19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Three gold nuggets of wisdom.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Gold Nugget #1: Don’t focus on temporary treasures
The last three topics Jesus spent time on in His Sermon on the Mount had to do with setting your focus on the right things and acting out of pure motives: seeking God’s approval instead of the attention of other people.
This section goes right along with that. Instead of focusing on the temporary treasures of this world, we should focus on the eternal rewards that God can give.
After all, earthly treasures won’t last forever – and in God’s eyes, they’re not important.
King Solomon, one of the wealthiest men in the Bible, understood this and wrote many proverbs about riches, including this one:
Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will your set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
Don’t set your focus on riches, because they’re fleeting. And additionally, they don’t determine your worth.
In Luke’s Gospel account, we read the following parable:
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.”
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This parable is intriguing because the guy doesn’t seem to be doing anything wrong. He’s been blessed with so much wealth he doesn’t have room for it all, so he makes plans to build greater barns so he’ll have enough room.
Sounds like a normal thought process, doesn’t it? Something that we’d think to do ourselves?
But it seems that this man’s focus was strictly on his earthly possessions, and God called that foolish. That very night, this man was going to die, and then what would become of all his accumulated wealth? It wouldn’t come with him to the grave, and he had no eternal rewards awaiting him. In death, he would lose everything and gain nothing.
Will that be true of us?
Most of the time, whether we like it or not, we spend our whole lives pursuing money. We go to school, so we can get jobs, so that we can make money. We try to get the good jobs so that we have more money, which we then save or spend for our pleasure. And then we retire and spend the money that we have left.
But there is so much more to life than this!
Life is more than just working for earthly rewards that can’t come with us when we die!
As Job famously stated after his great wealth disappeared in a single day, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (Job 1:21).
Our grades & degrees, salaries & bonuses, houses, clothes, pets, awards & trophies, hobbies – everything that we own or create – will not last beyond this life. But too often, those are the only things we’re pursuing.
Gold Nugget #2: Lay up treasures in heaven
While we’re not supposed to focus on earthly treasures that don’t last, we are supposed to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. In other words, don’t waste your entire life trying to find a tin can of cheap plastic jewels, when you have a map that leads to a boatload of real gold!
But in practical terms, what does that really mean, to lay up treasures in heaven?
Well, I think we get some huge clues from the context of this passage. Immediately prior to this, Jesus said that if we did our charitable deeds, prayers, and fasting with the right motivations, then God would reward us. Hmm…. could that reward be heavenly treasure?
Later, in 1 Timothy, Paul gave the following instructions to the rich:
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
(1 Tim. 6:17-19, emphasis added)
So as we do good and use our time, talents, and resources unselfishly, we store up “a good foundation” for the time to come. So that probably answers at least part of the question of how we lay up the treasure.
But what is the treasure?
We’re not specifically told, but there are other Scriptures that make references to this idea of “heavenly treasure” too.
For example, Paul says we are blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), and prays that our eyes would be enlightened to know “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). As believers, we are adopted as children of God, “and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), awaiting an inheritance that we will share with Jesus someday.
Whatever it is, even if it’s simply being in the presence of the LORD forever, our eternal reward will be far greater than anything this world can offer!
Gold Nugget #3: Your Heart is with your Treasure
If you want to know whether your heart is in the right place, you’ll need to know what your treasure is. Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
So what is most important to you?
Pursuing the things of the world, or the things of the LORD?
The truth is, we get distracted pretty easily. We get focused on our own pursuits: school, work, relationships, hobbies. We allow these and other things to fill our minds, capture our hearts, and ultimately keep us so busy that we forget about what’s really important. Not to say those things are always bad – but even good things can become a distraction.
Students: are you more worried about earning an A+ in your classes than you are about earning favor in God’s eyes?
Professionals: are you more concerned about salaries, profits, or pie charts than you are about sharing the light of Christ?
Parents: do you spend more time and effort investing into your earthly homes and landscapes than you do building up your family and leading them in the ways of the LORD?
Everyone: what is the One Person or Thing that you pursue the most diligently and wholeheartedly? What treasure, if taken away from you, would make you feel the poorest?
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
(1 John 2:15-17)