Verses 19–24

Worldly-mindedness is as common and as fatal a symptom of hypocrisy as any other, for by no sin can Satan have a surer and faster hold of the soul, under the cloak of a visible and passable profession of religion, than by this; and therefore Christ, having warned us against coveting the praise of men, proceeds next to warn us against coveting the wealth of the world; in this also we must take heed, lest we be as the hypocrites are, and do as they do: the fundamental error that they are guilty of is, that they choose the world for their reward; we must therefore take heed of hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness, in the choice we make of our treasure, our end, and our masters.

I. In choosing the treasure we lay up. Something or other every man has which he makes his treasure, his portion, which his heart is upon, to which he carries all he can get, and which he depends upon for futurity. It is that good, that chief good, which Solomon speaks of with such an emphasis, Eccl. 2:3. Something the soul will have, which it looks upon as the best thing, which it has a complacency and confidence in above other things. Now Christ designs not to deprive us of our treasure, but to direct us in the choice of it; and here we have,

1. A good caution against making the things that are seen, that are temporal, our best things, and placing our happiness in them. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. Christ’s disciples had left all to follow him, let them still keep in the same good mind. A treasure is an abundance of something that is in itself, at least in our opinion, precious and valuable, and likely to stand us in stead hereafter. Now we must not lay up our treasures on earth, that is, (1.) We must not count these things the best things, nor the most valuable in themselves, nor the most serviceable to us: we must not call them glory, as Laban’s sons did, but see and own that they have no glory in comparison with the glory that excelleth. (2.) We must not covet an abundance of these things, nor be still grasping at more and more of them, and adding to them, as men do to that which is their treasure, as never knowing when we have enough. (3.) We must not confide in them for futurity, to be our security and supply in time to come; we must not say to the gold, Thou art my hope. (4.) We must not content ourselves with them, as all we need or desire: we must be content with a little for our passage, but not with all for our portion. These things must not be made our consolation (Luke 6:24), our good things, Luke 16:25. Let us consider we are laying up, not for our posterity in this world, but for ourselves in the other world. We are put to our choice, and made in a manner our own carvers; that is ours which we lay up for ourselves. It concerns thee to choose wisely, for thou art choosing for thyself, and shalt have as thou choosest. If we know and consider ourselves what we are, what we are made for, how large our capacities are, and how long our continuance, and that our souls are ourselves, we shall see it is foolish thing to lay up our treasures on earth.

2. Here is a good reason given why we should not look upon any thing on earth as our treasure, because it is liable to loss and decay: (1.) From corruption within. That which is treasure upon earth moth and rust do corrupt. If the treasure be laid up in fine clothes, the moth frets them, and they are gone and spoiled insensibly, when we thought them most securely laid up. If it be in corn or other eatables, as his was who had his barns full (Luke 12:16, 17), rust (so we read it) corrupts that: Brosiseating, eating by men, for as goods are increased they are increased that eat them (Eccl. 5:11); eating by mice or other vermin; manna itself bred worms; or it grows mouldy and musty, is struck, or smutted, or blasted; fruits soon rot. Or, if we understand it of silver and gold, they tarnish and canker; they grow less with using, and grow worse with keeping (Jas. 5:2, 3); the rust and the moth breed in the metal itself and in the garment itself. Note, Worldly riches have in themselves a principal of corruption and decay; they wither of themselves, and make themselves wings. (2.) From violence without. Thieves break through and steal. Every hand of violence will be aiming at the house where treasure is laid up; nor can any thing be laid up so safe, but we may be spoiled of it. Numquam ego fortunae credidi, etiam si videretur pacem agere; omnia illa quae in me indulgentissime conferebat, pecuniam, honores, gloriam, eo loco posui, unde posset ea, since metu meo, repetere—I never reposed confidence in fortune, even if she seemed propitious: whatever were the favours which her bounty bestowed, whether wealth, honours, or glory, I so disposed of them, that it was in her power to recall them without occasioning me any alarm. Seneca. Consol. ad Helv. It is folly to make that our treasure which we may so easily be robbed of.

3. Good counsel, to make the joys and glories of the other world, those things not seen that are eternal, our best things, and to place our happiness in them. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Note, (1.) There are treasures in heaven, as sure as there are on this earth; and those in heaven are the only true treasures, the riches and glories and pleasures that are at God’s right hand, which those that are sanctified truly arrive at, when they come to be sanctified perfectly. (2.) It is our wisdom to lay up our treasure in those treasures; to give all diligence to make sure our title to eternal life through Jesus Christ, and to depend upon that as our happiness, and look upon all things here below with a holy contempt, as not worthy to be compared with it. We must firmly believe there is such a happiness, and resolve to be content with that, and to be content with nothing short of it. If we thus make those treasures ours, they are laid up, and we may trust God to keep them safe for us; thither let us then refer all our designs, and extend all our desires; thither let us send before our best efforts and best affections. Let us not burthen ourselves with the cash of this world, which will but load and defile us, and be liable to sink us, but lay up in store good securities. The promises are bills of exchange, by which all true believers return their treasure to heaven, payable in the future state: and thus we make that sure that will be made sure. (3.) It is a great encouragement to us to lay up our treasure in heaven, that there it is safe; it will not decay of itself, no moth nor rust will corrupt it; nor can we be by force or fraud deprived of it; thieves do not break through and steal. It is a happiness above and beyond the changes and chances of time, an inheritance incorruptible.

4. A good reason why we should thus choose, and an evidence that we have done so (Matt. 6:21), Where your treasure is, on earth or in heaven, there will you heart be. We are therefore concerned to be right and wise in the choice of our treasure, because the temper of our minds, and consequently the tenor of our lives, will be accordingly either carnal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly. The heart follows the treasure, as the needle follows the loadstone, or the sunflower the sun. Where the treasure is there the value and esteem are, there the love and affection are (Col. 3:2), that way the desires and pursuits go, thitherward the aims and intents are levelled, and all is done with that in view. Where the treasure is, there our cares and fears are, lest we come short of it; about that we are most solicitous; there our hope and trust are (Prov. 18:10, 11); there our joys and delights will be (Ps. 119:111); and there our thoughts will be, there the inward thought will be, the first thought, the free thought, the fixed thought, the frequent, the familiar thought. The heart is God’s due (Prov. 23:26), and that he may have it, our treasure must be laid up with him, and then our souls will be lifted up to him.

This direction about laying up our treasure, may very fitly be applied to the foregoing caution, of not doing what we do in religion to be seen of men. Our treasure is our alms, prayers, and fastings, and the reward of them; if we have done these only to gain the applause of men, we have laid up this treasure on earth, have lodged it in the hands of men, and must never expect to hear any further of it. Now it is folly to do this, for the praise of men we covet so much is liable to corruption: it will soon be rusted, and moth-eaten, and tarnished; a little folly, like a dead fly, will spoil it all, Eccl. 10:1. Slander and calumny are thieves that break through and steal it away, and so we lose all the treasure of our performances; we have run in vain, and laboured in vain, because we misplaced our intentions in doing of them. Hypocritical services lay up nothing in heaven (Isa. 58:3); the gain of them is gone, when the soul is called for, Job 27:8. But if we have prayed and fasted and given alms in truth and uprightness, with an eye to God and to his acceptance, and have approved ourselves to him therein, we have laid up that treasure in heaven; a book of remembrance is written there (Mal. 3:16), and being there recorded, they shall be there rewarded, and we shall meet them again with comfort on the other side death and the grave. Hypocrites are written in the earth (Jer. 17:13), but God’s faithful ones have their names written in heaven, Luke 10:20. Acceptance with God is treasure in heaven, which can neither be corrupted nor stolen. His well done shall stand for ever; and if we have thus laid up our treasure with him, with him our hearts will be; and where can they be better?

II. We must take heed of hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness in choosing the end we look at. Our concern as to this is represented by two sorts of eyes which men have, a single eye and an evil eye, Matt. 6:22, 23. The expressions here are somewhat dark because concise; we shall therefore take them in some variety of interpretation. The light of the body is the eye, that is plain; the eye is discovering and directing; the light of the world would avail us little without this light of the body; it is the light of the eye that rejoiceth the heart (Prov. 15:30), but what is that which is here compared to the eye in the body.

1. The eye, that is, the heart (so some) if that be singlehaplousfree and bountiful (so the word is frequently rendered, as Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13; Jas. 1:5; and we read of a bountiful eye, Prov. 22:9). If the heart be liberally affected and stand inclined to goodness and charity, it will direct the man to Christian actions, the whole conversation will be full of light, full of evidences and instances of true Christianity, that pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father (Jas. 1:27), full of light, of good works, which are our light shining before men; but if the heart be evil, covetous, and hard, and envious, griping and grudging (such a temper of mind is often expressed by an evil eye, Matt. 20:15; Mark 7:22; Prov. 7:22), the body will be full of darkness, the whole conversation will be heathenish and unchristian. The instruments of the churl are and always will be evil, but the liberal deviseth liberal things, Isa. 32:5-8. If the light that is in us, those affections which should guide us to that which is good, be darkness, if these be corrupt and worldly, if there be not so much as good nature in a man, not so much as a kind disposition, how great is the corruption of a man, and the darkness in which he sits! This sense seems to agree with the context; we must lay up treasure in heaven by liberality in giving alms, and that not grudgingly but with cheerfulness, Luke 12:33; 2 Cor. 9:7. But these words in the parallel place do not come in upon any such occasion, Luke 11:34; and therefore the coherence here does not determine that to be the sense of them.

2. The eye, that is, the understanding (so some); the practical judgment, the conscience, which is to the other faculties of the soul, as the eye is to the body, to guide and direct their motions; now if this eye be single, if it make a true and right judgment, and discern things that differ, especially in the great concern of laying up the treasure so as to choose aright in that, it will rightly guide the affections and actions, which will all be full of the light of grace and comfort; but if this be evil and corrupt, and instead of leading the inferior powers, is led, and bribed, and biassed by them, if this be erroneous and misinformed, the heart and life must needs be full of darkness, and the whole conversation corrupt. They that will not understand, are said to walk on in darkness, Ps. 82:5. It is sad when the spirit of a man, that should be the candle of the Lord, is an ignis fatuus: when the leaders of the people, the leaders of the faculties, cause them to err, for then they that are led of them are destroyed, Isa. 9:16. An error in the practical judgment is fatal, it is that which calls evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20); therefore it concerns us to understand things aright, to get our eyes anointed with eye-salve.

3. The eye, that is, the aims and intentions; by the eye we set our end before us, the mark we shoot at, the place we go to, we keep that in view, and direct our motion accordingly; in every thing we do in religion; there is something or other that we have in our eye; now if our eye be single, if we aim honestly, fix right ends, and move rightly towards them, if we aim purely and only at the glory of God, seek his honor and favour, and direct all entirely to him, then the eye is single; Paul’s was so when he said, To me to live is Christ; and if we be right here, the whole body will be full of light, all the actions will be regular and gracious, pleasing to God and comfortable to ourselves; but if this eye be evil, if, instead of aiming only at the glory of God, and our acceptance with him, we look aside at the applause of men, and while we profess to honour God, contrive to honour ourselves, and seek our own things under colour of seeking the things of Christ, this spoils all, the whole conversation will be perverse and unsteady, and the foundations being thus out of course, there can be nothing but confusion and every evil work in the superstructure. Draw the lines from the circumference to any other point but the centre, and they will cross. If the light that is in thee be not only dim, but darkness itself, it is a fundamental error, and destructive to all that follows. The end specifies the action. It is of the last importance in religion, that we be right in our aims, and make eternal things, not temporal, our scope, 2 Cor. 4:18. The hypocrite is like the waterman, that looks one way and rows another; the true Christian like the traveller, that has his journey’s end in his eye. The hypocrite soars like the kite, with his eye upon the prey below, which he is ready to come down to when he has a fair opportunity; the true Christian soars like the lark, higher and higher, forgetting the things that are beneath.

III. We must take heed of hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness in choosing the master we serve, Matt. 6:24. No man can serve two masters. Serving two masters is contrary to the single eye; for the eye will be to the master’s hand, Ps. 123:1, 2. Our Lord Jesus here exposes the cheat which those put upon their own souls, who think to divide between God and the world, to have a treasure on earth, and a treasure in heaven too, to please God and please men too. Why not? says the hypocrite; it is good to have two strings to one’s bow. They hope to make their religion serve their secular interest, and so turn to account both ways. The pretending mother was for dividing the child; the Samaritans will compound between God and idols. No, says Christ, this will not do; it is but a supposition that gain is godliness, 1 Tim. 6:5. Here is,

1. A general maxim laid down; it is likely it was a proverb among the Jews, No man can serve two masters, much less two gods; for their commands will some time or other cross or contradict one another, and their occasions interfere. While two masters go together, a servant may follow them both; but when they part, you will see to which he belongs; he cannot love, and observe, and cleave to both as he should. If to the one, not to the other; either this or that must be comparatively hated and despised. This truth is plain enough in common cases.

2. The application of it to the business in hand. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word, that signifies gain; so that whatever in this world is, or is accounted by us to be, gain (Phil. 3:7), is mammon. Whatever is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is mammon. To some their belly is their mammon, and they serve that (Phil. 3:19); to others their ease, their sleep, their sports and pastimes, are their mammon (Prov. 6:9); to others worldly riches (Jas. 4:13); to others honours and preferments; the praise and applause of men was the Pharisees’ mammon; in a word, self, the unity in which the world’s trinity centres, sensual, secular self, is the mammon which cannot be served in conjunction with God; for if it be served, it is in competition with him and in contradiction to him. He does not say, We must not or we should not, but we cannot serve God and Mammon; we cannot love both (1 John 2:15; Jas. 4:4); or hold to both, or hold by both in observance, obedience, attendance, trust, and dependence, for they are contrary the one to the other. God says, “My son, give me thy heart.” Mammon says, “No, give it me.” God says, “Be content with such things as ye have.” Mammon says, “Grasp at all that ever thou canst. Rem, rem, quocunque modo rem—Money, money; by fair means or by foul, money.” God says, “Defraud not, never lie, be honest and just in all thy dealings.” Mammon says “Cheat thine own Father, if thou canst gain by it.” God says, “Be charitable.” Mammon says, “Hold thy own: this giving undoes us all.” God says, “Be careful for nothing.” Mammon says, “Be careful for every thing.” God says, “Keep holy thy sabbath-day.” Mammon says, “Make use of that day as well as any other for the world.” Thus inconsistent are the commands of God and Mammon, so that we cannot serve both. Let us not then halt between God and Baal, but choose ye this day whom ye will serve, and abide by our choice.