
And I could show you people with great wealth, who have so many things to keep up with – so much stuff, so much demand – that their time and their energy – it’s not like they feel stuck on it, it’s just, their time and their energy, because they unconsciously have been led to believe, I need to have these things, and there’s no margin in their life. Their problem is not, “Can I get it or ever have it?” Their problem is, it has them, and they don’t even know it.
Material things are in no way – listen carefully – evil, in and of themselves. If there’s one verse for me that helps me on all the financial issues of life, it’s 1 Timothy 6:17. It has this tremendous balance. And, usually, we miss it on one end or the other. Paul says, “Instruct those” – teach those – “who are rich in this present world” – that’s you; that’s me – “not to . . . fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but [to fix their hope] on God, who . . . supplies us with all things to enjoy.” The “all things” are material things. The goal is to enjoy - that can never be my hope. Don’t be conceited. Don’t be arrogant, he says, and fix your hope on those things.
So the problem is not that things are evil, in themselves. It’s when I’m trusting in or even desiring them with the belief that they can fill the inner void in my life and bring significance, security, peace, joy, and meaning. And what He’s going to do, from verse 19 through the end of the chapter, is, He’s gonna teach you, and He’s gonna teach me, how to kill the spider of materialism, so it will once and for all begin to remove the cobwebs of misplaced priorities.
Let me walk through the passage with you.
Okay, Lord, we understand, when we pray, when we give, when we fast, we need to do it with the right motive. Your means of protecting our motive is secrecy. Well, how do we know what our motives are? Here’s what He says – verse 19, Matthew 6: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” – the reason – “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Translation – it’s a bad investment. “But store up for yourselves” – will you underline the word for yourselves? This is not about deprivation. This is about doing something good for you. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And so, He just makes a point. He goes, “If you wanna know what your motives are, it’s pretty simple. Where’s your treasure?”
Your money is the greatest, clearest, true revealer of your heart. Our trust always follows our treasure. Our trust – what I believe is gonna come through for me. People whose God is gold always have anxiety. People whose God is Christ, even in the midst of varied circumstances, can relax. He says there are two treasures. So, He says be smart. Invest your treasures in what’s ahead.
And then, He says, “Well, okay, okay, now I can – I can see where my motives are. If I wanna do an acid test of where my motives and heart are, I’m gonna look at my treasure.” And the treasure of money, for sure, but I would also say the treasure of my time, the treasure of my energy. Well, what what are the resources? What is the wealth that I have, and where do I spend that wealth? That will tell me my true treasure, my true motives.
And then, there’s this kind of interesting passage – I mean, really interesting little passage here. And notice what it says. He says that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good” – circle the word good, and then, above it, write the word singular. “If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad” – circle bad, and, actually, then write the word evil underneath that – “your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Now, it’s really interesting, here. He’s gonna say, the eye is the lamp of the body, you know. And there’s using this play on words, and He’s gonna help you see that your outlook will determine your outcome. Your perception will determine your pursuits. He’s gonna say, what you and I perceive to be as important is what we will passionately pursue. So, I jotted a few thoughts. A mother, her children. A man, his work. An athlete, his workout. An artist, his art. A musician, his music. A Christian, his God.
He’s gonna say, if you don’t know what drives your desires – He says, “If your eye is clear.” The word is haplous. It literally means “to be without any folds in it.” In Latin, it’s intranslated simplex. It has the idea of simplicity; clear, singular focus. On the contrast, from clear, singular, there are two motives, there are two treasures. Really, He’s getting down to the eye, physically – wherever the eye goes, the whole body follows, right? I mean, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Whatever I see, perceive, make direction. He says your desire, your core beliefs, your passions, your pursuits, what you believe – if it’s clear, if it’s singular, if it’s on God, if it’s honoring Him, if it’s being the man, the woman that you know He wants you to be – He says your whole body’ll be full of light. Everything else comes.
He said, however, you can have these external things going on, and religious activities. If your eye is evil, if there’s duplicity, if your deep belief is that things and power and status and possessions can deliver satisfaction, meaning, and significance, He says your whole body will be full of darkness. Your eye, or desire, if it’s clean, healthy, undivided, and godly – your whole life will be directed and affected by God’s blessing, power, and presence. It has the idea of undivided loyalty to God, singleness of purpose, if you will. If your eye focus is bad, your whole life will be infected by darkness, and ultimately destroyed.
At the heart of all these things we’re talking about – cobwebs, priorities, time, money, symptoms – He said, “There are two motives in walking with Me. Those two motives lead to your treasure. Your treasure will tell you where your motives are. But what treasure you pursue has to do with your core beliefs, passions, desires. What do you really, really want? What do you believe – not what you say, not even what you verbalize – but what do your actions demonstrate is your core pursuit in life.
And then, notice what Jesus will say. He says you can have only one of two masters. It will be either mammon or Him. Right after the two eyes. I mean, it’s an amazing thought, here. He says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or [he’ll] be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” It doesn’t say you cannot have God and have money; it says you cannot serve God and money.
The battle in priorities boils down to, you either have faith in God and His promises for peace, security, significance, and your passion is a relationship with Him, or you have faith in things and their power to deliver for your life. And so, what you have, here, is, it is as clearly laid out as anywhere in Scripture. This is the issue: materialism. It’s a condition of the heart.
How do you go about it? Well, check your motives. There are some practices. Where’s your treasure? It’s the revealer. Check, then, your eye – where’s it focused? And then, finally, your eye will reveal one master or another Master.
Now, here’s the question – I mean, this is the question that brings everything we’ve talked about in the series to a head. Here’s the fundamental question. “Do not allow the pursuit of material things to thwart your spiritual development.” I mean, that’s the statement. That’s what He’s saying.
But then the question is, how can we live in a material world without becoming materialistic? Isn’t that it? I mean, I got news for you. There are college tuitions, and you save for this, and you have house payments, and, “I gotta rent this; I’ve gotta do that. I’ve gotta buy food; I’ve got responsibilities. So, I live in a material world. I can’t come up to some mountaintop and hear great things about God. Buddy, when I get home, I got bills to pay. I got issues. I’ve got tuition. I’ve got car repairs; I’ve got doctor bills.”
How do you live in a material world, without being materialistic?
And you notice, remember when Jesus was talking about spiritual growth and spiritual development, how it happens, and He was talking about the power of God’s Word, and He says, the Word of God is like a seed, and the man went out and sowed the seed. And there are four types of soils, and the soils are the human hearts, and Satan comes and the hard soil takes it away. And there’s one that sprouts up quickly, and then persecution comes, and it dies out. The third seed – remember, it grows up, but the thorns grow up around it, and it chokes out the life of truth in your heart and soul. Does anybody remember? It’s the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches – the deceitfulness.
By the way, when your money is messing you up, when your possessions are messing you up, I got news. You don’t know about it. That’s what deceit means. You know, we read stuff, say, “Well, oh, yeah. Boy, I’ll bet there are some people out there that are really deceived.” No – no, you don’t get it. I’m deceived. It’s how much.
And then, that last part. This is why we don’t have margin in our lives. Not just the deceitfulness of riches, but He says, and the concern, the worry, the preoccupation with – what? Other things. What other things? Other things, other than what really matters.