Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth Matt 6:19

by Steven Chan

Very early in the ministry of Jesus, He taught His disciples (Matt 5:1 – but the multitude also heard His teachings – Matt 7:28) the core or central teachings of the Kingdom under the New Covenant (Matt 5:3). Among His teachings was that of exhorting His disciples not to lay up treasures upon the earth.

Why did He give that exhortation? It is the pre-occupation of many to seek almost exclusively to lay up treasures on earth.

Jesus gave the reason for His exhortation: because “moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matt 6:19b). In other words, earthly treasures are likely to decay, or lose their value or even be stolen from us. Earthly treasures may not always remain with us.

In contrast with the effort to accumulate treasures on earth, Jesus exhort us: “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt 6:20)

Why is it better to “lay up treasures in heaven”? Because we will not lose them. No one will be able to take it away from us. They will always be with us.

But more importantly, Jesus explained in verse 21 “for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” That’s the real critical factor. Jesus wanted to ensure that our heart will be focused on spiritual matters and especially on where we will spend eternity, ie. heaven, and that ought to be our real desire.

The reason why Jesus wants us to set our hearts on heaven is because our life on earth is temporal. The Psalmist declared in Psa 90:10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away.”

The rich man in Luke 12:16-21 who had so much that he planned to tear down his barns to build bigger barns to store his abundant treasures, did not live long enough to enjoy all the treasures that he had accumulated. As the Psalmist wisely observed: “For it is soon gone, and we fly away”.

The Bible reminds us in James 4:14: “whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

So while we yet have the time, energy and opportunity, let us set our hearts on the thing above (Col 3:1) and work towards storing our treasures in heaven where we hope by the grace of God to be there after this earthly sojourn is over.

This does not mean that we do nothing here on earth and simply wait to depart for heaven. The inspired apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and urged him thus: “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.”

Apart from enjoying whatever God has blessed us here on earth, we are to refrain from being a lover of this world nor to put any premium on the pride of this life, or to place undue emphasis on our earthly possessions.

Instead we are to learn to place our trust in God who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Learning to trust God is a conscious decision and will be manifested in how we manage our life and what we do with what God has given us.

With what God has blessed us, we are to “do good”: it should characterise our manner of life, our stewardship (I Pet 4:10-11), not just doing some good things but all that we do, is or ought to be good.

We are also to “be rich in good works” meaning that we to abound in doing things that are helpful to those around us. It ought not to be just the odd occasions of doing good works or relieving the needy but an abundance or overflowing amount of works that are good.

Finally, we are to be “generous and ready to share”, meaning that we not to be sparing, calculative, grudging or stingy in our sharing. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work” (2 Cor 9:6-8).

So brethren, are we so busy laying up treasure on earth that we spare little or no thought with regards storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven? We need to remember what the Psalmist said: “For it is soon gone, and we fly away” What are we busy with every day of our lives? Are we busy with our Father’s business? Is our heart set on making heaven our eternal home?