“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust [vermin] doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust [vermin] doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
If the question were to be asked why Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, the answer should include three thoughts.
First, Jesus wanted to refute the false teachings of the Pharisees. We see this in the words, “You have heard…but I say unto you.”
Second, Jesus wanted to challenge the erroneous beliefs of His hearers. That is always a risky thing to do. When people have been taught to believe one thing, and then someone comes and disrupts their belief system, well, it can turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
Third, Jesus wanted to establish principles of kingdom living. Christians need to know the answer to the question, “How should we then live?” A life without God, is very different from a life with God. A life lived without Christ, is very different from a life where Jesus is Lord and Savior.
It should be remembered the Jews fervently believed there was coming a day when the nation of Israel would enjoy great national prosperity.
Because they were God’s chosen people. They were destined to rule the world, with a Messiah-King.
There would be feasting, and the wearing of costly clothing. The Gentiles would be their servants, and all the indignities suffered over the centuries would be reversed. The people of Israel believed they would erase the shame of having been in bondage to the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Medes-Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.
Especially the Romans.
One practical problem with thoughts of world dominion, is that they breed the sin of covetousness. Covetousness is a longing to possess what others have. In the sight of God, this is a great sin and is prohibited in the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17).
Covetousness makes people dissatisfied, and produces anger.
Corrie Ten Boon tells of how she had to deal with this transgression as a prisoner of war in a Nazis concentration camp. Corrie writes about how she began to remember the former days, when life was good Holland, and she had much comfort in a home of love and warmth. Then, she found herself in prison, and she coveted former comforts.
In her memoirs, Corrie confessed how this intense longing for possessions made her resentful, and angry at God, because it did not change the reality of her situation. Corrie had to confess her dark thoughts, and remember the words of Jesus who said,
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:” (Matt. 6:16).
By way of modern-day application, there is a presentation of the gospel which has grown in popularity over the past century. It is not the true glorious gospel of Christ, once delivered to the saints, but it is something which has been widely received within the church. It is called by some, the “Health and Wealth Gospel,” and advocates concepts such as, “Name it and claim it, in the power of Jesus.” Or, by those less charitable, it is known as the gospel of, “Blab it and Grab It in the Name of Jesus.”
The idea is simple.
If you really want something in life, ask for it in the name of Jesus, and you shall have it. If you have trouble remembering, visualize what you want. Put a picture on your refrigerator of what you want.
In the name of fairness, there are some elements of truth associated with the “Health and Wealth Gospel.” The preachers of this doctrine emphasis faith. They stress the importance of believing that God will take care of His own. However, no gospel truth should be emphasized above all others. No gospel truth should be distorted.
That is exactly what happened when Napoleon Hill wrote his book, Think and Grow Rich (1937). Dr. Norman Vincent Peale laid a foundation for covetous to become socially acceptable by preaching The Power of Positive Thinking (1952).
Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and Joel Osteen, have taken the concept of justifiable covetousness to incredible heights, by setting aside the teaching of Jesus.
Our Lord would have His people embrace a foundational principle as to how we should live in this world.
Simply stated, Jesus said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
Because treasures on earth are transitory. They are subject to moth, decay, and loss.
At first, this teaching of Jesus becomes rather disturbing, and for this reason. It seems to be contrary to other Scriptural teaching.
Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:14 that it is proper for parents to provide for the children.
In 1 Timothy 5:8 we read, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
Roman 12:11 commands Christians not to be slothful in business. Those who work hard tend to prosper.
Deuteronomy 18:18 commands the Jews to, “remember the Lord thy God for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and Job, were all godly men of great wealth. And yet, for all of this, there is still a definite disassociation that is to be a part of the Christian’s world view. The Christian remembers that we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we shall carry nothing out of this world. Because this is true the Christian must guard the heart against the sin of covetousness.
Because everything is transitory.
“This one life will soon be passed;
Only what is done for Christ will last.”
It is the sin of covetousness that Jesus speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount, because it is so strongly part of our fallen human nature.
We as Christians must rethink our values, and focus not on time, but on the life to come.
However, this is hard.
We do not like to think about the future.
We do not like to think about eternity, or the grave.
No one has every called you and said,
“Come over to the house tonight. We are going to talk about death and dying. Bring a dessert. We will have a great time.”
That just does not happen, and yet, Jesus would prepare His people to transition from time to eternity, by establishing the general principle, there are treasures to be laid up in heaven.
These heavenly treasures constitute durable riches. They will not rust, they will not be corrupted, and they will never be lost. Consider then, some of the riches of heaven.
First, there is the Pearl of great price.
Pearls are precious stones hidden in the shells of oysters. They are valuable on account of their beauty, and because they are rare. The gospel itself is something of beauty, and it is rare. Though many are called, few are chosen to find eternal life in Jesus Christ through the loveliness of the gospel.
’Tis the grandest theme,
let the tidings roll
To the guilty heart,
to the sinful soul,
Look to God in faith,
He will make thee whole,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
~W. A. Ogden
Study Matthew 13:45 – 46
To lay up treasure in heaven, find the Pearl of Great Price.
Second, there is the treasure of being adopted into the family of God.
To be adopted in the ancient world meant to be recognized as a legitimate child with all the rights and privileges of the family. Biblical adoption is a word of position.
“I’m so glad I’m a part
Of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed
In the Fountain,
Cleansed by His blood,
Joint heirs with Jesus
As we travel this sod,
I’m so glad I’m a part
Of the family of God.”
~Bill and Gloria Gaither
Spiritually, we have been redeemed “that we might receive the adoption (position) of sons” so that we can transact the affairs of the household of faith Gal. 4:5). To “as many as received him (Christ) to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Any person who has been adopted into the family of God, has treasure in heaven. It is the treasure of having a position that will sit in majestic glory with Christ, and judge the angels.
Third, the good works we do are treasures in heaven.
The Lord will not forget those who have been faithful to His cause and kingdom. The Lord Jesus will not forget those who preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, deliver those who are oppressed, restore spiritual sight to the blind,
and minister to those who are hurting.
The unborn are hurting. Speak out for them.
The poor are hungry. Find someone to feed, physically, or spiritually.
Lives are shattered. Find someone to comfort.
Lay up treasures in heaven. They will not be forgotten.
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:11-15).
You say you have faith? (James 2:18)
Lay up treasure in heaven.
Fourth, if you want to lay up treasure in heaven, ask God to let you be a soul winner.
By winning souls to Christ, we lay up treasure in heaven, while being wise.
“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
In 1989, a young man sat in my office and shared a desire that he and his wife had to go to the Ivory Coast as missionaries. His gentle spirit, his obvious humility, and his love for the Lord was impressive. Equally impressive was his academic preparations. Bob Nakaoka, had earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Colorado University at Boulder. He then studied at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary in Colorado. His lovely wife, Karen, had earned a doctorate in medical microbiology at Ohio State University at Columbus. The financial earnings that Bob and Karen could command with their educational background was impressive. And yet, they believed that God would have them depend upon the support of a few small churches as they lay up treasures in heaven helping the souls of people in the Ivory Coast come to know Jesus.
The years have passed. They have laid up treasures in heaven and will sing a song of rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
“Bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing,
bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing,
bringing in the sheaves.”
who was inspired by Psalm 126:6,
“He that goeth forth and weepeth,
bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.”
Souls are, the true treasures of heaven.
There is a another thought that needs to be mentioned. Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” In the Catholic faith there is a teaching about the Treasury of Merit. The idea is that Christ, and many good people, lay up so many good works some can be stored in a Merit box and then redistributed to others who need a little help getting into heaven.
As intriguing and charitable as the idea seems, there is Treasury of Merit Box. The Christian life is more personal. We must each lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, which can be done by the power of the Holy Spirit as we seek to keep the commandments of Jesus, because we love Him.
Finally, there is another kind of treasuring which is to store up the wrath of God. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).