Summary: What we treasure on earth will ultimately waste away, our relationship with Christ will not.
Moths and Money
November 18, 2007
A few years ago, there was a really popular evening game show. It was on television every night. It’s not as popular, but still on television. The host was Regis Philbin and it’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
Every night we would sit and watch and try to answer the questions, we would yell at the contestants when they used a lifeline before we needed one or when they got the obvious answers wrong.
One of the questions for one man to win one million dollars was this “What insect got into the world’s first computer causing it to short out and in the process started the use of the phrase “computer bug?” A) Japanese Beetle, B) Roach, C) Moth, D) Fly.
A 25-year-old California man sat in the “hot seat” and agonized over the answer as millions of Americans looked on, and those who knew the answer in their living rooms screamed it to their TV sets.
Before I show you the correct answer, let me ask you without help of lifelines, phone calls or any other type of help.
Which answer is correct?
Was it a JAPANESE BEETLE? NO
WAS it a FLY? NO
That leaves only 2 possible answers.
Was it a ROACH? NO
If you answered like the contestant, you won 1 million dollars!
So . . . what does this guy winning 1 million dollars have to do with the words of
Jesus? In some ways they are the antithesis of what Jesus is telling us. This man was able to use a moth to win one million dollars, while Jesus is telling us that those very same moths were the cause of destruction to wonderful possessions.
For a society that’s fascinated by money, wealth and possessions, the words of Jesus are difficult to absorb - - - “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
So, what’s Jesus telling us?
To understand Him, we need to understand what He means when He refers to moths, rust and thieves. Moths are not only “computer bugs,” they eat things, like clothes, we don’t want them to eat. In Jesus’ neighborhood, a person’s position in society was reflected by the clothes they wore. The more elaborate you dressed, the higher the rank and prestige. The wealthy even sewed gold into their clothes to shout to the world they were wealthy. When a person wore plain, normal clothes, that was an indication that person was, plain and ordinary.
You’ve heard the old adage, “Clothes make the man?” Well, in first century Judea, that was very much the case. If the moths got into all that wool, you could forget it. Suddenly, the rank and position in life reflected by clothing were out the window. There was nothing permanent about the treasure of clothing. And remember in those days they didn’t have moth balls.
What about “rust?” What does rust do? It “eats” away at metal just as moths eat away at clothes. The word Jesus used literally meant to totally devour something. There were no companies to rustproof your possessions, and they didn’t have “rust-o-leum.” What you had would eventually be devoured. Jesus was also referring to worms, rats, mice and other assorted little friends that eat away at your livelihoods, the grain bin. Little critters would pollute and destroy the grain. Obviously, there was nothing permanent about that kind of treasure either.
Lastly, there was the matter of the treasure that thieves would go after, someone’s precious metals, their gold and silver. Since there were no banks and safety deposit boxes, the only place to keep your money was in your home, hopefully in a safe and inconspicuous place. Houses were made of clay and mud; and a thief could easily break through the wall and steal your money. So Jesus is simply saying, don’t put your treasure in what can be ruined, rotted, or robbed.
A number of years ago, when the new Volkswagen Beetle was introduced, one of the features that received significant attention was that it was burglarproof. Volkswagen bragged there was no way anybody could steal their car. To demonstrate their point, VW hired a professional burglar and called a news conference. The thief was challenged to break into the car in front of the press. With reporters watching, and camera’s rolling, the burglar looked at the car and circled it for about ten minutes without ever touching it. Then after looking it over from every angle, he went to the front of the car, and with one swift kick he hammered the bumper and in a split second the airbags exploded, the door locks popped up, and the doors flew open. “The Executive Speechwriter Newsletter,” Vol. 16, No. 1.