I know a man who has built a small empire of wealth–several large houses, cars, trucks, and large envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash. In addition to having a few thousands in his house, last year, he resorted to hiding a large sum in cash under a doghouse in his yard.
No, I am not giving you his address!
When I think about him and people like him, my heart breaks because he has pursued and accumulated wealth here and failed to build a relationship with Jesus.
I imagine this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:19-21, when He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
To understand what Jesus meant, we need to know what He did not mean. Jesus was not saying we could not have nice things, or that we could not engage in wise financial planning. Moreover, He was not saying we could not enjoy wealth and the good things in life that God gives us, or we could not run our businesses profitably.
What did Jesus mean?
Jesus is talking about two types of treasures.
The first type is the kind we accumulate on earth. These treasures are vulnerable to all kinds of decay and theft. Jesus is saying, don’t make acquiring and accumulating these types of treasures—like houses, cars, degrees, prestige, popularity, vintage comic books, coin collections, paintings, CDs and albums—our main concentration, obsession and addiction, at the expense and neglect of the most important treasure, God and helping those in need.
We should guard our hearts against the addictive pursuit of material wealth because of its dangers—the love of them is the root to all kinds of evils, may hinder people’s response to the gospel, create false security, make people proud, cause excessive worry, and lead people to forget God. Working for them may cause excessive tiredness, enjoying them too much may lead to self-indulgence, and misusing them may foster oppression and injustice.
The alternative is laying up treasures in heaven. He is not saying people can buy their way to heaven. However, He is calling His followers to simplify their lives and leverage their time, and wealth for the sake of people in need (Matthew 19:21; 1Timothy 6:17-19). When His followers with pure motives (Matthew 6:1-4) do good, are rich in good deeds, are generous and willing to share with the marginalized, they will be laying up treasures in heaven.
Jesus goes on to say wherever our treasures and wealth are, our whole selves will be entwined with them. This verse becomes a gracious mirror in which we can see where our hearts really are.
Jesus is warning us against being totally earthbound at the neglect of eternal values.
So, how can we determine today if we are pursuing wealth at the expense of God? How can we understand where our hearts really are? I believe the following questions can help us:
What occupies my thoughts and daydreams when I have nothing else to do?
What do I fret about most?
Apart from my immediate family, who or what do I most dread losing?
What are the things I measure others by?
What is it that we know we cannot be happy without?
Let’s pray about and determine how much is enough and release the rest to build the kingdom and help others find the real treasure: Jesus.
by Pastor Marvin Williams