‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store 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 your heart will be also.
‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
“……… where moth and rust consume”
According to the Bible the moth isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a curse. Psalms, Isaiah, Job, Matthew and Luke are unanimous in their verdicts. Not a good name for a minister of religion, but you have to live with what you are given. When I first went up to Oxford, the College thought they might put P Moth and B Rust on the same staircase. They relented at the last minute – perhaps the curse worried them. My tutor tried to persuade me to preach on “Heaven, where there is no moth” (in some translations of the Psalms), but I had spent my childhood listening to every moth-joke in the book and wasn’t falling for that one.
To be “moth-eaten”, if not a curse, was certainly a disgrace. I well remember the strong smell of mothballs every time the wardrobe was opened. We liked to protect our clothes from the biblical curse.
Jesus regarded material possessions as an encumbrance and money as a temptation. He turned his back on both. He knew how much of our time and energy they took up. He knew the trouble and strife they created and what grief lack of them brought. How strange then that the only physical possession he left was the macabre and blood-stained linen robe he wore. How fitting that the robe should be divided amongst the soldiers who killed him, in due time to be moth-eaten and discarded. He left us nothing, except love; true to his word.
Material possessions and personal wealth have always hindered the Gospel. The poor will always be with us as long as the rich prosper. But to what purpose? We really can’t take them with us, so leave them to the moths and the rust. We have to learn the humility of having nothing except His love, that will not let us go, which neither moth nor rust can destroy.
God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are sufficient for me. I cannot ask anything less to be worthy of you. If I were to asl less, I should always be in want. In you alone do I have all.
The Oxford Cycle of Prayer
The Rev’d Peter Moth, retired minister and broadcaster, St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.