“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.
This is a passage that I have been struggling with since May to write about. It has proven difficult because this is one of the messages that I struggle the most with in my own life. The passage is pretty straight forward. So I hope to present it briefly and let it have its full effect.
First thing to notice is that this is not just a piece of advice, or a truism that will help us put our lives into perspective. This is an imperative. Jesus beginning in chapter 5 and going through Chapter 7 of Matthew is giving his definitive instruction on what his community of believers should look like. We should understand this verse in that light. This is Jesus’ authoritative teaching on how we should look at the accumulation of wealth.
But Before I get to what the passage says, let’s talk very briefly about what it doesn’t say. Some have tried to make this about us not storing up treasures for “ourselves” however this doesn’t fit because we are told to store up treasures for “ourselves” in the next verse. The parallelism is very purposeful. Next, people point to the command, and say that it is about “storing” or hoarding treasure. Again, however, this exactly what we are told to do in the next verse. This understanding of these verses is inadequate.
Now, on to what Jesus does say. It is very clear that Jesus is concerned with two things:
1) That you make a smart decision for “yourself.” He points out very clearly that thing here on earth do not last, and we will lose them all at some point. It is pointless to store up things that you will only lose. He points us to a treasure that doesn’t rot, that you can not lose. He wants you to do what is in your best interest, and that is to be concerned with the treasure in heaven.
1) Jesus is concerned with your heart. The main reason that Jesus is concerned with where we store our treasure is because it indicates where our passion, affections are. Not only is it indicator, but according to Jesus, where we store our treasure is determinative to the location of our heart. Treasure on earth only gets in the way of our love for Jesus. For a practical example of how it works look at the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He was concerned with doing everything right, but would not give up his wealth to follow Jesus. If we focus our attention on things earth, we will not focus on Jesus, and he insist on having your whole heart (See 6:24 and 10:37).
So what does this mean to us, and how should it affect the way that we pursue earthly things? Some would argue that as long as we are not hoarding up treasures that distract us from Jesus we are okay. However, when I look at the greater context I am not so sure.
Just following this passage in Matthew 6:25 Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Jesus isn’t talking here about hoarding, he is talking about not being concerned with what we would call the basics of life. He isn’t talking about the iPhone 3GS or a new flat screen (my particular obsessions). He is talking about food, clothing, and our very lives. He has made a radical to give it all up for him.
Jesus did not come to make you rich, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Jesus came to rescue you from your sin, and a debt that you could not pay. He came that He might have your whole heart. He did not come so that you could go on living your life as before, and just adding him on as a side item.
A heart that is focused on Jesus as its treasure is willing to not even worry about the necessities of life. It has founds its treasure and needs no other.