Scripture: Matthew 6:19-7:5
I go through different phases of the shows I watch on TV. Recently I’ve been in an Alaskan phase and, for some reason, have watched shows about people homesteading in Alaska. In those shows, gold comes up. It turns out, Alaska had a gold rush back in the day and lots of small towns, especially in rural areas and on or along mountains, those towns were built up around the mining industry. And I’d never seen someone mine for gold up close like that and the process, y’all, it’s fascinating. As they take a chunk of rock, break it down into smaller and smaller pieces, sift those pieces through water, and the lighter silt, dirt, pebbles, slide away and reveal the heavier gold that was in the midst of it the whole time. In the midst of the debris, treasure was waiting to be found. And in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus helps us sift through our life to find true treasure. To find how God is loving you, to find nuggets of grace, to recognize how you are a part of God’s kingdom on earth.
Jesus talks about external things and internal things. There are object focused things and other people focused things and there are words of comfort and hope.
Other people and external focused things:
“16 “And whenever you fast, do not look somber, like the hypocrites, for they mark their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
““Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For the judgment you give will be the judgment you get, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
We easily get wrapped up in and place too much value on what other people think of us and how we are perceived. Now, it is not bad to want people to think well of you. Caring what other people think is not in and of itself harmful. But there is a line between healthy esteem, healthy relationships and connections, and other people’s opinions becoming our treasure. Another way we get wrapped up in other people is when we judge. And here again, if you are human you are going to feel judgment towards other people every now and then. It is going to sometimes happen. But when it happens a lot or it becomes our first reaction, it is moving in unhealthy directions. When we are so focused on other people, whether seeking their affirmation or judging them, we miss how God is working in us. Those things block the nuggets of God treasure and we miss out on opportunities for God to work healing and love in our lives.
Object focused and external things:
“No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
One topic Jesus talks a lot about in scripture, is our relationship with money. Money is not inherently bad. But because of what it is, we can develop unhealthy and toxic relationships with money very quickly. It easily becomes something we serve, something that controls us as opposed to being a tool, a resource, that serves us and God.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 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, 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Sifting through our life involves a lot of layers. There are physical and mental layers, what we think about what we focus on. There are also emotional and spiritual layers. We are holistic beings, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and what impacts one of those parts impacts the others. Here Jesus reminds us that all those external things, focusing too much on other people, money, prestige, they do something to us internally. Our heart is with what we value. Our heart goes with what we value, whether we are aware of it or not, and our heart is something too precious to share without great intention and care.
Comfort and Hope:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
When I was younger, I would hear this passage in kind of a chastising tone. But as I have gotten older, the tone I hear is tender and full of care. Life is full of things to worry about. I’m not going to list any because you’re probably thinking of some right now. Life is full of things to worry about and it is ok to be aware of that. It is ok to feel concerned about a situation or to take a situation seriously. It is ok to say, to acknowledge, if a situation is serious or hard or difficult. What Christ offers us, is comfort for when that concern and recognition spirals out of control. Concern, awareness, acknowledging situations, can be healthy and helpful. Worry, is when healthy and helpful shifts and things begin to consume our thoughts and time. Worry is the endless what ifs and possible future scenarios. Life is full of things that we could worry about, which is why Christ offers us comfort, hope, and redirection. Breathe and remember God loves you. Serious and hard things happen in life, but a spiraling mind does not change those things and does not help. Center yourself on the assurance of God’s presence, God’s love, God’s guidance. Anchor yourself in the greatest reality we have that, come what may, you are not alone. Breathe, and take one moment at a time buoyed by God’s grace.
Our lives are bursting with love, support, strength, comfort, and peace. But, over time, those things become shrouded, they get blocked and we have to sift through our life to find them again. Sometimes it is a little sifting and sometimes it is a lot. Sometimes we find the motherload, poof, all at once, and sometimes it is nugget by nugget, piece by piece. What that love, support, strength, comfort, and peace looks like in each of our lives is different but it is there. The things that shroud and block may look different for each of us, but we are human, and the things are common enough that Christ guidance 2000 years ago is still personal and relevant. This week, whatever it holds, may you sift gently and may we all find God’s treasure within. Amen.