In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) NIV
A number of years ago, one of my best friends was apprehensive just before his wedding. He wasn’t troubled by the usual pre-wedding jitters. His concern was that he knew he’d eventually have children, and that they would play with and damage, his Mickey Mouse collectables and books. However, once his boys were born he treasured them more than he ever treasured his things. When the inevitable happened and his toys fell prey to his sons’ play he was not as troubled as he anticipated. He learned the world’s treasures can be destroyed not just by moth, decay and thieves but also little fingers.
Everyone has treasures. We give our heart, attention and desire to our treasures. Jesus says everyone lives in either verse 19 or 20.
Let’s consider for a moment the way Jesus phrases this passage. Our translations are good, but the nuances of the verses are difficult to convey in a readable translation. Jesus’ words at the start of both verses 19 and 20 are commands. Matthew 6:19 carries more the flavor of “Stop laying up for yourselves treasures on earth”. Also, the phrase “lay up for yourselves” in both verses 19 and 20 means gathering up and storing treasure. So, we could translate verses 19 as “Stop treasuring the world’s treasures,” and 20 as “Rather, treasure the treasures in heaven.”
Jesus’ first command is to stop living with the goal of amassing earthly treasures. These don’t last in this world, and, as the saying goes, you can’t take any of it with you. The world’s treasures cannot give us a better life. Jesus is not opposed to possessions. He is opposed to them ruling our lives. He is opposed to them being used improperly. He is opposed to us living and dying with empty lives because we did not understand treasure. Who would place their entire life savings in an investment that is 100% guaranteed to fail and cost them everything?
Jesus’ second command is to treasure heaven’s treasures. We need to learn to treasure what God does. We treasure our relationship with the Lord more than anything. We treasure his values, those whom he has given us in our lives, the gifts he has given, the life he has given, and our ability to use our goods for God’s purposes and glory. In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard comments on Galatians 6:7-10 “This is, precisely, how we deposit treasures in heaven on a daily, hourly basis.” p 208. Please take the time to read Paul’s comments.
Jesus tells us at the end of this section that the treasures we pursue reveal our hearts. We learn from Jesus again that our hearts are the true drivers for our actions. Whatever holds your heart, holds your focus and attention and time and resources.
How do we do this?
- Read scripture to learn more about God’s values
- Talk with other Christians about this
- Pray and ask the Lord to teach you and give you courage to obey Jesus’ commands
- Reject the temptation to place the world’s treasures above God’s
- Be ready to use your possessions as the Lord directs
- Conduct an inventory on how you spend your time, money, and other resources
- Invest your time and energy in what God values
May the Lord’s treasures be the ones we hold in our hearts.