What do you treasure?

When we love someone there is nothing we wouldn’t do to make our significant other happy. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, when it comes to our relationship with our father in Heaven, we are ready to offer our lives to him, except for our wallets and purses. 

I have heard somewhere about a technique Africans use to capture monkeys. They put a banana in a small-mouthed jar chained to a tree. The monkey will reach in to get the banana, and get his hand stuck the jar. Because he refuses to let go of the banana, he is captured. He could have easily set himself free if he had just been willing to let go of his prized possession.

That is a picture of many who are trying to hold to their possessions and at the same time be devoted to Christ. But  there really is only two choices when it comes to our money and our relationship to God. A good place to begin the conversation about God and possessions is found in Matthew 6:19-24.

Jesus offers three illustrations that each point to two choices concerning how we view our money. I’ll discuss the first in this article and the next two in the following. Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Two Treasures

Treasure on earth

You may not be able to observe it in the original but Jesus is doing a little play on words here (You can see in the original Greek how the two bolded words share the same verb stem:  Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυρος). He says literally do not treasure for yourselves treasures.

Treasures here simply refers to those things in your life in which are extremely valuable—your car, your house, your boat, your clothes, your food, your dog…etc. One person defines it as “that which is of exceptional value and kept safe—‘treasure, wealth, riches (Louw-Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains New York: United Bible Societies, 1996, 620).’

 But is Jesus then saying that it’s wrong to have things? To have a home. . .to have a car. . .to plan for the future and have a savings account?

Simply answered, no. But there is a parable Jesus told in Luke that helps us get a grasp on exactly what “storing up treasures on earth” looks like. It’s in Luke 12:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21).”

So what is storing up treasure on earth look like? We store up treasure on earth when we move beyond our needs and begin storing up our wants. This is admittedly a hard truth to swallow, but Jesus is telling us that our material possessions—our money—is not for the purposes of “stocking up.” But why?

Foolishness of earthly gain

Storing up earthly gain is stocking up for ourselves more and more stuff—for the sole purpose of stocking up stuff! That’s the goal! To make sure we have a lot of things in our possession! But Jesus says this is foolish! Why? Because our possessions are temporary. Observe the last part of verse 19:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal

In the time of Jesus one’s wealth was not indicated by paper currency. It was in metals (like gold and silver) and clothing. And one’s money was not stored away in a bank somewhere but was hidden in a safe place inside the house. 

Jesus says, don’t store your treasures on earth because the moths will eat away your clothing, and the metals and materials will “rust (literally “eating”) away, and thieves will (lit. “dig through” because thieves would literally dig through the walls of a house) steal your belongings. In other words, it is foolish to store up material possessions on earth because they only last a short while.

  • Our Iphones—become obsolete in weeks!
  • Our cars (we bought our first “new Car” in 2014, and after our kids got a hold of it, it was done!
  • Our bodies decay
  • Our things will eventually rot!

And yet, that’s what we tend to do. We get fixated on making sure we have enough stuff. We want the nicest things. We desire lots of money in the bank. And for what? What is it accomplishing? One day it will all be gone! Jesus says elsewhere: 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul (Mark 8:36)?

As Christians we need to realize that the things in this life are temporary. This world is not our home. Listen to how Peter describes us in 1 Peter 2:11:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).

That’s what we are: sojourners, exiles, and aliens to this world. This world is not our home! I like how the Christian Contemporary Band, Mercy Me puts it:

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place
Lord, won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow
I’ve never been more homesick than now

Treasure in Heaven 

So that brings us to the other choice: treasure in Heaven. Look at verse 22:

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Jesus calls us to a better choice—treasure in Heaven. But what does that entail?

What is treasure in heaven?

I think Craig Blomberg in his commentary on Matthew put it as good as any: 

Treasure in Heaven is the compassionate use of material resources to meet other’s physical and spiritual needs, in keeping with the priorities of God’s Kingdom (Blomberg, Craig. Matthew, 123).

The Apostle Paul helps us understand what storing our treasures in Heaven looks like:

 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Storing our treasures in Heaven is simply thinking about investing our possessions/money with a Kingdom mindset. It means asking the question:  “How can I use my money—what I have over and beyond the physical needs of my family–to invest in the work of the Kingdom? 

The wisdom of storing treasure in heaven

Now, notice the wisdom of storing treasure in Heaven opposed to the foolishness of storing our money on earth in the next part of verse 20:

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

When we store up for ourselves treasure on earth—for the here and now—we are investing in temporary and fading things. But when we invest our money in God’s Kingdom, it carries over eternal dividends! When we invest in the Kingdom God will bless us eternally in the future. I like how Mark Moore puts it:

It’s true you can’t take it with you but Jesus said you can send it ahead.

Furthermore, investing in the Kingdom means that we invest in the lives of others. We invest in seeing lives changed, people come to know Christ, people freed from the separation of God for eternity. That’s a true and lasting investment! 

The Main  Point

What’s the point to all of this? Here it is: how we view our money determines how we view our love for God. It’s right there in verse 21:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We have two choices: invest our money in ourselves or invest our money in God’s Kingdom. However, when  we spend our money one thing is inescapable—how we spend our money determines how we view our love for God. Moore is right when he goes on to say:

Our wallets are one of the best barometers of our spirits

See, when we truly understand what life in the kingdom is, we begin to view our money differently. Money is only a means by which we can help bring people into the kingdom! Therefore:

  • The car we drive
  • The boat we own
  • The house we live in
  • The savings account
  • The toys and things we have cluttering up our basement

All of these things and more are only seen as vehicles by which we can bring the Gospel to a lost and dying world—period. The way we view our stuff inevitably points to how we view God. If we store up treasures on earth we say that our wealth is more important than our worship! 

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