By Anthony Casperson

Once there was a dragon named Filgaxirothsta…Um, let’s just call him Fil.

The adolescent dragon glanced at the land coursing far below, noticing that the villagers who’d been chasing him finally faded out of sight. He didn’t understand why they were so upset over a couple of sheep who roamed in the middle of nowhere, far away from their shepherds. But what he did know is that this was his moment to find a place to hide. And the mountains just ahead would be filled with large caverns.

A hole—large enough to let an ancient dragon through—gaped among the tops of the highest peaks. Any person who climbed up to that perch would be easy pickings, if Fil saw them reach it. Certainly, it would deter the shepherds.

Fil landed and checked the surrounding mountains. When we was sure that no one saw his hideout, he delved further into the cavern. But slowed almost immediately, as the scent of another dragon registered in his nostrils.

This was the lair of another dragon.

Lowering himself as flat as he could, Fil crept further in. More scents surrounded him. Blood. Iron. Smoke. And…was that the tang of gold? Part of him wanted to flee before the other dragon caught his scent, but the call of treasure overpowered that thought.

Step by step, Fil crept toward the hoard’s home. The gleam of gold caught his eye as he rounded a corner. But the draconic scales just after them halted his progress. He waited for the roar. The flames sure to engulf the air ahead of him. Maybe if he groveled well enough, the other dragon might take pity on him.

Probably not, but that was the best he could hope for.

Only, the scales didn’t move. There was no roar. No fire. No chase. Not even the tinkle of gold shifting around the piles. Another cautious step forward let him take in the wound on the other dragon’s side. One of those toothpicks that people called swords had sliced deep into her torso. A deadly blow.

Fil’s head shot around, watching for the perpetrators. The other dragon hadn’t been dead for more than a day. So, the slayers could be close. And Fil was a much smaller dragon.

But an investigation of the area showed him that the smallest of the piles had been disturbed. Dislocated, as if some had been drawn into a satchel and taken away. The slayers were treasure hunters who’d survived a dragon and took whatever they could carry from the hoard. They were gone, but could return any moment.

This treasure belonged to no one anymore. No, it belonged to him. This was now Filgaxi…Fil’s treasure-filled lair. And he’d have to defend it against the slayers who knew its location, as well as any other would-be thieves.

For the first few hours, he leapt between the gilded mounds. Admired a few crowns that he’d placed on his fingers like rings. And practiced his most terrifying snarls at imagined intruders. But the possibility of those slayers’ return echoed in the back of his mind. A thought that kept our little draconic squatter from fully enjoying his treasure as the days and weeks passed.

At night, every tiny sound woke him. Was this the moment that a blade caught him unawares? And during the day, his focus continued to point at the entrance. He waited for slayers who would never come, because little did he know that a band of thieves had fallen upon the slayers not more than a mile away from the mountain range. Even thieves can get robbed.

When hunger made his stomach growl, Fil worried after his treasure. What if treasure hunters got to his hoard while he was away? Could he afford even one ounce of his gold to be taken? It was his—even though a dragon would never be able to spend it on anything. Don’t ask me why dragons value something that actually has very little use for them. You’d have to ask one of them—maybe they’d answer you before burning you to a crisp—if you groveled well enough.

The short excursions out of his lair weren’t enough to sate Fil’s hunger. And he certainly wasn’t going to eat the rotting corpse of the lair’s previous owner. But he needed to stay near his treasure hoard. Had to keep it safe. It was the most important thing in the world to him.

While weeks turned to months, the dragon’s golden obsession was the only thing that grew in him. Weakened muscles and tired eyes stood a faltering vigil as they focused on that entrance. Waiting for thieves that he couldn’t allow to take even one coin of his beloved hoard.

Later, in the darkness of exhaustion, voices nearly passed without recognition. Thieves had come. Fil tried to rise, but his atrophied body crumbled under him. All he could do was blink and breathe heavily at the pair of shepherds who appeared before him. A warm wheeze all that escaped Fil’s mouth.

One shepherd poked him with their staff. Fil moaned, but couldn’t do anything about it. The other pulled out the tiniest little sword—no, it was a dagger—and approached the nearly-dead dragon. Poke after poke, they tried to finish the job. All the while the shepherd shouted, “This is for fluffy!”

Alright, I got a little carried away with the introduction. But the story does illustrate the main point of our passage for this blog in our “Summer on the Mount” series. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus preaches about the fact that the treasure we focus on dictates the direction of our lives.

In verse 19, he tells us to not store up treasure on the earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves can break in and steal. When I noticed that the Greek for “don’t lay up for yourselves treasures” could be translated as “don’t hoard your hoards,” I knew that the intro would have to be about a dragon. Because where else do you hear about hoards?

But do notice that it’s not the act of collecting treasure—or hoarding it—that Jesus reprimands. In verse 20, he tells us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. He endorses a heavenly hoard. So, it’s the type of treasure that we value that’s important. The treasure which is best is the one that’s useful for our spiritual lives. And that’s mostly because this treasure is eternal.

When what we treasure is the glory of God, our own spiritual growth, and the spiritual betterment of others, that’s something that no one can take away from us. And it won’t be consumed to nothingness as we go about our daily lives.

But more than that, where our treasure is, there will be our continual focus. When we treasure the things of this earth, we’ll end up ever-worried about how to protect it. How to keep it for ourselves. We’ll do anything to make sure it isn’t wasted, even if that means we waste away ourselves, or our relationships waste away.

When we’re worried about rot or loss or theft, then rot and loss and theft will become the chorus of our lives.

However, when we treasure the things of heaven—the things that God values—then we can focus on the God who gives. The One who will never waste away or disappear on us. We can be generous with our time and energy, willing to sacrifice for others just as he sacrificed himself for us. We can be worried about the work of God, and thus live in line with it.

Verses 22-23 put it another way. When our eye is healthy—or as a better translation could be, when our eye is singly focused without many agendas—then our body will be filled with light. We’ll have the goodness of God, his glory, his light fill us. Our sole focus on him alone leads us to act in the light of his kingdom.

But if our eye is bad—if it tries to focus on many things, including the ungodly evils of this world that pretend to be good for us—then that darkness will keep us from fully experiencing the light of God. And in so doing, possibly miss out on enjoying his kingdom.

Why is that? Well, Jesus explains this further in verse 24. No one can serve two masters. We can’t actually have two foci. (Yes, that’s the plural of focus). No matter how hard we try to focus our attention on multiple things, one will always take precedence over the other. One will take more of our attention. And that one will be whichever we value more.

The one we treasure more will prove itself in our actions.

So, the question is, are we singly-focused on the work of God and his kingdom? Or have we let the treasures of this world become the hoard that keeps us from sleeping, eating, and enjoying life?

We can’t serve both. And the eternal treasure is definitely the better option.