William J. Stewart
“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 destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
How easy it is for us to focus on the things about us, treasures of earth. Our attention is held by them due to the simple fact that we, as they, are of a physical nature. But Jesus tells us not to concentrate on such, but rather to make our concern the treasures of heaven. Let us take time to ponder Jesus’ message.
The simplest reason we can see for not seeking after the things of this world is the uncertainty that goes along with them. He tells us those things on earth are “…where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Things of this physical world are so frail and feeble in the whole scheme of things. For us to hoard the material things of this life, and make them our constant care and concern is to deny ourselves the ability to lay up treasures in heaven. Proverbs 23:5 again demonstrates the uncertainty of worldly riches, “…for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” Job saw all the earthly wealth he had disappear in a day (Job 1:13-19). If his trust lied with his wealth, he would have been devastated, but instead he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job illustrates a truth concerning riches, that being, whether we have great riches or are poor, whatever wealth we have on earth ends at the grave. Paul states this truth again in 1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Amassing riches in this life does us nothing for the next. That is why Jesus proclaims, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) The rich fool whom Jesus talked of in Luke 12 said within himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” We could have many goods laid up for many years just as he, but as they were of no eternal consequences for the rich fool, neither shall they help us. Thus, he admonishes us to not lay up treasures on earth.
Rather, Jesus would have us lay up treasure in heaven. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus tells the rich young ruler that to lay up treasure for himself in heaven, he not only must follow the commandments of God, but to sell what he had and give to the poor. Jesus is not suggesting that we all go out and sell all we have, but that if we have excess and others are lacking, we should share what we have with them (Acts 2:45; 4:34; 2 Corinthians 8:13-14; James 2:14-20). For us to hoard the material things of this life, and make them our constant care and concern is to deny ourselves the ability to lay up treasures in heaven. Jesus desires that we use all of our being, and our material blessings to the end of doing good works. But just the doing of good works alone isn’t the key, we must watch how we do them. We mustn’t do our works to be seen by men or to receive the praise of men, for then we have our reward. Rather, they should be done before God, that He might reward us for them (Matthew 6:1-4). Jesus says of such works, which we lay up as treasure in heaven, that they are not destroyed by moth or rust and not disturbed by thieves. They are not of a corruptible nature, but incorruptible. It should be noted, the doing of good works is not a one time event, but rather a way of life. Paul writing to Titus emphasized, “…let our people learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” If we wish to lay up treasure in heaven we must continue to do good works in the sight of God as we continue in the keeping of His Word.
The last statement in our text closes out our discussion with an important point. If our aim is in collecting earthly possessions, our heart will be on the earth – of the world. But if our desire in life is to lay up treasure in heaven, our heart shall be found there as well. Therefore, I encourage you to look at the treasures you are laying up. Are they on the earth or in heaven? Let it not be seen in any of us the desire to lay up earthly treasures, but rather may we all amass great quantities of treasures which are for an eternal purpose, treasures in heaven.