If we pause long enough to take inventory of our lives, why get up in the morning? What drives our lives? Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is both frank and realistic. People embody different answers.
Whatever driving force might guide our life, Jesus called it our “lamp.” He then drilled down into the profound significance of how our lamp impacts us. Isn’t that just like him?
Each of us holds within our hands a lamp that shapes how we live. Jesus described our lamp as being where we choose to focus “our eye” (Matthew 6:22). What are the people around you focused upon? What about us? If we are honest, it really isn’t hard to figure out.
People naturally focus upon whatever or whomever they believe are really, really, really valuable in protecting their lives or making them significant. For some this will be money. Others might look to relationships, or the ability to wield influence or perhaps even one’s own skills and strength.
Regardless of where our focus is, Jesus accurately captures its impact. It will fill our whole being and direct the pattern of our decisions and behaviors. How true!
Let’s not be over-simplistic. People commonly place value upon a wide variety of tangibles and intangibles ranging from family, good health, comfort, employment and so forth.
Yet, neither Jesus nor anthropologists permit us to dismiss the reality that each of us possesses an overarching guiding allegiance determining how we order our priorities and values. When Jesus speaks of our eye and the resulting light from its lamp, it is this supreme value he has in mind. And it is this ultimate driving force within our lives, this guiding lamp with its light that Jesus would later unveil as being nothing less than our master. As he logically revealed, it is impossible to have two masters.
When the Son of God looked at human life, he realized that wherever people choose to place their focus will determine whether their whole being is filled with a genuine and whole healthiness or a great consuming darkness. Accordingly he counseled against, or should we say he warned against, allowing our hearts to be driven by treasuring earthly tangibles.
Immediately the self-defensive mechanisms of earthly-driven lamps kick in. “You have to be realistic.” “God helps those who help themselves,” meaning focus on what you want and get with the program.
Jesus knows we need powerful truths if we are going to change our lamps. So he appealed to our sense of security by pointing out that heavenly investments are more reliable (Matthew 6:19-20). He counsels us to jettison all of our worries under the powerful promise that God will provide what we need, if we will seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:25,31-33).
Yes, we are to work. Yes, we are to be meaningfully engaged with people and creation. However, all of this is lived out under new management, One from above. Creation is not the reason, but the means used in serving God.
Since our allegiance with its subservient values arise from our beliefs, what all of this really boils down to is this. What do we believe are the deepest truths? Who or what do we really believe is capable of taking care of us? This creates where our hearts will dream and focus upon our treasure.