We have been studying the sermon on the hill, from the gospel of Matthew which covers chapters 5-7. Last week we crossed a milestone - we are about 50% done with the sermon on the hill!
This morning, let's read 6:19-24 together:
Matthew 6:19–24 CSB
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t 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. 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. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
In reality, 6:19-34 all belong together. The next section about worrying is directly connected to this one. It is a different angle on the same topic.
The part we are focusing on at the present is made of up three sections that are all related to each other. They all carry with them the common thread of wealth or treasure.
Matthew puts all three of these teachings in a cluster. Luke scatters them throughout his writings.
Luke also gives us a bit of extra commentary on two of these teachings. However, in typical fashion, Matthew is short and blunt but full of details that are significant.
Let’s zoom in on the first of the three teachings:
Matthew 6:19–21 CSB
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What are the treasures we store on earth? At least the corruptible ones? Jesus defines them by the way they can be taken away or lost:
The things MOTHS can destroy - clothing, blankets, etc. Anyone here have more than one closet for all their clothes? Extra totes for each season?
Have you ever wondered WHY? In Northern NY some of it is certainly survival! It was -21 on my thermometer Friday. You NEED warm clothes, hats, mittens, heavy coats, etc.
However, it could also be vanity - wanting to make sure I have a different outfit each day perhaps to have a “good” impression with my coworkers? It also could be an impulse - like a shoe fetish, where we “need” to have the right pair of shoes for each outfit and not being able to walk by that rack of shoes without buying another pair. (I know… of course they were on sale!)
Is clothing evil? absolutely not.
The things RUST can destroy - What is the firs thing that comes to mind? My car! Wow, the salt they put on the roads can eat through them and cause rust so fast! Of course, Jesus didn’t have a car, so I am sure that is hot what he had in mind.
There is not really a Greek word for “rust”. Our translators have imposed that word here as a possible translation to help us understand. When you think of rust, what comes to mind? Something at eats away at metal, right? The Greek word means “eating”. The word shoes up 11 times in 10 verses and only in this passage is it translated as rust. The other times it is translated as food or eating. It can refer to the pitting of metal coins or to vermin that ruin valuable food stores. [CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1510). Holman Bible Publishers].
The things that DECAY - cars, homes, video games, knickknacks, art, pretty much anything physical, whether food or wood or metal.
It is wrong to store up food? Are cars evil? Is it wrong to have a house or a car? absolutely not.
The things that can be STOLEN - Matthew says, “where thieves break in and steal”. “Break in” was a literal phrase that we still use today. Houses back then were often made of clay or mud bricks which could be broken through relatively easily.
What do thieves steal? Usually not clothing or food, or toilet paper - though that could be the case. Money, jewels, weapons, valuables. Today that might be technology - TVs, phones, computers, gaming systems.
Is it wrong to have valuables? Of course not. Not long after Jesus was born, some wise guys from the east gave expensive gifts to Joseph and Mary - and they did not sin in accepting them!
In mentioning the moth, decaying, and thieving, pretty much all of our possessions are brought out. That which covers us, feeds/sustains us and which adds value to us.
I suppose these are the treasures of this earth - or treasures that we can store up on this earth. Jesus says NOT to store up treasures on earth... But we have to, at least to a certain extent.
So what could Jesus mean?
JUST as with the rest of the sermon on the hill, we are not meant to make hyper-laws out of what Jesus is teaching. That would be inconsistent with the law and prophets.
Food for instance. If we take the concept of storing up food and studied it through the Law & Prophets, we would find many cases where food WAS to be stored up.
Joseph had Pharoah store up grain to survive a pending famine. This act preserved the descendants of Jacob - the nation Israel. [Genesis 41]
God tells the Israelites that on the year of Jubilee HE will provide enough for them to store up for 3 years. Let’s read sections of Leviticus 25 together.
Leviticus 25:8 CSB
8 “You are to count seven sabbatical years, seven times seven years, so that the time period of the seven sabbatical years amounts to forty-nine.
Leviticus 25:10–12 CSB
10 You are to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. It will be your Jubilee, when each of you is to return to his property and each of you to his clan. 11 The fiftieth year will be your Jubilee; you are not to sow, reap what grows by itself, or harvest its untended vines. 12 It is to be holy to you because it is the Jubilee; you may only eat its produce directly from the field.
Leviticus 25:20–22 CSB
20 If you wonder, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we don’t sow or gather our produce?’ 21 I will appoint my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating from the previous harvest. You will be eating this until the ninth year when its harvest comes in.
God promised to provide an abundance so the Israelites could live for 3 years from it. That wold certainly be considered storing up food on earth.
If you were NOT looking at the entire scriptures then you might think Jesus was teaching that riches are bad, that accumulation is bad. Some religions have taught that. However, we must always seek to translate scripture in the context of other scripture. Since Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law but to complete it (Matthew 5:17) we must make sure we do not create an interpretation that conflicts with the Law & Prophets.
REMEMBER, our passage is about WHERE we store up treasure.
There are two treasures here. One is stored on earth and one is stored in heaven.
The earthly can decay, diminish or be taken from us.
The heavenly cannot decay, diminish or be taken from us.
We are commanded NOT to store up treasures on earth. We are commanded TO store up treasures in heaven. Accumulation is not the issue. The location of the treasure is what is different.
Can any of you tell me what treasures we can be be depositing into our treasure chests in heaven? If we are commanded to store up treasures, then we should be able to know what things we can store.
I am sure the treasure we store in heaven will NOT be food or clothing, for when the Day of the Lord comes and we go to be with the Lord, Revelation 7:16 says “They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any scorching heat.”
I am sure it will NOT be cars! Thank GOD there will not be cars in heaven!
I am sure it will NOT be gold or silver. What what value is gold in heaven when the streets are paved with it? 🤨 Revelation 21:21 “The twelve gates are twelve pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.” Even the tape measure John used to measure the city was made of gold! While we do not know if these are actually gold or the best way John could describe them, it is apparent that even our finest metals and largest gems will not seem much like treasures in heaven.
So what ARE the treasures we should be storing up in heaven?
Jesus does not explain to us exactly what these treasures are! But there are some clues in the Scriptures, and even in the sermon on the hill. Let’s look at some of them together:
1 Corinthians 3:10–15 CSB
10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire.
This passage is a bit obscure as to what works will be considered “quality”. From other teachings about what it means to be pure in heart and to have a heart after God, we an assume that these are things we do and say that are in submission to the Word of God. There is an understanding that IF something is quality, that person will receive a reward. This word, “reward”, means payment.
At the end of our Bibles, Jesus says that he is coming back soon and when he comes he will repay that reward.
Revelation 22:12 CSB
12 “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work.
Since this is a payment we will receive when we are WITH Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth, at the new Jerusalem, then we can assume that these rewards will also not be perishable or able to be taken away.
We are not told what this payment is! All we know is it will be issued in heaven, so working for this rewards is to store up treasure in heaven. We can also assume that if it is coming from Jesus, it will be valuable!
Wait a minute.... rewards; where have I heard that word before? It seems vaguely familiar to me like we might have encountered it recently.
Matthew 6:3–4 CSB
3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Oh yeah! When I give to the poor without doing it for my own glory.
When I refuse to store up my earthly treasures to use them only for me and instead I use them to bless others and meet the needs of others, I gain a reward in heaven.
When I use my earthly treasures to bless others I gain heavenly treasures.
Using them for others DOES include my family! It also includes others that are not poor. But God seems to have a soft spot for the poor. Many of the laws point this out!
The story of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz is a narrative of something living this out. Boaz was wealthy, Ruth and Naomi had nothing, so they were allowed to follow behind the gleaners are pick up extra grain. It was a kind of work-fare system.
Boaz was living in obedience to the Law:
Leviticus 23:22 CSB
22 When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap all the way to the edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the resident alien; I am the Lord your God.”
When we provide for the poor we are fulfilling the law, we are loving our neighbor. We are reflecting God to the world around us. THIS is certainly one way we store up treasures in heaven! How can I be so sure?
Remember how I mentioned that our translators used the word “rust” to help us understand the meaning behind the word “eaten” in our passage? Similarly, it seems that Luke has interpreted part of this teaching of Jesus when he shares it with his readers:
Luke 12:33–34 CSB
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke connected this teaching with the one about giving to the poor as we practice righteousness (Matthew 6:1-4) and saw the reward as a treasure stored up in heaven.
Fulfilling the law, obeying God’s commands in how we love him and love others seems to be part of the key to all of this. As we honor God in the way we live, as we reflect him well, we receive a reward.
Paul talks about this in a different context:
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 CSB
24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. 26 So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
There is an imperishable crown - one that will not “rust” or corrode. This is a reward that adorns me in heaven. It is for all who live under the control or guidance of the Holy Spirit and live in a way that reflects and honors God.
So, our heavenly treasures my be the rewards for our deeds and word that honor God, and they may be in the form of crowns, or honor that I receive from Jesus.
So we have defined earthly treasures as things I possess and heaven treasures as rewards I will someday posses.
QUESTION: is it possible to store up BOTH? Well, yes! This teaching is not about possessions so much as it is about purpose. WHY to you store up wealth? To bless others or so that you will not need to be without (make it a god). The difference is what you are choosing to live for.
The last verse tells us that the WHERE determines the WHO, WHAT & WHY of our lives:
Who we live for - ourselves or God.
What we live for - temporary pleasures or eternal treasures.
Why we live each day - focusing on our kingdom or God’s kingdom.
Matthew declares that by saying that our treasures reveal our heart. The heart is the center of a person.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words Heart
The “heart” stands for the inner being of man, the man himself. As such, it is the fountain of all he does (Prov. 4:4). All his thoughts, desires, words, and actions flow from deep within him.
If you were to look at a Hebrew use of the word “heart” you will find an incredible variety of uses! It can talk about our emotion, thoughts, will, actions, desires - the list goes on and on! I think this proverb shows the depth of their understanding of the heart:
Proverbs 4:23 CSB
23 Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.
Again, Luke gives us some commentary on this idea:
Luke 6:43–45 CSB
43 “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
The words and deeds of a person reflect their heart. They come from the overflow of the heart.
Matthew says that WHERE we choose to store up treasure reveals what is in our heart, or what our heart will focus on.
If I am storing up earthly treasures I am focusing on my kingdom.
If I am storing up heavenly treasures I am focusing on the kingdom of heaven.
If I am seeking my own interests and my own value apart from God I am laying up treasure on this earth. If I am seeking the things of God then I am storing up treasures in heaven.
Am I living for myself or for God and others? This is a same thread that we studied in practicing our righteousness - not like the hypocrites who live for others to see their piety, but to live out their faith for God alone.
QUESTION: IF I am doing things for God so that I can get a reward in heaven, isn’t that the same problem? What is my motive? What is in my heart?
If I practice my righteousness just so I can get a reward in heaven, then I should question my heart. If I am laying up treasure in heaven so that I can have something for me when I get there, what sense does that make?
YES, I want to receive the rewards like hearing my father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25) - another possible treasure in heaven. BUT is that was really matters?
I want to jump to the end of this section of teachings for a second:
Matthew 6:33 CSB
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
God’s kingdom is NOT about what I receive, is it? God’s kingdom is not about my recognition, my crown, my repayment. God’s kingdom is about Jesus and about God’s plan for drawing men and women, like me and you, to him.
This passage also says that I need to focus on God’s righteousness. Matthew 6 talks about how I live out MY righteousness, but the ultimate goal is to seek God’s righteousness. What does that mean?
It means doing the things that demonstrate HIS values, HIS heart. Not only is that caring for others physical needs (such as the poor), and loving God with everything, it is also living for his mission.
God’s righteousness demonstrates that I deserve death. But in God’s mercy, he sent his Anointed One (Jesus) to die for me so that I can be viewed as righteous in God’s eyes.
John 3:16 CSB
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
To seek God’s righteousness is to understand his righteous position and also to take on my new righteous position because of the redemptive work of Jesus. If I place my faith in Jesus and NOT my wealth or anything on this earth, then I take hold of God’s righteousness.
Romans 3:22 CSB
22 The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction.
IF I am to seek the righteousness of God, and in doing such, receive a reward in heaven, then the greatest treasure I could possibly store up in heaven would be other people. Truly loving others includes helping them know the God who loved them enough to sacrifice his son for them. The kingdom of God is not about walls, streets or pearly gates in heaven. The kingdom of God is not about rewards and crowns I might get some day.
The kingdom of God is about people - the people of God living under the kingship of Jesus.
If I value the same things God does, then I must care about the souls of others and be willing to love them to Jesus - and the things of this earth are meant to help me do that.
2 Peter 3:9–10 CSB
9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.
The greatest treasures I can store up in heaven are NOT the things that will attract any glory to myself, but the things that will make my Savior more attractive. That would be a life of holiness (not taking his name in vain) and more people to praise him!
Some day, God will fully establish his kingdom - there will be a new heaven and new earth, there will be a new Jerusalem. God does not glory in the splendor of the city. As a matter of fact, the city’s splendor pales compared to the presence of God! So what will God value in this new kingdom? What does God speak of and glory in? People.
Revelation 21:1–7 CSB
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.
If I treasure people more than stuff, and therefore use my treasures to bless others (like the poor) and not just to store them for myself, then my heart is right and I have a treasure in heaven. This is good.
However, if I treasure the eternal welfare of people, their relationship with God, more than I value my stuff and their physical needs, then I have a treasure in heaven that blesses my Savior and makes my Father happy because it honors the sacrifice he made and the redemption he planned. This is VERY good. I would even say it is the best reward ever.
QUESTION: If we were to do an inventory today, what would it reveal about your heart? What would it reveal about WHO you live for, WHAT you work for and WHY you do and say what you do?
Thank GOD that we have so much more to live for than the treasures of this earth! Some day we will be in the presence of our Father in heaven! And, if we choose to live our days on this earth in a way that blesses him and reflects him to the people around us, we can look forward to rewards, crowns and praise from our Father. And if we are truly seeking his kingdom while on this earth - we will be sharing this good new with as many people as we can so they, too, can be a part of the kingdom and dwell with God forever.
Matthew 6:19–21 NLT
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Father, help us to honor your name, advancing your kingdom by doing your work on earth as it is in heaven. Make the desire of our hearts the same as what your heart desires and help us to treasure what you treasure each day. Amen.