Life Upside Down
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been focused on the heart of why we do what we do. He has just addressed the idea of practicing our righteousness with the wrong motivation of being seen by other people in 6:1. Jesus talks about giving to the poor, praying to God, and fasting in the first part of chapter 6 and with each of them, Jesus talks about the wrong motivation of being seen by others. In other words, when we practice these religious activities to receive the acclaim of others, we have received our reward, which is the acclaim of others. However, when our heart’s motivation is to grow in our fellowship and passion for God, we receive the reward of an intimate and close relationship with Him.
Today we will find that the next thing Jesus addresses in His sermon is our treasures. At first glance, this may look like a change of subject as we reflect on the things Jesus has already addressed here, but in reality, it is still about our heart’s motivations. Why we do what we do. Every single day we make choices in our life based on what our heart desires, or as our text puts states it, what our heart’s treasures are. Before we read our text, let me tell you what Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon says about the meaning of this word “treasure.”
θησαυρός, οῦ, ὁ (1) as a place for storing valuables; (a) literally treasury, treasure box or chest (MT 2.11); storeroom, storehouse; (b) figuratively, of the heart as a storage place for spiritual possessions (LU 6.45); (2) as the valuables stored up; . . .
So, as we read our text, understand that it is talking about not just the things we consider valuable, our treasures, but even the place of storing our valuables, the treasure chest. Jesus will tell us of two treasure chests where we store our treasures. So, the text is talking about not just the treasure, but the treasure chest. With that bit of information, let’s read what Jesus had to say.
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.
So, the question for us is pretty straight forward, “What do we treasure, and in which treasure chest are we storing it?” We have many things we treasure if we are honest with ourselves. The things we treasure are the things that consume our heart and our mind. It is the things that if you lost them, it would crush you. When we think of a treasure, our minds usually go to something that we have in our possession or something we have accumulated over time that has a certain amount of monetary or even emotional value to us. We treasure material possessions, our family, our home, relationships, activities, and the list could go on. Life is full of the things we treasure and as we see in verse 21, this subject is important because it is a matter of the heart. We will talk more about that later, but first, let’s talk about the treasure chest of our:
Earthly Treasures (v. 19)
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
Now I want to point out something that I think is important in understanding what Jesus is saying. The words “lay up” in our ESV translation are from the same Greek word used for “treasures,” only it is the verb form of the word treasure (θησαυρίζω). So, “laying up” is the act of treasuring up. Literally, we could translate this, “Do not treasure up treasures for yourselves on earth.” Treasuring up is the idea of storing them up.
Jesus is saying that we should not store up or treasure up treasures in the treasure chest of earth. When we think of treasures, immediately our mind goes to wealth, money, real estate, or material things. Now keep in mind that I do not believe that Jesus is saying that there is something inherently evil about riches or experiencing things of enjoyment. God does bless us with things to enjoy. In 1 Timothy 6:17, we are told that God provides everything for us to enjoy. There is nothing wrong with making money or even setting some aside for a retirement, but we will find in a moment that it is about how those things are treasured. For instance, if you have a great retirement that is in funds that are invested in the Stock Market and the Market plunges to a point where you not only loose any gains you have made, but even much of your investment is lost. How do you respond? In our culture of wealth building and enjoyment, for most people this would be devastating. Why? Because that is their treasure.
What I am trying to say is that if you make this your treasure, that which your heart is set upon, you will be hurt deeply when it is gone. Now, for most of us, we live without an abundance of wealth, retirement, property, or things. So, for the moment we feel relieved because surely Jesus is not talking about my meager accumulation of possessions. But notice that Jesus never says anything about having an abundance of things as being the treasure. He simply says, “treasures.” I think this again points us to the idea that we are not talking about the things we may or may not have an abundance of. He is talking about a state of our heart and mind concerning the things we have whether there is an abundance or little. That which we treasure. A person of great poverty can treasure something as easily as a person of great wealth.
Verse 19 is focused on treasures that have an expiration date. Treasures that can be lost by theft, destroyed by rust, or eaten up by moths. Treasures that will last no longer than the time you are alive on earth at its very best. People can spend their entire lives accumulating and storing up, only to find that one day they die and it goes to someone else. Any thing stored in the treasure chest of this earth is temporal. We need to understand that. Jesus told a parable about a rich man that illustrates this in Luke 12.
16 And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18 And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
So earthly treasures have an expiration date you might say. But I think this goes well beyond just possessions and things. Listen to what Solomon discovered when it came to his activities and the things that brought him pleasure.
10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
What he is saying is that you may have pleasure and enjoyment for the moment in our earthly activities, but ultimately from eternity’s vantage point, it is vanity when they are stored in earth’s treasure chest. What I am getting at is that our treasure doesn’t have to be possessions and money, our treasures could be what we chose to spend our time on and what we invest our lives in. Our treasure might things that bring us physical pleasure as opposed to treasuring our relationship with God. The treasures Jesus is speaking about here are things that bring some sense of earthly fulfillment but there is no lasting value.
In other words, do not put too much value on the things of this world. It is not that we do not need things to live, but don’t make them your treasure. Whether it is wealth, fortune, fame, or pleasure, there will come a day when it is no longer valuable. I love how Proverbs 23 refers to wealth sprouting wings and flying away.
4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
We must have the right perspective toward the temporal things of earth. We must not let our heart get set on them as if that is the purpose for our existence. Don’t consume your life with filling the treasure chest of earth, rather, Jesus says that we should have our heart set on
Heavenly Treasures (v. 20)
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Lay up or treasure up treasures in heaven. This is in stark contrast to the pursuit of worldly treasures in verse 19. The reason it is so very different is that this treasure cannot be eaten away by insects, destroyed by corrosion, or stolen by someone else. These treasures are everlasting treasures. For most of us, it is pretty simply to identify the earthly treasures of verse 19, but what are these heavenly treasures Jesus is speaking about? What Jesus is referring to here is what can last beyond this life. It is the investment of your time, money, energy in things that are of eternal value. Things that no one can take away.
This seems impossible to us because we are surrounded by a world where everything decays and dies. So, what can we do here on earth that will endure to heaven and for eternity? Whatever Jesus is talking about concerns our lives on earth but results in something eternal. So, what we are saying is that the accumulation of treasures for heaven is accomplished as we live our lives on earth. What could Jesus be talking about? Just as there is a broad range of ways we can accumulate treasures for our earthly treasure chest, there is a wide range of ways we can accumulate heavenly treasures also. So, what are they? Well, it is everything that you can take with you after the grave!
You might be saying right now, “Mike I think you have lost your mind. We can’t take anything with us after we die.” Oh, but there is. We call it spiritual treasure. As believers on earth we are the bride of Christ and we are preparing ourselves for our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We prepare ourselves by dying to self and becoming alive to Him. As we are obedient to God, our lives are transformed. We see our faith nurtured and our passion for Him increase. God’s love, holiness, mercy, grace, etc. become more and more a part of who we are.
As the bride of Christ, we are making ourselves ready to meet Him one day. Our souls are transformed for His glory. So, we should treasure the transformation of our souls. We are the betrothed and we should be preparing for the day our bridegroom comes for us. As we treasure Him and the relationship we have with Him, we are changed. Jesus is the treasure of our heart and soul and our lives reflect that in how we live. We put on display for the whole world that our treasure is in the treasure chest of heaven, Jesus Christ our Savior. Listen to 2 Corinthians 4:6-7:
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
That is truly heavenly treasure. Another way we produce heavenly treasures is by telling others about our Lord. Any person that you have the opportunity to share Christ with and one day becomes a believer will be with us in eternity. It is fruit from your work while you were alive on earth. Then as you invest in discipling and nurturing the souls of believers, it is a heavenly treasure for you. Unlike the demise of our earthly treasures, our eternal souls are heavenly treasures. Rather than busying ourselves with the accumulation of earthly junk, we should be busy about investing in heavenly wealth, the souls of mankind.
There should be an exchange that takes place. We should stop treasuring the treasures of earth and begin treasuring the treasures of heaven. Now this doesn’t mean you sell everything, quit your job, and live on the streets proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior. It simply means you quit making these earthly things your treasure, as having great value to you. Instead, put a greater value on growing in your walk with the Lord, learning to live like Jesus, and telling others about Him.
Don’t take time away from the storing up Heavenly treasure to pursue earthly treasures that don’t last. Don’t allow the things of this world to take you away from the time you spend with the Lord in devotions and prayer. Don’t allow the things of this world keep you from fellowship with other believers. Don’t let the things of this world keep you from growing through Bible study times. Don’t allow the things of this world keep you from taking time to talk to someone about Jesus and your relationship with Him. Invest in Heavenly treasure. I love what 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
You see, Paul is telling us that when we invest our earthly things in the lives of others, we are amassing heavenly treasure that produces great dividends. The dividends are future, when we reach heaven. Paul says in verse 19, “that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Life on earth is lived for our eternal life. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul talks about a crown of righteousness laid up for him in glory. He saw his life on earth as a life that was lived for eternal rewards.
So why is this important? Can’t I just live my life the way I want and one day hopefully I’ll be in Heaven and it will all be behind me? What is so important about what we treasure while we are here on earth? The answer to that is in verse 21.
The Heart of the Matter (v. 21)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Why should we treasure up treasures to Heaven’s treasure chest? Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus brings us back to the heart of the matter. This is a matter of the heart. It is a matter of what we truly love. We cannot say we love Jesus and have our heart set on amassing earthly treasures. Please understand, this does not mean that any one who has wealth has their heart in the wrong place. There are many good and godly people who are wealthy from the world’s perspective. But that is not their treasure, their treasure is Jesus Christ and showing Him off to the world.
I think of Truett Cathy as an example, founder of the fast food restaurant chain, Chick-Fil-A. As you can imagine, he died a very wealthy man, yet the focus of his heart was always on honoring God helping others. His treasure was not his wealth, but he used the wealth God gave him to lay up treasures in heaven. That is where his heart was. He lived in such a way, that the things he accumulated on earth were used to invest in Heaven’s treasure chest. He invested in the souls of people.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Jesus’ message is for everyone, rich or poor. Where is your heart?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I don’t know about you, but Jesus’ sermon makes me stop and take account of what I treasure. Would I be more devastated to lose every dime in my piddly retirement fund to a stock market crash or would I be more devastated to lose the privilege of telling others about Jesus? But on the other hand, if we never talk about the wonders of His grace to others anyway, what does that say about where is our treasure? Would I be more depressed over losing everything I own in a house fire or would I be more depressed over losing the pleasure of investing in the lives of other people for His glory? Which do we treasure.
Do I treasure my relationship with the Lord, or is my heart somewhere else during devotions and prayer? Do I treasure the interaction of believers at a church setting, or do I come just because that is what godly people do and I want to appear godly? You see, we often take Jesus’ instruction here as something that applies only to the wealthy, but in reality, we all struggle with what we treasure and which treasure chest we are storing our things.
A life upside down, a life that is counter cultural, treasures the things of God more than the things of the world. What do you treasure?