A few years ago, I wrote a post around Thanksgiving/Black Friday in regards to where we place our values and our hearts especially during the season where it is all about consumption and accumulating wealth. This past week, I spoke with my Youth Group on Matthew 6:19-24 about “Treasures in Heaven”. As the season of Christmas approaches, I have had many opportunities to remind people about the birth of Jesus Christ, and how this is not just a time of personal satisfaction, but a time of remembrance to God’s amazing plan of salvation through the birth of Jesus in the most humble of circumstances. Still, I woke up this morning, and felt compelled to share from my lesson, an excerpt about one portion of that teaching, and hopefully in the midst of it… encouraging us to have a perspective that is not upon our selves but on the Lord.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and
rust destroy, and
where thieves break in and steal.
20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and
rust do not destroy, and
where thieves do not break in and steal.
21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Very briefly, we find ourselves in the middle of chapter Six of Matthew’s Gospel, and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In chapter six, the first part in practicing righteousness, praying, and fasting, we encounter a very big temptation and danger. This is that as Christians we basically put man (ourselves or others) on a pedestal. In today’s passage (well part of it), we encounter not so much about Christians can do, but MORE about how we are to think… I say the mindset that we are to have for Kingdom living. This is the 2nd temptation I see… which is being like the world, pursuing the treasures of this world… seeking security and satisfaction in them FIRST, rather than seeking and being after God’s purpose FIRST.
This is my favorite verses in the Bible. I have loved these words since I first saw them when reading Matthew for the first time. This is probably because God’s Word is so liberating… and showed me that I was not bound by the urges of this world, that I could place my value in something greater. I find these verses particularly poignant in the time of Christmas and stressing about College Applications. The question to consider is whether our lives are just about us, or is it about God and our relationship with Him. This excerpt is focusing on that FREEDOM through Christ and NOT SLAVERY from the world. We have been hopelessly enslaved by the things of this world, and my hopes is to show you in Jesus’ words what He says about the world’s things, and having the mindset of a Christian…Jesus follower.
The question then to ask is this: What do you put your values in? Matt. 6:19-21 has this basic structure (as I have set up for you above)… of do not do certain things… but do the right things… and the reasons why. First off, what are treasures on earth (verse 19)? I think they are anything that is finite, man-made, and can be all kinds of wealth. Jesus here covers the bases. He talks about “moth”, “rust”, and lastly, “thieves break in & steal”… I think these all are types of wealth that we do accumulate. Moth usually denotes clothing, but if you think more deeply it is anything that may be destroyed by nature. Rust usually denotes metals, but if you think about it… it is anything that can slow be destroyed over the course of time. Lastly, thieves usually makes us think that it equates to the rest of the things that moth and rust can not destroy, but what I think it truly reflects is humanity and how what nature and time does not destroy… other people will seek to take from you. Isn’t this the reality of treasures on earth?
Jesus in verse 20 then moves to the challenge to lay up treasures in heaven. This is a big contrast from treasures on earth. I think treasures in heaven are things that are infinite, a hope, a promise in something God-made, infinitely valuable, in heaven, and imperishable. Moth aka nature can not destroy it. Rust aka time can not destroy it. Thieves aka humanity can not mess it up. In verse 21, the reason why it is important to place our treasure in heaven is because where our treasure is, is where one will find one’s heart too. What we place our values in shows where our heart truly is.
Jesus in this teaching is trying to spare us from the slavery that comes from worshipping things of this world. We want treasures and riches because we believe they will give us security. Isn’t that the irony? We believe they will make us happy and comfortable. What Jesus teaches here is those riches are finite, they may decay, they may rust, they may be stolen by thieves… these things fall apart, and they will not last. We all know this! The things that are so finite instead of giving us security… they actually do the opposite… riches and treasures actually lead us to ANXIETY! It is a constant worry, dissatisfaction… concern… and then our desire to look for the next new and big thing. IT NEVER ENDS. Rather than rest that we find, it is a constant war and struggle with decay, covetousness, and lust. Once we get it, we start looking at other things… we are never satisfied and we start letting it consume us… and then it’s a vicious cycle that we constantly try to achieve.
An example of this is one of my Uncles, whom I greatly love and respect. He drives an Audi R8.
This is an amazing work of human engineering, but a few weeks ago, I rode with him to eat dinner, and though this car attracted so much attention and was a beauty to hear its engine and feel the power, when my uncle was parking the car, I noticed the anxiety that comes with owning it. Since we were trying to park at McCarthy Ranch (lots of Asian drivers), my uncle spent about five minutes finding parking space that he was comfortable with. Not too close to everyone else it might get “dinged”, but not far away that others may try to steal it. We skipped so many perfectly good spaces, and he even had to get out of the car to check that it wasn’t close to the curbs or anything. What anxiety and what worry. I thought it was supposed to be enjoyed?!
What Jesus is teaching us in these words is to re-direct our desire. He does not deny that we have desires… he’s not telling us to hide and live in a vacuum of total Christian-ness… but he challenges us as part of our Kingdom living to adjust and change our perspective. Put our desire first into the infinite… into God and His promises. Jesus is asking us to elevate our desires… to step up our game… to seek not just to please oneself, or man in our finiteness, but seek to please the infinite, our God in Heaven. This is life and death… placing your value in the things of this world is that constant pursuit of what fades… it becomes our life and rather than giving us safety, joy, peace, security and happiness.. it enslaves us in worry, anxiety, covetousness. I think Jesus’ words here have a certain empowering quality as it teaches us that we are no longer bound by such things… because we have a hope and a promise through Jesus Christ.
Christmas is not a time to accumulate more gifts and wealth and toys. It is a time to remember the advent conspiracy (look it up). To remember that our lives do not consist of the wealth and gifts we consume, but that it consists in a greater purpose… that we are meant for greater things that we are meant to pursue the infinite rather than the finite, and that in the midst of great suffering in this world… we are called to love… and to not simply love by thoughts and prayers, but in deeds. The world does not need talkers, it needs lovers that will act on that love of Christ through the hope in the Good News, and display compassion for the broken, weary and lost. John Chrysostom says it best: “Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?” I find that it is incredibly hypocritical that as Christians we are in pursuit of things for ourselves… when we daily walk by people that are hungry, freezing (especially with the weather lately) … and we don’t even bat our eye. Christmas becomes a time about us, and about pursuing the finite things, and wanting, coveting new toys.
Where is your heart? What are your values in? Do you seek the finite or the infinite? Are you a slave of your desires and the worldly mindset of Christmas, or are you free and liberated through the blood of Christ to love God first and then others around us? If not, then pray and seek that he Holy Spirit will give you that burning compassion and love for our world and those around us.
Here is how I’m spending Christmas:
Funding water projects to bring water to the parts of the world, which have no clean drinking water…
Love you all, and God bless.