Jesus’s words for living a righteous life were obviously stinging by now, if not outright hurting. He was requiring his followers to not only go above and beyond the law, but to love their enemies, and do any good works in secret—including prayer and fasting! Tough words for sure.
Yet, as he speaks, he tells us that such a life will not only be pleasing to God but will be deserving of reward. He said it earlier when referring to helping the needy: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (verse 4).
He says it again in verse 6 when talking about prayer: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
And a third time in verses 17 and 18, when teaching about fasting: “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
This must have perked up some ears. A reward is good, right? Maybe I can do this if there’s something in it for me. Yet, here comes Jesus, bursting another selfish bubble:
Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. 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. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness! No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.Matthew 6:19-24 CSB
The rewards they were looking to rack up for good behavior are not what God has in mind. No, these are heavenly treasures, not earthly ones. On earth, rewards are short-lived, given by other men who soon forget a good deed. Only those given by God last forever.
So, what are the treasures we have in heaven? Jesus leaves us hanging on that one, I’m afraid, but I think he does it with a purpose—to get us away from selfish motivations for life and service. I may not know what my treasure will be in the life to come, but I know it will be there waiting on me. In the meantime, Jesus asks me to serve, love, and pray without thought of recompense but out of devotion to him.
Keeping our focus on Christ, keeps our hearts from being divided.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.Psalm 86:11 NIV
It is from the undivided heart that we have a defense against the darkness.
Jesus is clear that the light within us must be the source for our sight and mind, otherwise, we are guided by the darkness and led into sin.
A divided heart leads to divided loyalty.
Jesus is very clear that it is all or nothing with him—no one can serve two masters. The thought of earthly reward for righteous living is not living on the fence with our faith, but life on the side without Jesus. We must choose the reward we prefer. Will our devotion be to this earth and the temporary reward it offers, or with Christ and eternal reward above what we can even imagine?
Following Jesus requires a choice, there is no middle ground.
Where is your treasure today? That’s where your heart will be found. I pray it may be found with Christ, and him alone, for he’s so worth it.
Grace and Peace