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. — Matthew 6.19-21
The Greek language of this text presents a double usage of the word “treasure”. Quite literally, it reads: “Do not treasure up treasures on earth.” Or, we might say, “Do not hoard hoards on earth.” The point is the same. Jesus says our attitude toward wealth and abundance indicates the direction of our heart. The one who invests in earthly possessions as the primary source of fulfillment and worth ends up sorely disappointed when moth and rust come calling. “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5.10)
I like the study note the ESV Study Bible includes in this section: “The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven works out in the details of one’s personal life.” One of the primary ways the Kingdom life comes to us is through our attitudes regarding material possessions. We have no choice but live as material, embodied creatures; but the degree of emphasis we place on the material world should be tempered by an eschatalogical expectation of something beyond earthly treasures. That is, to these herdsmen and homemakers and fishermen, Jesus is seeking to replace the slavish pursuit of mammon with the liberating, life-giving pursuit of YHWH, His Kingdom, and His righteousness.
This is not to argue in favor of some ethereal Platonic “matter, bad / spirit, good” disavowing of possessions. It is not to say that material wealth is a bad thing in and of itself. As Stassen notes, “These are not teachings against making a living. They do not reject all possessions; they reject stinginess or greed (treasuring up treasures), hoarding the income for selfish pursuits rather than for serving God and the needs of others.”
One of my good friends who is quite wealthy likes to say, “It all belongs to God anyway. We’re just down here moving it around.” I like that, because my friend is getting at the heart of Jesus’ teaching here. He’s learned the value of using earthly treasure to store up treasure in heaven.
It is no accident that this friend of mine is one of the most generous people I know.
It is also no accident that he is one of the most joyful people I know.