How to Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Matt 6:19-24)

We are natural accumulators. We get and want more, so we get more and then want even more. This is true even at the subconscious level of the human mind. It is a proven fact that when we inhabit a space, whether it is a 2,000 sq. ft home or an 8,000 sq. ft home, we will accumulate enough things to fill the space whether we need those things or not. This is why Netflix series like ‘Tyding Up’ with Marie Kondo entice us. They promise to help us break free from the enslaving cycle of accumulation. The modern ‘minimalist’ movement seeks to do the same. These solutions are temporary at best, acting as band-aids on a fatal wound. But for those who want true freedom from the harsh master of materialism, there is hope in the words of Christ.

Jesus knows that His disciples will face the temptation to accumulate earthly riches. It is a temptation common to all mankind, one that Jesus faced Himself (Matt 4:8-9). But it was a temptation that He resisted. How? He tells us in Matthew 6:19-24,

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

We can avoid the temptation and subsequent enslavement of accumulating earthly treasure by pursuing the accumulation of eternal treasure. But how?

1. Recognize that pursuing and accumulating earthly treasures is a futile effort.

Jesus mentions three things that demonstrate the fragility of earthly treasures and the futility of pursuing them. First, He mentions a moth, a small insect that could eat through treasures such as fine clothing, money bags, or even titles to property. The idea is this: it is foolish to spend your life pursuing treasures that could so easily be destroyed by such a small creature.

Second, He mentions rust, which could corrode coins, silver, and other precious metals. Third, He mentions thieves. Even if one dodges moths and rust, everything He has is still subject to the possibility of thievery. I experienced this recently when a family friend gave me three valuable pieces of World War II memorabilia. I was so thankful for the items he gave me (I am a history nerd), but I literally lost sleep worrying about someone potentially stealing them. How could I replace such unique items? Such is the fragility of worldly treasures. Sure, we can enjoy them, but let us not fool ourselves, living a life in pursuit of them is futile, because they can be taken from us so easily.

Also, let us not forget what Jesus teaches elsewhere regarding the final enemy of earthly treasure: death. When we die, we cannot take anything with us. To the rich man who stored up many years’ worth of goods God says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared [accumulated and stored],[1] whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).

Pursuing and accumulating earthly treasures is futile. These treasures will not last. They do not satisfy our hearts’ desires. They become a harsh master that prohibits us from serving God by enslaving us in a never-ending cycle of seeking the next thing to satisfy us. Those who would be “rich toward God” and “lay up treasures in heaven” must first realize this truth.

2. Put on eternal lenses and set your heart on heavenly things rather than earthly things.

After we recognize the futility of pursuing earthly treasure, Jesus instructs us to actively turn our gaze from earthly treasure to heavenly treasure. Why? Because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (6:21). As we focus on heavenly treasure, our hearts become consumed with the things of heaven. When we focus on things that are eternal, our hearts will search for and be satisfied with those things.

This is where Jesus’ comments on the eye comes into play. If our eyes are healthy (i.e. set on the right things- eternal treasure), then our bodies are full of light. If, however, our eyes are unhealthy (i.e. set on fragile earthly treasure), then our bodies are full of darkness. Where the eye is focused indicates the condition of the heart. Thus the eyes of those who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Col 1:13-14) should be set on the things of eternity.

We might ask, what are heavenly things we should set our eyes on? First, the being and character of God. The more we focus our eyes on Him, the more we will love Him. He is the Eternal One, and knowing Him is the ultimate eternal treasure. Second, the beauty of the gospel. The Scriptures tell us that even the angels long to look into the beauty of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to save sinners (1 Peter 1:12). As we look to, search for, and delight ourselves in God and what He has accomplished for us in Christ, our hearts will be with Him and we will become like Him. This is the kind of godliness that Paul says is beneficial for our current lives and the life to come (1 Tim 4:8).

Heavenly things are also the attitudes and actions that characterize the members of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus mentions several of these in the Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12), pursuing reconciliation (5:23-24), fighting anger, sexual immorality, and dishonesty in the heart (Matt 5:21-32), maintaining honesty and integrity (5:33-37), not responding in kind to evil (Matt 5:38-42), loving your enemies (5:43-48), giving to the needy (6:1-4), praying and fasting in sincerity (6:5-18), etc.!

Thus, storing up treasures in heaven is far more than being generous financially. Giving is certainly part of it (Matt 6:1-4 as mentioned above), but it involves much more. Laying up treasures in heaven is pursuing Jesus and seeking to live out the righteousness that He describes in the Sermon on the Mount. As we live righteously, often in secret (Matt 6:4, 6, 18), we are accumulating and storing up heavenly treasure: rewards from God that neither moth, rust, nor thieves can touch.  

3. Decide which master you will serve.

There are two masters that we can serve. Jesus says, “you cannot serve God and money.” The word used in the original Greek for “money” is mammon, which can describe money and possessions. These masters are mutually exclusive. Serving both is impossible. Who then, will we serve? Will we serve the harsh and never-fulfilling master of materialism, who is subject to loss at the hands of moth, rust, thieves, and death? Or will we serve God and His kingdom, who graciously grants us righteousness in His Son and then rewards us for all of eternity for living out of that righteousness? Let us say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Jesus resisted the temptation to accumulate earthly treasure when Satan tempted him in the wilderness by setting His eyes on the eternal reward of pleasing His Father. Likewise, when He went to the cross to pay for our sins, including our idolatry of earthy possessions, He endured “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb 12:2). What was that joy? The eternal treasure of pleasing the Father. The eternal reward of a redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that He has received, is receiving, and will receive this reward for all of eternity- to the Glory of God the Father.

Therefore, let us look to Christ as the One who stored up heavenly treasure perfectly on our behalf. But let us also look to Him as the one who took the penalty of all of our earthly-riches-idolatry on our behalf.  And then let us follow His example, by the power of the Spirit, by setting our eyes on eternity and storing up treasure for ourselves in Heaven!

[1] Brackets mine.

One thought on “How to Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Matt 6:19-24)

  1. Pingback: Riches on Deposit in Heaven | Christianity 201

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