“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:19-24
Imagine you were driving on a two lane road and got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes or more and your GPS gave no hope of the traffic dissipating soon. If you knew other friends or family members were headed the same direction, you would most likely call and warn them to turn around and go another direction.
In this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a warning to those who are listening – a warning to turn and go a different direction, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…“ We may not like this warning, but this is Jesus’ way of telling us that He knows reality, understands what’s ahead, and knows what is true. You can store things here, but they can be destroyed. You can lock things up to protect them, but thieves can still steal them away. But treasures stored in heaven can never be taken away.
There is a consistent theme in the Bible. You were created for more than just this world, but for another world as well. It’s not that this world doesn’t matter or you shouldn’t have nice things, but when you think about this life, if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you recognize that this life isn’t everything. This is the great hope of the Christian faith. No matter what incredible difficulties you face, you know the brokenness of this world isn’t everything. You have a treasure beyond this life.
We don’t like to talk about money, but money matters to everybody. Jesus tells us to store our treasure in heaven, where it will last. It’s significant that Jesus tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) We often think of that phrase in reverse. We think that where we put our treasure shows where our heart is. In actuality, wherever we put our treasure, our heart will follow. What you value with your money, your heart will start to value even more.
Jesus takes it further to define the difference between being healthy and unhealthy in reference to our generosity. If you are generous, then you’re healthy, but being stingy is unhealthy. You may think you can serve both God and money, but it’s not really possible to serve two masters. One you will serve and one you will despise.
Most of us think that we need more in our pile to navigate life and take care of every need. Randy Alcorn gives an example of how fleeting treasures in this world can be in his book, The Treasure Principle. If you had amassed large sums of confederate money during the Civil War, at the end of the war, it would be best to divest quickly, because soon it would be worthless. This is a good analogy for the words of Jesus. As life on this earth comes to an end, all we have amassed in our pile will be of no value in the life to come.
That’s often a hard concept to grasp in the here and now because we are bombarded with the message that we need a bigger pile to have security, status, and satisfaction. But Jesus warns us to use it for something greater because one day it will be gone. Theologian Martin Luther said it succinctly, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hand, I still possess.” When we are wise with our resources, we invest them in eternity, not just the here and now.
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist known for inventing dynamite. In 1888, his brother Ludwig died. He was saddened by his brother’s death, but shocked when a newspaper confused the two brothers. The headline read, The Merchant of Death is Dead. He was dismayed that his life was characterized by death and destruction. He made a decision that day that his life would count for something more – for something positive. He decided to give away all the money he had earned to fund research and to give prizes to people who were doing things to contribute to the good of society. Today Alfred Nobel is know longer known as the Merchant of Death and more widely known as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel looked ahead and wanted to do something more important with his life.
The Nobel Peace Prize, as good as it is, is not as good as placing your treasure in something that goes beyond this world. If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, your ultimate treasure is not in this world. Your ultimate treasure is found in something greater. It’s not about the biggest pile. It’s about putting it forward to something that makes an eternal difference.