Locating The Real Treasure
One manifestation of the Deity and wisdom of Jesus is, with an economy of words He could penetrate through to the core of some subject or issue men needed to act on and impart maximum benefit. Jesus knew man. He knew the tendencies, the temptations and the trials of man. And even today He knows all about you; there is not anything about you Jesus doesn't know; there is nothing in your mind or life that can be hidden from Deity. Therefore, we ought to listen to everything Jesus said.
And on one occasion He said this...
"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." Matt. 6:19-21
Treasures upon earth and treasures in heaven
When we read this passage the first word that leaps out at us is "treasures." Treasures are simply things we value and therefore want to have. We want to find, work for, keep, use and share treasures.
Now let's start with the earth. There are things here on the earth we value and want to possess. There are some basic things we value and want to use - food, clothing and shelter. We value food, clothing and shelter; and we work from day to day in order to have these things. And it is considered normal and wise to buy groceries - not just for today, but for the days ahead; many of us buy groceries once a week... so we acquire nutritional treasures for the days ahead. Beyond the basics - in our age there are other things we value and want to possess - a means of transportation; various methods of communication; all kinds of things from necessary to nice. There are these things we treasure here on the earth - we work to have them and store them up for future use.
Treasures are simply things we value and therefore want to have... and while we live on the earth there are certainly treasures we have here. That's not only all right; it is necessary.
Now Jesus says there are treasures in heaven. We are all well aware of the treasures we have on earth, the things we value and need to have for our existence on earth. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER KIND OF TREASURE. Jesus says there are treasures in heaven! There are things which are more valuable than food, clothing and shelter. There are commodities far more precious than automobiles, houses and electronic devices of communication. Treasures in heaven: Things we should value and want to have, because they come from God, bring us close to God, make us better people and prepare us for a happy eternity after death!
One way to look at this is there are things we need here on the earth; things we value and want to have... BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN THIS EARTH IS GONE? What about after we die? There are things beyond this earth we ought to value and want. There are things which will exists after death and after this earth is gone - and those blessings from God are called treasures in heaven!
The more we think about this the more obvious it all is! The treasures of earth lie in the realm of places, things, material commodities, worldly values - the tangible and temporal. The treasures of heaven lie in the realm of the spiritual - forgiveness, fellowship with God, the power of prayer, the development of character and moral excellence, the love of God and brethren, the hope of heaven.
Now the whole problem that we sometimes call Materialism has to do with our fascination with earthly treasure over heavenly treasure!!
Now isn't that true? The whole problem - when we talk about materialism and worldliness - is our fascination with earthly treasure over heavenly treasure. Now that we have this in some perspective I want to get right to the Lord's prohibition: "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth...."
In the NIV the prohibitive nature of this statement is plain: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth..." I think this may be one of those cases where it is necessary to talk about what this doesn't mean. This doesn't mean - we must not think about, plan or save for the future. We are not to worry about the future - later in this chapter there is the Lord's statement, in verse 34, "do not worry about tomorrow." We are not to become distracted from present duty by some preoccupation with the future. But good stewardship and regard for the needs of your family will require some thinking, planning and saving for the future. I don't believe Jesus is telling us to ignore the needs of tomorrow; that would be unwise ... in fact, in at least two of the Lord's parables, He commends to us the action of making plans for tomorrow - the parable of the talents and the parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16.
Furthermore, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" does not mean we are forbidden to have money or earthly possessions. In fact, in fulfilling our responsibilities to ourselves, our families, our needy brethren and to support to Lord's cause - it is necessary to work, to have income and to be a possessor of earthly things. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us that it is sinful to have income, to have money and possess earthly things. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a rich man being punished merely because of his wealth nor will you find a poor man commended simply because of his destitution.
Money is not the problem, our misuse of it is. Money is not the problem, our love of it is. So we shouldn't be hindered or confused by these shallow and unjustified conclusions. When the Lord said, "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" - He was not saying that we must not think, plan or save for the future. And He was not forbidding us to have money and possess earthly things.
THE CRUX OF THIS TEACHING IS CAPTURED BY THE WORD "TREASURE."
Treasures are simply things we value, and therefore want to have. Heavenly things are so much more valuable than earthly treasure - we ought to want heavenly things and labor for heavenly things and treasure heavenly things far more than earthly things. I believe that's the point of what He is saying. He isn't saying we should not plan for our future on the earth. He isn't saving we shouldn't have money, use money or save money. This is not a statement against having a nice house or car.
This is about WHAT'S MORE VALUABLE; what's more important - and what lasts longer! Heavenly things are so much more valuable than earthly treasure - we ought to want heavenly things and labor for heavenly things and treasure heavenly things far more than earthly things.
NOW LOOK AT WHAT HE SAYS AGAIN...
"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."
If earthly treasure is your priority; if money, possessions, status and earthly treasures get most of your attention, time and energy - Jesus says, you've got a big problem! The treasures of the earth do not last; they are subject to things like the moth, the rust, or the covetous work of thieves who break in and steal. The things of this earth have no permanence; no durability ... and we cannot take them with us. Therefore it makes no sense to devote your whole heart and life to something that will soon be gone.
The better way of life is - to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. That means, invest your time and energy in something that will last. Work for money and use money wisely and plan as best you can for you and your family here on the earth. But let your main concern be the heavenly treasures which are not subject to decay, and cannot be stolen!
Thieves can break in and steal your television, your computer and your credit cards but they cannot take away your character; they cannot remove the love of Christ from your heart; they cannot take you as a hostage out of the kingdom of God! The Lord is saying to us - "If your treasures are limited to this earth... I can tell you the whole story of those things in three words --> moth, rust and theft!" That's the whole trouble with the things of this world - we can be absolutely certain that some day we will lose them !! Earthly treasure - things, persons, places, positions, favor, finances, etc. - never do last; they never fully satisfy.
These things never meet our real needs; there is always something missing.
Has this ever happened to you? You get something you have been craving and the moment you get it, there is a sense of disappointment!
For years I've wanted a pick-up truck; couldn't afford one; it wasn't convenient when our kids were growing up; then earlier this year - I got my pick-up; I had a crash my plymouth ... but I got my pick-up. I like it. It's convenient. But it doesn't fulfill the needs of my soul; and I'm over the initial excitement.
I was with a preacher friend of mind not long ago; he and his wife are now living in their dream house; they designed it and built it, in a perfect location. The house they always wanted. But he said to me one day - we will probably only be here 15 or 20 years, before we get sick and die. So many of the earthly treasures we crave and work for and get excited about are nice, but there is always something lacking, if you place those earthly things above heavenly things.
Earthly treasures are attractive, but do not satisfy; they never deliver all that we expect; and besides - There is nothing as fickle and temporary as human taste. We get something, and before we have had it very long our joy in it has begun to dull, and after a while we have lost all interest in it; isn't this why we have garages and attics full of stuff? That which occupies our interest and attention this year may bore us next year. Our earthly interests are constantly fluctuating, and this is another problem when we invest all our time and energy in this world.
If earthly treasure is your priority; if money, possessions, status and earthly treasures get most of your attention, time and energy, Jesus says, you've got a big problem!
NOW THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT - HIS STATEMENT IN VERSE 21: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Let's think about this - just in a general way: that which we treasure has great power over us! I saw a T-shirt one time with this message: If they don't have chocolate in heaven, I ain't going! Perhaps that was written to over-state a point, or simply for the sake of humor. But it illustrates what the Lord is talking about - that which we treasure has great power over us. It may be a certain kind of misbehavior that we treasure. It may be our career that we treasure; a hobby; a person; a place or thing. That which we treasure has great power over us; it draws us like a magnet; it exercises a tremendous grip and influence over us.
The obvious message is - we should treasure spiritual realities far above any kind of treasure this world has to offer. By "spiritual realities" I mean the things I mentioned earlier - THINGS LIKE, forgiveness, fellowship with God, the power of prayer, the development of character and moral excellence, the love of God and brethren, the hope of heaven; honoring Christ in all you do.
Our lives should be governed by our affection for these things made available to us through the gospel. Yes -- we have to earn money and use money; we have to have food, shelter, transportation, health care. We can have nice things and save money. But our heart ought to be controlled by the heavenly treasures - spiritual blessings which cannot be touched by the moth, the rust or the robber!
If the treasures of this earth have a grip on you; if you are killing yourself to gain more and more earthly treasure, there is a subtle coolness about spiritual things that slowly sets in and one day you find out, you've got a lot of things; but nothing of real substance that will last after death!
How absolutely tragic - when the treasures of this earth have us in their grip; and we show where our heart is.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 6.10; October 1999