ife is harsh. Ponder our existence from a purely rationalistic, human perspective, and it's hard to see how anyone could ever be optimistic. Our lives on this cursed planet are headed toward no good end. Everyone has an appointment with death, and the journey to that engagement is impeded by unavoidable potholes of tragedy, misery, heartache, and pain.
Scripture acknowledges the futility and brevity of earthly life. Job 14:1: "Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil." "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off" (1 Peter 1:24).
Think that sounds bleak? From a strictly human perspective, that is not even the worst of it: "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Those verses all sound a note that is prominent in Scripture. In stark contrast to the message that dominates some of the religious channels on television, the Bible never promises anyone health, material prosperity, freedom from strife, comfort, ease, or luxury in this life. On the contrary, those who are faithful are promised persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Sounds like a recipe for utter, hopeless pessimism, doesn't it? In reality, that is the necessary foundation of true peace and authentic hope. The innate despair of this present evil world ought to drive us to Christ, the only One who can deliver us from the bondage of sin's curse (Galatians 1:4). And those who do lay hold of Christ gain (through Him) a peace that "surpasses all comprehension" (Philippians 4:7). He grants freedom from the worries and cares of this dreary lifea real and palpable peace that is both incomprehensible and unattainable for those who are seeking fulfillment in earthly things.
It's a simple principle, really: if you set your heart on material goods and earthly pleasures, you are coveting things that are already set aside for destruction. You will therefore gain nothing but disappointment and everlasting misery. But "set your mind on the things above" (Colossians 3:2)fix your heart on Christ; embrace the spiritual, eternal values of heavenand you will have peace even in this life.
Therefore, right alongside Scripture's dismal assessment of the sheer hopelessness of this earthly life, we find Christ's simple command to His faithful followers: "Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on" (Matthew 6:25). After all, "Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (v. 27).
That, of course, is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In the immediate context (starting with verse 19) Christ is attacking the twin sins of greed and worry. Those are no misdemeanors, Jesus says; they are serious, soul-destroying sins that annihilate our peace and undermine righteousness at the most fundamental level. They are hostile to hope and antithetical to genuine faith, and they breed every other imaginable kind of wickedness.
In other words, "The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Greed is a form of covetousness; and worry is an expression of unbelief. The two sins are always found in tandem, and they are the very essence of an earth-bound perspectivethe polar opposite of a biblical world-view. In Jesus' own words, "You cannot serve God and [mammon]" (Matthew 6:24).
Therefore, Jesus says, we must let go of every vestige of mammon-worship. Stop hoarding earthly and material treasures, and invest our resources in heavenly things: "Do not 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 do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vv. 19-21).
The key to Jesus' whole point is that last phrase. What you invest in is what you truly love. Where you put your treasure not only reflects where your heart is, but to a very large degree it determines what you think about, what you care about, and whom you serve. Invest your resources in earthly mammon, and you indenture yourself as a slave to a world-system that is hostile to God and exists under His condemnation. There is no more sure way to cut yourself off from God's blessing and incur His wrath (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15).
The love of material things further undermines peace because it foments another sin: worry. That's why immediately after saying we cannot serve both God and mammon, Jesus says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on" (Matthew 6:25).
Worry is the natural and inevitable by-product of setting one's affections on earthly things. It ought to be obvious that the end of all earthly things is destruction, whether by the slow decay of moth and rust, or rapidly by sudden loss. In either case, the end will surely be the same.
How can anyone not worry who knows with absolute certainty that decay and ruin will be the inevitable finale of everything he holds most dear? Obviously, then, true peace is possible only for those whose driving affections are not worldly and materialistic, but spiritual, heavenly, and eternal.
Be sure you understand what is forbidden in Matthew 6:25-33. It's worry, not planning for the future per se. Some people misuse this passage to argue that it is sinful for Christians to buy insurance, or to have savings accounts, or take any measures whatsoever to build a hedge against future calamity. They would rule out all kinds of disaster preparation, earthquake readiness kits, or any kind of preparation for the future.
Can I be blunt? That's a foolish interpretation of this passage. Christ isn't forbidding normal, prudent, sensible, means of being prepared for possible future disaster. True biblical wisdom, not to mention common sense, teaches us that it is wrong and sinfully foolish not to make reasonable preparations for such contingencies. In some cases that is even the law of the land.
Remember that Joseph in the Old Testament rose to a position of prominence in Egypt because he led the nation to store enough grain to see them through seven years of famine. He was blessed by God with the foresight to prepare for hard times. God Himself revealed to Joseph that those years of famine were coming, and God through His providence gave him the wisdom to know how to prepare for it.
We're supposed to make reasonable preparations like that. In Proverbs 27:23-24, Solomon tells his son, "Pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations." He counsels him to plan and work diligently, to be prudent in his business dealings, to care for the welfare of his flocks and fieldsso that he has food and sustenance for future contingencies. Proverbs 6:6-8 likewise tell us to take a lesson from the ant, who stores food in the summer to prepare for the harsh winter.
Those are common-sense, strategic preparations that insure us against disaster, and it is right for us to take such measures. It would be foolish to ignore the future so much that we neglect to prepare for it. Jesus said so Himself: "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30). He went on to say that it would be foolishly imprudent for a king to go to war without having counted the cost.
So when Jesus says "do not be worried about your life" in the Sermon on the Mount, He is not instructing us to live with no hedge whatsoever against possible disaster. He's not forbidding us to take out insurance in case something goes wrong. He's not saying it is wrong to prepare for hard times. He's not ruling out wise provisions for possible disasters.
What Jesus forbids is the sort of worry that is rooted in a love of things. Don't get so caught up with hedging against future disaster that you pour all your energy and resources into an earthly storehouse. Don't fret about the future. Don't become preoccupied with what may go wrong tomorrow. And above all, do not cultivate a love of material things. Don't sell yourself into the service of mammon.
In other words, get your priorities straight, and you will have true peace. Heaven is also the storehouse where your best resources should be invested. You can have true peace if that is where you are keeping your treasure. And if it is notif you are more concerned about preparing for your retirement or for next year's vacation than you are with preparing for heaventhen your heart is in the wrong place. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (v. 21).
If your heart is in the right place, you will certainly have peace, because "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).