daily biblical sermons


WE ARE TO LIVE SINGLE-MINDEDLY FOR THE LORD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, 11th Week of the Year, June 21, 2019
2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30, Psalm 33, Matthew 6:19-23


 

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

 

 

Two opposite ways of life are presented to us in this Scripture passage about not laying up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. What we do in this life should be laying up treasures for ourselves after our death in heaven, rather than laying up for ourselves treasures for our present life here on earth.

 

 

But we note that the word “heaven” can also be a substitute for the holy name of God, which the Jews, out of respect, did not wish to pronounce. So Jesus sometimes says, “the kingdom of heaven” instead of “the kingdom of God,” but the meaning is the same. So this saying may also mean that we should live our life for God, not for worldly things, enjoyments, pleasures, and rewards (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 2007), page 258). In other words we should live for God, not for ourselves. If we do this, we will, in fact, also be storing up treasures for ourselves after our death in heaven, which is the literal meaning of this saying.

 

 

So we must ask ourselves what will this life be like that lives for God, rather than for worldly treasures, pleasures, and gain. It will be a simple life, not a life dedicated to daily banqueting, gourmet foods, doctored-up dishes, gastronomic concoctions, and unhealthy fancy delicacies and desserts. It will be a life of plain, simple, healthy, wholesome eating, and we will have a simple, basic, wholesome lifestyle of one wholly dedicated to God in every aspect of our life. Such a life will not be a life of entertainments, pleasure trips, amusement parks, fine restaurant dining, eating out, parties, secular movies, pastimes, etc. It will be similar to a strict monastic life, dedicated to prayer, meditation, reading, study, writing, and work – either intellectual or manual.

 

 

If one is a priest, it will be a life dedicated to preaching the gospel, which requires much preparation, study, and revision to refine a well-prepared homily or sermon on some aspect of the Christian faith or life that will be relevant to the daily lives of ordinary people seeking to live a more faithful Christian life for the love of God. It will be a life dedicated to God, from which we do not want to be distracted by worldly entertainments, pleasure trips, eating out, going to movies, boardwalks, amusements, visiting people in their homes, etc.

 

 

Rather one will live a quiet, recollected life of prayer, fasting, simple eating, reading, study, and writing. It will be a life of Christian ministry, which could even be done be in the quiet of one’s room, publishing sermons, for example, on a website and by bulk email. It will be a life that rejects living for ourselves, for St. Paul says, Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). We are to live for Christ who died and was raised for us, rather than for ourselves and our own pleasures. Such a life recognizes that unnecessary pleasure seeking actually divides our heart away from a pure and undivided love of the Lord alone with all the love of our heart. Therefore a dedicated Christian will avoid anything that divides his heart, which would include unnecessary worldly pleasures, unhealthy pleasure foods, unnecessary additions to the food, added solely for pleasure’s sake, and often to the detriment of our health, and health should be the real reason for eating in the first place.

 

 

There are many sayings of Jesus and St. Paul that should motivate us to live in this single-minded dedicated way. One gospel commentator describes the key thought of laying up treasures in heaven, not on earth, as “single-mindedness … Disciples, as subjects of God’s kingdom, are totally committed to his service, and must allow no other concerns to distract them from this prior aim” (RT France, The Gospel of Matthew, page 257). Jesus’ sayings clearly express this kind of radical orientation that he recommends for his followers. He says to someone, “‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But he said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59-60). This is indeed a radical call! The kingdom and the work of the kingdom should take precedence over even the most sacred family ties and obligations.

 

 

Along these same lines Jesus also says, “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:29-30). Leave all for Christ – this is the message of so many of these radical sayings of Jesus.

 

 

And those who leave all for Christ will be the last in this world. They will be left behind by the first in this world. But Jesus says, “Many that are first [in this world] will be last [in the kingdom of God], and the last [in this world] first [in the kingdom of God]” (Matthew 19:30).

 

 

Would you rather be first on earth and last in heaven, or first in heaven and last on earth? Everyone knows the correct answer, but how many really act on it and plan out their life on this principle? Not many, I think. So let us be last in this world, but first with God by giving up a worldly life to dedicate ourselves single-mindedly to the Lord in all that we do.

 

 

This will require a thorough reorientation of our diet, the work we choose to spend our time doing, and how we will spend our free time. This will not just involve a change of ideas. Rather, it will be a total reorientation of our person that will affect every aspect of our life and all the details of our daily schedule and activities. It will affect what we do and what we no longer do. It will make us truly a new creation, a “new man” in Christ, a new creature, living for God with all the love of our heart in an undivided way.

 

 

We are no longer to have two masters, one of them mammon (worldly wealth and the pleasures it buys us) on the one hand and God on the other hand, for “if we attempt to work for two different masters [worldly pleasure and God], we are sure to give satisfaction to neither” (JC Ryle (1816-1900 British), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels). Jesus puts it this way, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other, you cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

 

This is why Jesus tells us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). And he tells us that this is the first and greatest commandment. In practical terms, this means a total reorientation in the way that most people live. This one commandment alone if taken seriously and lived daily and hourly, every day of the year, every day of our life, will totally revolutionize our way of living from self-centered and pleasure centered to Christ centered and God centered.

 

 

We must live a life of self-denial, denying ourselves worldly pleasures that divide our heart and mind if we want to dedicate ourselves with all our time, energy, and all the love of our heart to the Lord and his ministry. So Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV). And St. Paul says the same, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). We must be crucified to the world, and the world to us, that is, crucified to a worldly life, to a pleasure-centered, self-centered way of life to be able to live for God alone with all the love of our heart, without any division of heart in our love for him.

 

 

St. John also tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world, if any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). We are not to have a worldly life, “for whoever would save his life [in a worldly way] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). We are not to live a worldly life. A worldly life is death to our spirit, death to a totally dedicated life for God, as St. James says, “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

 

 

So we should avoid the wide, easy, pleasurable gate that most people go through, because it leads to destruction. Rather, we should choose the narrow way of life that is hard and that few find, as Jesus tells us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

 

This, then, is how we lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, for indeed “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Where do you want your heart to be? That is where your treasure should be, the treasure that you seek, desire, and spend all your time working for.

 

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