Three times Jesus has discussed practicing kingdom piety privately, “in secret” so the soul is quietly enriched with the Father’s image in Christ. His next series of comments seem to continue this internal development of the disciple.
He says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
Gnostic philosophy mingled with Christian thought has over time shaped in us the sense that stuff is inherently bad. But if Jesus’ words here are examined carefully, it is not the stuff, but the anxious storing of it which Jesus warns against. Clothing, possessions, money—the “on earth” stuff that could be implied here—is not bad stuff. It is useful stuff, practical stuff, morally neutral stuff. It is when we begin to idolize and anxiously accumulate stuff that it creates in us a snare. This is when we grow discontent and envious, entering the cutthroat competitiveness of the rat race.
Rather Jesus instructs “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…”
As we have repeatedly seen throughout this Sermon, Jesus’ highest value is the Kingdom-of-Heaven reality being redemptively established on Earth by the Father through Christ. It is this reality Jesus hopes will drive his followers. Jesus desires his followers to value the substance that doesn’t decay over time and cannot be stolen away; the substance rooted in redemptive reality born out of Heaven. In other words, may what we do on Earth be done in light of its Kingdom value.
Treasures on Earth. Treasures in Heaven. Both exist as valuables that vie for humanity’s heart. Whichever we pursue reveals which is our treasure. Understanding this dynamic, Jesus explains it: “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The popular adage is “Follow your heart”. Jeremiah the prophet, however, struggling to turn Israel’s wayward hearts back to God, wrote “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
It’s not that our hearts instinctively pursue bad things; it’s that our hearts don’t appraise the value of things rightly, according to God’s value system. As such, our fallen hearts have a tendency to inflate the normal practical values of stuff to exaggerated levels of significance. Money becomes our source of security and power. Clothing becomes our symbols of status. Possessions become tools of self-actualizations. Treasuring stuff through this exaggerated sense of value is what gradually plunges us into idolatry.
Instead of “Follow your heart”, Jesus’ words set Heaven before our hearts as a kingdom radiant with renewed reality. Its redemptive rays enlighten and captivate the eyes of our hearts like a hidden treasure suddenly discovered. Jesus’ words tell us what to want so we will know what to pursue. He sets before us the treasure of God’s kingdom for our hearts to follow after. It’s a call for us to organize and prioritize our lives around what Jesus values.
May what we have and what we do with it be employed in view of the redemptive reality God has been establishing through Jesus.