SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10, 2013
LAY UP YOUR TREASURE IN HEAVEN (1)
‘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’ Matt. 6:19-21.
When we think of the word ‘treasure’, we generally think of wealth, gold, jewels, chests and allied things. Treasure in Jesus’ day would not have been thought of any differently. Think of Jesus’ parable on ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’ (Matt. 13: 44). The treasure is of such worth that the man is willing to give everything in order to possess it. In this analogy, it is alright for the man to be greedy because he is greedy for the kingdom of heaven. The idea of a “treasure,” as something of surpassing value, is timeless and universal.
In today’s text Jesus tells us not to lay up treasure here, but to lay up treasure in heaven. In heaven our treasure is permanent, as compared with earthly treasures, which are temporary and transitory.
Jesus said to His disciples: ‘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 destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon’ (Matthew 6:19-24).
First, let’s consider what Jesus means by our ‘treasures.’ The word itself (thãsouros) can refer to anything that we might store up as precious to ourselves. But it can also refer to the place in which we keep that which is precious to us – that is, as a ‘storehouse’ or a ‘treasury’ (Matthew 12:35). I believe that, in verses 19-20, Jesus is using the word in the sense of the things that we store up as precious to ourselves; but that, in this verse, Jesus is using the word in the sense of a ‘storehouse’ or ‘treasury’. He’s talking to us about where it is that we keep that which is most precious to ourselves. And of course, in speaking of the place in which our treasures are stored, He is also speaking – by implication – of the treasures themselves.
And let’s consider what Jesus means by our ‘hearts’. He obviously means more than simply the muscle that pumps in our chests. He is speaking of the very centre of our being – the seat of our emotions, our wishes, and our will. He is speaking of that in us that longs and desires after something. He is speaking of that in us, which loves a ‘treasure’ so much that it moves our entire being to seek after it.
If our treasure is of earthly things and is kept in earthly treasuries, then the longings of our hearts will never rise higher than the earth. And if our treasure is of spiritual things and is kept in heavenly places, then our hearts will be in heaven even though we ourselves are still walking upon this world.
And that leads me to a suggestion of what our ‘treasure’ is supposed to be. Our treasure is to be – above all else – Jesus Himself. He Himself is to be our rich treasure. The psalmist, in Psalm 73, prayed to God and said, ‘whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides You’ (Ps. 73:25).
And the point is that, when Jesus is our ‘treasure’, and because He – our treasure – is in heaven, then our hearts are naturally inclined towards the place where He is. When He’s our treasure in heaven, then our hearts move us to seek after Him above all else, as our greatest desire on earth. King David said it very well in Psalm 27, when he wrote, ‘One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple’ (Psalm 27:4). This verse, then, gives us the key to all that Jesus is telling us in this passage. It’s a basic principle of life. ‘. . . Where your treasure is [that is, that place in which is kept that which you most value], there your heart [your devotion, your longing, your desire, the compass-needle of your life] will be also.’
So then, where does your heart indicate that your real treasure is kept? Does it point towards heaven? Or does it point toward earth?VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.