Summary: A preoccupation with hoarding earthly treasure makes little practical sense. Eternal investments, investments in the kingdom of heaven, are far more profitable. They are certain, and the benefits long lasting. Earthly investments are short-lived.
Laying up Treasures
The Lord Jesus told the disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
A preoccupation with hoarding earthly treasure makes little practical sense. Eternal investments, investments in the kingdom of heaven, are far more profitable. They are certain, and the benefits long lasting. Earthly investments are short-lived.
There are, as we know, various kinds of wealth, and Jesus reminded His disciples how each form of wealth was subject to loss of value. Clothing was considered one form of wealth in the near East (Joshua 7:21; 2 Kings 5:22). In some cultures today clothing is a form of wealth, or at least a symbol of wealth. However, such wealth is short-lived. Just one of the destructive forces at work in this area is the moth. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, the moth gets into our most precious and valuable clothing and eats holes in it.
Rust can and does consume any metal forms of wealth. That is one reason why you and I have to keep buying new cars from time to time. It is doubtful, however, that rust is the primary image in our Lord’s mind. “Rust” is literally that which “eats” or “corrodes.” More likely one’s wealth would be, in those days, in the form of grain that would be stored until the price was high enough to make a good profit. Any foodstuff would be the target for vermin to get into and to contaminate or consume.
The indestructible forms of wealth such as jewels or silver or gold are not so secure either. Burglars and thieves could, in those days, quite easily “break in” and steal them. Literally, this expression, “break in” meant to dig through. This was easily accomplished when walls were made of sun-dried bricks or mud. Even today, our most secure vaults are not burglarproof.
In verse 21, Jesus tells us why we should not store up treasures on earth. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Generally, we are inclined to think just the reverse of this. We suppose that a man will first fix his heart on something and then his money naturally follows. However, our Lord says that our heart follows our pocketbook.
Where we spend our money, where we appropriate our material goods and our personal time, is where our heart will be. We might apply this principle to marriage. To the extent that we invest heavily, both in time and in money, we will find our affections more and more developed and committed.
To store up treasures on earth is to set our heart on earthly things. It is difficult, even impossible, to desire the return of our Lord when we have made all of our investments in earthly things. Not only this but we also tend to put our trust, our confidence and hope in our investments. The great difficulty of the rich is that they are deceived into “fixing their hope on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Jesus is not telling us we are forbidden to enjoy many of life’s pleasures, but that we view them as temporary and, in the long term, unsatisfying. Consequently, we choose to deny ourselves of some things in order to gain that which is greater.
In verses 22 and 23 Jesus tells the disciples, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.”
To the ancient mind, the eye was like a window that let light into the body. The condition or health of the eye determined the amount of light that entered the body. An unhealthy eye clouded or dimmed the entering light, subjecting the body to darkness. In the Bible, the eye represents a man’s character (Deuteronomy 25:12; 28:54, 56). A man with an “evil eye” is one who is greedy and miserly when confronted with the need of another:
“A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, and does not know that want will come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22).
The one whose heart is set on worldly riches has an evil eye. In looking out for himself, he neglects the needs of others. The one who is generous with others has a healthy eye. His vision of the needs about him is not distorted. He views his material wealth as belonging to God, and he quickly and willingly employs it to help those in need.