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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Article by David Hall

The Heart and the World

July 30, 2015 •

Read Matthew 6:19-34

The heart is undeniably the controlling faculty in our life. In biblical theology the heart—not the mind, nor the body—is depicted as control central of the human being. Study the Psalms sometime to see how the heart stands for the sum of the whole person.

Jesus says (Mt. 6:21) for where your (ambition) is, there you will also indubitably find your heart. By that he means that the things we really value and pursue—in order to store up—are inwardly motivated by our hearts.

The English word for treasure is from the Greek word—thesaura (A thesaurus is a storehouse of words). A thesaurus (treasure) is a rich word used of:

The gifts of the wise men (Mt. 2:11);

  • “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field” (Mt. 13:44);
  • Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).

Jesus wants us to admit that we do value things. Our ambitions trek along the path toward our values. The heart sets the values and our ambitions pursue these. Remember (from previous posts) there are two possible sets of these values or ambitions—God or Mammon. Your life’s outcome depends on which one of these your heart is targeting.

In Matthew 6:22-23, there is a simple illustration of this principle—the heart as controlling faculty in our life. The illustration of the eye as the window to the heart. “The eye,” wrote William Barclay, “is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body. The color and state of a window decide what light gets into a room. If the window is clear. . . the light will come flooding into the room and will illuminate every corner of it. If the glass of the window is dirty or obscure the light will be hindered and the room will not be lit up. The amount of light which gets into any room depends on the state of the window.”[1] So a person’s spiritual state depends on their eye-window. Again, we have two possible types of windows

  1. Verse 22: If eye is single, then it allows in much light and whole life is full of light. That is, if our values or ambitions are Godly rather than Mammon-ly then our whole life will be affected by the heart.
  2. Verse 23: But if eyes are bad then correspondingly, the whole body will be dark. If our ambitions are toward Mammon then our darkness will be great.

This refers to a “singleness in purpose or undivided, unswerving loyalty to the values of the kingdom of God. Just as our eye affects our whole body, so our ambition affects our whole life.” (Stott) Is your ambition toward light or darkness? What we value tugs at our minds and emotions; it consumes your time with planning, day-dreaming, and effort to achieve. If one wants above all else to make a lot of money, buy an extravagant house, pursue leisure as an idol, destroy all business competitors, dominate in the public square, or tower over ministerial rivals, his heart can enshrine another deity. Even with things that are created to be good, the kingdom can lose its focus when hearts stray.

So Jesus’ argument in these verses is:

  1. It is impossible to serve two masters simultaneously.
  2. Your ambition really serves your heart.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore set your heart on Heavenly Treasures (Col. 3:1-3).

Jesus’ injunction and exhortation, the main principle, is given in vss. 19-20, and it concerns the necessity of next-worldly orientation.

John Stott put it well in The Christian Counterculture: “What Jesus forbids his followers is the selfish accumulation of goods (NB ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth’); extravagant and luxurious living; the hardheartedness which does not feel the colossal need of the world’s under-privileged people; the foolish fantasy that a person’s life consists in the abundance of his possessions; and the materialism which tethers our hearts to the earth.”

Two reasons are given as to why we should avoid this: (1) all natural elements inevitably decay or disintegrate—even the best; and (2) theft occurs in our fallen world.

“Thief” (the Greek klepto turns up in our word kleptomaniac) is the colorful word that refers to a digging through of a clay wall in a Palestinian home to enter illegally. Thus a thief would break in to steal; any home was vulnerable to a thief with the right tool.

Several kinds of treasures are put on the list as perishable: so Jesus says, even common sense argues against worldly ambition. Don’t lay up treasures that have no permanence. Don’t exhaust yourself to secure non-enduring, transient, temporal valuables that are perishable or could somehow be lost.

Jesus is recommending investments here and how we spend our days. And our Lord tells us to set our hearts on things that last—not on things that deteriorate.

On which is your heart set? Can you be honest with yourself and with your Lord about your answer?

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 186.


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