““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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Gospel of Matthew 6:19~21
For me this verse is at first seemingly very simple. Earthly treasures do not last, heavenly treasures do.
In other words, the most important things in life are not those that are temporary. Money goes away, physical treasures rust and decay, bodies age; however, loving others, devoting time to those who cannot repay you, and repenting from sin provide an eternal reward (one that might not be entirely seen while on Earth). We are commanded here to not focus on the temporary, but on the eternal. Why invest all your focus in things designed to wear out instead of things designed to bring permanent increase and blessing?
In this same sermon, Jesus continues with:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 3But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”Gospel of Matthew 6:25~33
This expands the simple concept of investing in eternal things instead of temporal things to the concept that God will care for your temporal needs if you focus in on the eternal ones.
That takes a lot of trust!
It’s not saying that we must never seek or invest in mundane things, but that we need to first seek the heavenly – put God first. We still need to cut the grass and save a portion of our wages for the future. But did we spend time in prayer today as well as in cutting the grass? Did we invest money and time in service to others less fortunate before we budgeted what we had to save? Or did we go to the chores first and only if there was enough time, sit down and pray? Did we pay ourselves first, then the bills, then get groceries, and only if there was any time or money left after that, give to the poor out of the leftovers?
If we read through the Old Testament, we can see that God does not want our leftovers. Seems to me a constant theme through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. All these laws about what kind of sacrifice to give for which thing all have in common the idea of the best of the heard or the first fruits of the crops.
After all this is the God who created everything and is therefore not really in need of anything – especially second-hand things left over from what He granted us or gave us the strength to produce in the first place. We don’t give back to God because He needs it to change the world or because He is lacking in anything. We are to give to God the very best of what we have as an act of sacrifice and trust.
It is a sacrifice, because if we give away our best then we don’t have it to use on ourselves or to direct as we wish. It involves trust because if we give away our best then we are relying on God to keep His promises to add to us what we need instead of using our strength to try to gain it for ourselves.
Where is our focus? Is it God first? Or is it the mundane and material things that rust and decay? Honestly, I tend to focus on those human and physical things. I want money to pay bills, effect home repair, pay for kids’ college, buy food, keep the heat on. I spend far more time focusing on pleasure or work than on reading the Bible or prayer. When looking for a job, I first consider the salary and hours involved before I consider the impact for Christ. According to Jesus’ sermon in Matthew, this is all putting the cart before the horse!
Human wisdom says that we deserve happiness, need to pay ourselves first, have to care for our needs so that we can care for the needs of others. But Jesus is telling us to forgo those things and seek Him first – commanding us really. Then He tells us that God will add to us (note this is not an earned wage) the things that we need – food, clothing, shelter, purpose, meaning, satisfaction, joy, peace, belonging, love.
How very interesting that when we invest in heavenly things, the things of this earth grow strangely dim.