Jesus in Matthew 6 is not giving attention to the luxuries of life. He does not in this passage point our attention to some things, but “all these things.” Jesus in this context has discussed material possessions as a potential idol that is worshiped and served. In verse 24, Jesus tells of the impossibility of serving two gods. We cannot divide our allegiance between two gods.
Jesus states clearly, “for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (6:24). There is no middle ground. Religiously we cannot occupy middle ground. Religion is a “love” or “hate” relationship.
Of all that could be named as an illustration of “another god” that could have been named, Jesus, in this verse, said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon means “money and what money can buy, possessions.” Perhaps man’s greatest threat to idolatry is here, in money and possessions. Perhaps the lure of materialism is man’s greatest weakness. Man needs to know of the danger of “these things.” Man needs to know that materialism is not something to be shrugged off as if it does not matter.
Materialism is idolatry! Possessions can keep us out of heaven. “Covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Calvin accurately wrote, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority.” According to Jesus in Matthew 6, our treasure is either in heaven or on earth, our life is either full of light or darkness, our master is either God or mammon. This is not our only warning about the lure of possessions.
A familiar parable begins with these words of warning and the theme of the parable, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). In the parable of the rich, young ruler, we are introduced to a prospering young man. His crops had been so abundant that he had no place to store them. His solution to the problem was to pull down his barns and build bigger ones. His attitude was, “take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (12:19) because his life was good for many years to come because of the quantity of his possessions. He believed that his life was determined by things. He was wrong. God corrected his impression, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (12:19-21). Paul points us to the same danger, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10).
In another familiar parable the sower sows seed in thorny ground. Jesus interprets this portion of the parable for us. He states, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). Notice carefully that the seed which is the Word of God is sown into the heart where it is eventually “choked” by the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life.” It is interesting to observe here that the word for worry comes from an old German word which means “to choke, to strangle.” Worry usually has to do with these very things, the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. We are physically affected by worry so we choke and strangle. These same things can affect us spiritually in a similar way. The growth of God’s Word in our lives is choked by the “cares, and riches and pleasures of this life.”
When this life becomes more important to us than the life which is to come then the process of choking has begun. Christ here is not speaking of the extras, the luxuries of life. The questions He gives suggest the very essentials of life can become so important to us that they can keep us from being saved. His questions have to do with food, drink, and clothing. If we can place too much importance on these things, then how much more dangerous are the “wants” of life available to us.