Living on Purpose
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
To find out how to live on purpose, we will look at a teaching that Jesus did in Mathew 6:19-34
We will go through the verses chronologically and then unpack the message that he is communicating to us.
Let’s look at verse 19-21
“19Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
What did the people Jesus was talking to understand when he said to them, “don’t store up your treasures here on earth?” To them (not to us yet), what was a treasure? Notice that Jesus was speaking to real people. He was thinking about them as he was talking to them and meeting their real needs in his teaching. He wasn’t talking to us directly. When we understand what they got out of it, we will then make an application to us that takes into consideration our own circumstances and the times we are living in. The Holy Spirit will make things stand out to us to make application easy for us and those we serve. That’s how all Bible interpretation and application must be done.
The Greek word used for treasures here is thésauros. It refers to anything laid up in store as such wealth and riches. When used figuratively, it means thoughts and dreams that are cherished. It also means the places where these things are stored up. What kinds of treasures did people at the time store up? Expensive garments were part of the treasures of rich people. Jesus alludes to this when he talks about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:8 where he asks them if they were “expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes.” He tells them “No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces.” In the book of Esther chapter 6, we also see the importance of fine clothes when the King asks Mordecai, what should be done to the man whom the king desires to honor? Mordecai doesn’t ask for large sums of money to be given to the man or a large estate somewhere. His answer is that “let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; 9 and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.” Basically fine garments should be put on the man the king desires to honor. Other treasures people had at the time were silver, gold, cattle, horses, slaves, and land, corn, grain and other crops. Please read Jesus’ discussion on covetousness and greed in Luke 12:13-34. Notice the parable of the greedy farmer and how God dealt with a person who had stored up treasures for himself. Keep that in mind when you see how Jesus talks about treasures here. Take note of verse 21 where Jesus says “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God”
A derivative of the same word for treasure used in this passage is used here, thēsaurizōn.
When Jesus talks about moths and rust, he is not necessarily talking about the kind of rust that affects metals, as we know it today. But he is referring to blight and mildew that would destroy crops, and fungus that destroys fine garments. Gold, silver, money, jewels and precious stones, houses, cattle are the kinds of things that thieves will break in and steal.
What are treasures in today’s world? From Jesus’ statement, “don’t store up treasures here on earth”, how many treasures are we allowed to store up here on earth?
My treasure is something that I value. It is something I cherish. It is the dream of my life. It could be my reputation, career, material things; it could be my relationships or even my family.
(See Matthew 10:37 & Matthew 12:46-50). It could be my retirement savings, my healthcare plan, my stocks, and my other business investments.
When Jesus says that we must not store up treasures here on earth, he is saying that we should not store up even one treasure here on earth. We are allowed to store zero treasure on earth. If you are a Christian, this is a command and not a recommendation. Why does Jesus say that we shouldn’t store up any treasures here on earth? Jesus immediately provides the answer for that. And the answer that he provides shows something about the heart of God. God’s commands, his laws are for our good, never for controlling us or harming us. That’s why he says in (Proverbs 3:12) that “the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Here Jesus says that we should not store up treasures on earth because moths will eat them, rust will destroy them or thieves will break in and steal them. Then he commands that we store up our treasures in heaven because there, moth, rust and thieves cannot touch it.
If you were still wondering what a treasure is, Jesus clears up all doubt when he makes the profound statement that “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
In the past, I often misunderstood this statement. I used to try to determine my treasure and then see where my heart was. That’s wrong. If you want to know what your treasure is, you just have to look at what makes you tick. What is your passion? What’s your driving force? What is the dream that motivates you and keeps you going? For example, if you are a student, you are making a good investment in your future. This is an investment that can take over 10 years to complete. But what motivates you to make such a sacrifice? What do you hope to accomplish? That is your dream. When you find out what provides that inner push and desire of heart to pursue life the way you do, then you will easily identify your treasure. So you look at your heart, see where its desires are, then the thing that is desired, which is outside the heart is your treasure. A treasure can be material (physical commodity) or immaterial (thoughts, relationship, experience, feeling etc).
Then Jesus continues in verse 22-23 with a parable that at first doesn’t seem to fit in with his initial line of thought. But let’s take a closer look and find out how the parable describes what he has been talking about all along.
22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
What does Jesus mean by your “eye is the lamp that provides light for your body”? The lamp provides light that makes it possible to see in the darkness in the same way that the eye illuminates the body allowing the body to see. In the bible, light frequently refers to understanding, wisdom, revelation, and knowledge. For example, in John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And in Psalm 119:105, the Bible says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” The lamp is what produces light, that is easy. But what is light for my path? What does Jesus mean that he is the light of the world? It obviously has nothing to do with physical light but it means that Jesus is the wisdom of God that gives wisdom and understanding to the world. The wisdom of this world is like foolishness to God. Our light (wisdom) is like darkness (foolishness) to God. In the same way, when the Bible says “God is light” (1 John 1:15). Because Jesus is the light of the world, he gives us understanding of who God is. Figuratively speaking, he shines light on the darkness so that we can see who God is clearly. By seeing who God is because of the light he gives, he will show us the way to God (He is the way, the truth and the life—John 14:6
When Jesus says “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” It is talking about God being wisdom and things being brought to understanding. Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Jesus is the wisdom of God. The person who is the light of this world, the person is light (Jesus is God), and the same person is wisdom. So it’s clear to see that wisdom and light are the same thing. Wisdom is to foolishness what light is to darkness. The book of proverbs shows this stark contrast between wisdom and foolishness.
So when Jesus talks about good eye and bad eye he is talking about the source and type of understanding and wisdom that a person has. One leads to destruction (the thief comes to rob, steal and kill—and Satan’s battle field with us is the mind where he puts wrong thoughts and dreams that corrupt and misguide us), the other gives life to your body. So, he is admonishing us not to set the sights of our lives on something that will bring destruction. Note that this is a continuation of his discussion on treasures. He has not changed topics. So your dreams, your treasures, your purpose in life will give your body either light or darkness. And if your dreams, your treasures that set the course of your life are actually “darkness, how deep that darkness is!” When our dreams and our purposes in life, the things that drive us are misguided; we are profoundly and totally lost. We are like blind men who think they see when they really don’t. That kind of blindness is worst.
Verse 24 below is another one that follows the same train of thought and Jesus really hits the nail on the head.
24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money
What do the listeners understand by the word master? The picture here is that of a slave owner and his slave. A person’s boss today on the job cannot completely carry the meaning of the word master that is being conveyed. The word used for master is kurios and means “properly, a person exercising absolute ownership rights; lord (Lord).” This master owns you.
Here if two masters had the same requirements and commands from the servant, then in essence they are only one master. So here When Jesus says, “no one can serve two masters”, it by necessity refers to masters that have differing demands of the servant. If someone tried to serve two masters, he could do it for a time, but when the two masters conflict face to face and force the servant to choose, the servant will chose the master on whom he relies on the most to fulfill his dreams. The master he chooses was his real master all along. His dreams or desires will decide who his master is. If his dreams were a big house, a nice car, money for retirement etc, he will chose the master that will make it easy for those dreams to come true. For example, He will choose a company (and by default a boss at that company) that will make his dreams attainable. His treasure, his dream will rule him. And this servant will despise the other master whom he didn’t choose for attempting to get in the way of his dreams.
You cannot serve both God and money. The word translated as money here is mammon. The word mammon is an Aramaic word that means money, wealth, riches, substance, and all worldly or material things. Jesus started this discussion with the admonition that you must not store up your treasures on earth. Now Jesus is reveals a profound truth. Mammon which is the treasure of many of us (in one form or another) is really a master whom we can choose and pursue just as we can choose and pursue God. The only thing is that we cannot serve both masters (God and money).
Jesus uses the word for master who has “absolute ownership rights over a slave. And he says money is a master just like God. Money has absolute ownership over some of us. Most of us would never agree to such a reality. We are the kind of slaves that are serving two masters at once even though we really can’t do that. We are deceiving ourselves that we are when we aren’t. We will know that we had only one master all along if we were to force ourselves to choose between God all the way or our dreams and the other things that we pursue. But as it is, we will never come to that reality as long as we continue to be a little active in the things of God.
The question we should ask ourselves is, who is our master? How do you know who your master is? I once heard a preacher give a test that one can use to determine if money is his master or if God is his master.
He said the answer lies in your dreams. If you look at your dreams, you will know who your master is. Our hearts, our devotion, our commitment will go where our dreams are. If money can buy your dream, there is a good chance that mammon is your master. So if you are like many of us whose dreams are to have our house paid off, our two cars paid off, money saved up for our children’s college, money saved up for retirement, money saved up for emergency use, healthcare etc, then money can really achieve most if not all of our dreams. Then we are serving mammon.
The thing that has deceived me in the past is that I can really be focused on serving mammon and then paying my tithe or 10 percent to God, and donating money to Christian charities when I can afford it. I will do this as long as I am able to afford it. But my real trust is in my other dreams (good family, house, cars etc.). Paying tithes and giving to support missions when I can aren’t really my dreams. These things don’t drive me and I’m not really passionate about. I will give them up if I had to before I give up my real dreams that drive me.
To add to this preacher’s idea, I think that the one thing that drives us so much so that we will be willing to die for or die doing, that we will do even if we weren’t paid any money, that is our dream. That is the master that we are serving.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said “A man who hasn’t found something he is willing to die for is not fit to live.” That is a great way to know your dream. A dream is not a dream until it drives your life. Otherwise, it is just a wish.
Many of us would be willing to die to protect our families and our country and that is all that we are willing to die for. If that’s what we are willing to die for, then that is what we should live for. Our family and our country’s well being become our principal dreams and our master.
Now, with the same train of thought, Jesus takes it up further in verses 25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Now this is interesting. In verse Jesus says that you cannot serve two masters at once—the two masters are God and money. In verse 25, he begins with “That’s why…” Some versions of the Bible begin with “for that reason” or “therefore”… So verse 25 is following from verse 24 and is being said because of the reason stated in verse 24. As such, Jesus is saying that because you cannot serve both God and Money, you should choose to serve one. Serve God and don’t worry about the every day life cares he lists in verse 25 and up. I never used to get that before!
So this is not a change of subject. He is still on the same subject of treasures. The source of all our worry is the treasures we decide to pursue. In my personal life, I have noticed that I get angry at God and worried and anxious when I am trying to pursue God while also desiring to have the things of the world at the same time. My life is miserable when I try to find joy in serving God while also trying to serve money.
Also, Jesus knows that when he tells these people to store their treasures in heaven, they will begin to worry to part with their former dreams (masters) because to have heavenly dreams, you must give up earthly dreams. That worry is what Jesus addresses as he assures them of God’s provision even to birds and flowers. This is a key point, the only way to successfully store up your treasures in heaven and none on earth is when you believe in God’s providence here on earth. For example, I will give God all my money if I trusted God’s providence to me in times of my need in the future. I really wouldn’t need to store up all of my money or treasure somewhere else where it can be stolen. So, meditating on scriptures that help us to believe without a shadow of a doubt, the providence of God will be key in helping us store all our treasures in heaven (or in God).
Verse 33 is the punch line. After telling us clearly the dangers of the dream that we choose, he tells us how to choose our dream, what our purpose should be. If you are a Christian, you have just one purpose. Christians are to be like God’s army. If that army is at war, some people will stay home to work and support those fighting the war. Some will grow food, others will make planes and aircraft used in war, others will sow uniforms for soldiers and on and on. Everybody takes part in the war, the overall purpose or dream is the same, to win the war. But our personal purpose is different, to accomplish the small task assigned to us which is a part of the whole larger purpose. That’s why the bible says we are parts of the same body. We are on the same team. Jesus says our dream should be to “seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously”. When we do that, God will provide everything. There is provision for the purpose God gives us for our life. What is that purpose again? To “seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously”. I used to think that this verse only meant that I needed to study the bible more and desire God more. That’s partly true. But the thrust of the verse is that we need to seek to advance the kingdom of God. Our dream should be to advance the kingdom of God in the earth and we need to live righteously as we do that.
Let me give you an example of a Christian who has chosen a dream for his life, a purpose that falls within the confines that Jesus is talking about here. I know of a friend, a godly person who works for Orphans 360. He was a medical doctor in the U.S and decided to quit his professional job because he felt he needed to meet the needs of orphans around the world. His dream is for God to use him as the bridge that God serves millions of orphans in the next forty years. To accomplish his dream, he needs God because he only wants to be the bridge that God uses to do the work. The work cannot be done without God. So God is his treasure. Without God he cannot fulfill the dream of his life. You know that his dream is a true dream because it drives his life, everything he does is centered around it. If a dream doesn’t move you to reorganize your life around that dream, then it’s only a wish and not a dream. My friend’s purpose is clearly to take the kingdom of God to orphans around the world. I used this just as an example, not to insinuate that everyone needs to do what he has done. But whatever area you choose, you must give God your all and make sure that you are not doing what many of us “Christians” are doing, serving mammon instead of God. Jesus must be your LORD and your SAVIOR. I used to want him for savior but not for LORD. A person’s LORD is their master. For many of us who bear the title Christian, our master is really mammon because that’s who we actually serve. That’s why in Matthew 7 that “1 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”