Before we start, let’s consider how Jesus began this sermon. He began with the beatitudes, describing the character traits of those who are part of His kingdom. The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would bring material blessings to their country. Rome had drained them dry of all their resources. They were hoping for a Messiah that would overcome the Roman government and right the wrongs that had been done against them. But Jesus starts with this first major message to say, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who thirst after righteousness, and who are pure in heart. This was the opposite of what they were expecting.
The next time He speaks, He announces that the officers of His kingdom would not be the destroyers of men but the preservers of their souls. They would be the salt of the earth. He says He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Then He says, don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven.
They were looking for an earthly prince. They were looking for a high degree of worldly prosperity, an abundance of riches, honors, and pleasures.
But, in this chapter, the first 18 verses lead us into His throne room where our hearts are completely occupied with Him. Now in verse 19 through the end of the sermon, He turns our faces to the world with its temptations and trials. So, the first part is about how to enter His throne room and this last part is how to walk out into the world displaying His kingdom.
Through the rest of chapter 6, Jesus is exhorting His hearers to turn from the spirit of covetousness. Today, we will cover verses Matthew 6:19-21.
“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. Matthew 6:19-21.
The words ‘lay up’ mean to gather together, to hoard, or heap up for the future.
Treasures on earth refer to earthly or material wealth—silver, gold, land, costly things.
Notice, but, Hs is not preaching against laboring for the needs of our families as long as our labor is honest and the funds are used properly.
In Deuteronomy 8:18 the scripture verifies that God has already given us the ability to gather wealth but it was not just to heap up for the future.
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
He does not tell them not to lay up supplies for their own family’s use. Let’s look at some scriptures that support preparing ahead for our family.
Proverbs 6:6-8 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, 8 Provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.
What Solomon is saying here is “Even ants have enough smarts to gather food ahead for her family. If you are not thinking ahead for your family, you are a sluggard. 😊
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Again, he is saying we do need to take care of our families. Some believers choose not to work and expect the government to provide for them or say, God, will provide when they could work and provide for themselves. We’ve seen some of this with the present medical crisis. Many have looked to the government to provide and refuse to apply for jobs or go back to work where they would be paid.
So, what is Jesus condemning here?
- 1. Those who are seeking worldly wealth.
- 2. Those who don’t value true riches.
- 3. Those who put their trust and confidence in worldly things and systems.
- 4. Those who are laying up treasure only for themselves and making their treasures their chief delight.
Why do you think He uses the terms Moth, Rust, and Thieves as the things that destroy wealth? They cover three different kinds of decay.
Moth: Moths often work unseen in your clothes or blankets.
Rust: Rust can be seen but often cannot be stopped. This covers circumstances in life that take our possession or valuables such as fires, floods, tornados, or improper care of something.
Thieves: This covers possessions stolen or ruined by people.
Anything that is destroyable should not be something you place value in.
Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! 5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
John 6:27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
God can make us rich with heavenly treasure. Our greatest treasure is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:1-3 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
So, our complete surrender to Him in all things – obedience to His commands because of our love for Him will provide true treasures that neither moth, nor rust, nor thieves can destroy.
Here is a passage was written by Rabbi Ben Sirach, written in the Apocrypha 2 centuries before Jesus’ birth, that Jesus was familiar with:
“Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. Store up almsgiving in your treasure, and it will rescue you from all affliction; more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.”
And in closing, here are five questions to consider on your own.
- 1. What brings you the greatest delight?
- 2. Where do you place your love?
- 3. What do you think about the most?
- 4. Above your needed expenses, where do you spend the most money?
- 5. In what activities do you spend most of your energy?
Our character conforms to the things we treasure the most. What we focus on, is what we become. Choose wisely.
This is enough for now. We will go on to verses 22-24 next time.