Enduring Treasures (Matthew 6:19-21)
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, ²⁰but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. ²¹For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21
A recent visit to an estate planning lawyer has got me thinking about Jesus’ admonition in the Sermon on the Mount, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Our assets are meager compared to most. Still, we think it's wise to manage what we have for our future in this world, and perhaps for the benefit of others when the time comes that God calls us to His eternal presence. Is Jesus suggesting a different wisdom in these verses? Let’s look.
At first glance, Jesus’ words seem like a command: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Certainly there is some force and intentionality in these words. However, I think Jesus’ intent is in the comparison he makes. We ought to try not to overlook the conjunctions (or in this case, the disjunction) included in God’s Word. Yes Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” but that is not all he says. He makes this comparison: “But, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
What is the same in each phrase is the activity: laying up treasures. What is compared are earth and heaven, the storage locations, if you will, for each effort. Laying up treasures is a good thing, a desirable activity. What you want to pay attention to is where you are storing them. On earth, the best you can hope for is a temporary benefit accompanied by a standing burden of risk. On earth treasures decay, moths eat, thieves steal. On earth, worry accompanies wealth. But not so in heaven. And that's Jesus’ point.
Paul wrote (Ephesians 2:10) that believers are God’s own “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Life activities that share the very characteristics of God (“good”) comprise the permanent, incorruptible treasures of which Jesus speaks. Activities like faith, trust, God-reliance rather than self-reliance, humility, love of God and love of neighbor, and obedience, are treasures with heavenly endurance. Lay up these treasures, Jesus says. Devote yourself more to gaining what has eternal value and permanence than to what fades, falls away, or is limited by time. If you are going to lay up anything, if you are going to work to provide for your future, make sure you are providing for the truly “long term,” the eternal.
Think about how people save for the future in this world. What efforts can we make to save for eternity?
Consider your bank and investment account values, and the time and effort spent to amass whatever wealth you have. Have you made a proportional effort for your eternal accounts?
What could you do to establish an eternal priority over any temporal priorities you recognize in your life?
Dale McIntire (D.Min, Bethel Theological Seminary) has pastored Cornerstone Community Church for 28 years and is the author of Catching the Wind: A Guide for Interpreting Ecclesiastes. He is married to the originator of the Fighter Verses concept, Linda Fregeau McIntire. They share a like zeal for infusing the next generation with love for God’s Word.