Summary: What you treasure says a lot about your relationship with God.
Where Do You Keep Your Valuables?
The American dream seems to be the hunt to acquire possessions. Many see shows about America’s rich and famous. Preachers join in the fray telling you the secrets to getting money and lands as though the Bible were a book about getting earthly possessions. The pitch goes like this: “If you only do these three easy steps, then God. Usually buying their book which tells you the key to getting wealthy God’s way is part of the story. After all, aren't a lot of health and wealth preachers exceedingly rich? Doesn't it work for them? They will tell you that if you will just do what they did, then they could have all this stuff too. You can have a big house, a fancy car, impressive clothes and jewelry, and lots of money. You can have your “best life now”. But what does Jesus have to say about this? Let us see.
Exposition of the Text
Jesus in Matthew 5:20 says that He is looking for more than the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes. He attacked the orthodoxy of the Pharisees in the rest of chapter 5. They were guilty of watering down Scripture by their interpretation of it and replacing the righteousness of God with their own righteousness. In the previous verses in chapter six, Jesus shows that the practice of the religion of the Scribes and Pharisees was also deficient because they were doing it for show. Both of these attacks, on doctrine and practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) really point to a third deficiency. This is a deficiency of the heart.
In this section, Jesus directly challenges the heart of the Pharisees. One of the chief indicators of this heart failure was their love for money. Pharisees for the most part were made up by businessmen and merchants. The rich you ng ruler in one of Jesus’ parables demonstrated this by not giving all that he had to the poor, and then follow Jesus. Jesus responded to this by saying “How hardly will those having riches enter into the Kingdom. This parable perfectly explains here what Jesus is saying here in verses 19-21. Their desire for treasure was for earthly treasure. The rich young ruler was promised riches in heaven, but turned it down. He was more interested in his “best life now”.
Jesus here issues a command to his true disciples to stop their love affair with earthly treasures. He reminds them of the temporary nature of human treasure. Money is here today and gone tomorrow. I think of what happened to my great-great grandfather who became very wealthy running his father in law’s businesses in Toronto and Buffalo. After the Civil War, he took his savings in a carpet bag and came to Charlottesville VA. There he paid $30,000, a princely sum in 1870, and brought the house and estate of John Randolph who was an uncle to Thomas Jefferson. He put $100,000 in improvements in the place. But three years later, the Panic of 1873 left him destitute. He had to fire sale the place for $10,000 to cover his debts. Broke, he had to move in with his brother. Someone else had purchased the estate at a bargain-basement price. But a few years later in Gone with the Wind style, the house burnt to the ground in a spectacular fire. This is the way it is with wealth.
Jesus reminds them that thieves break in and steal possessions, and that moth and rust also take their toll. He could have mentioned the spoils of war as well, but Jesus had clearly made His point. We are only here a short time. Even if we do amass wealth and try to build bigger barns to put them in, we have no guarantee that we will live to enjoy these riches. And riches also destroy families when they argue over the will.
The true disciple of Christ whom Jesus also addresses in the Sermon on the Mount is one whose treasure is in Heaven. This treasure is eternal and will never fade or rust. Even if the believer has little in this life by way of possessions, it is far better if necessary to endure hardship and poverty now and riches in eternity that to eat, drink, and be merry in this life only to be excluded from the feast in Heaven. The Pharisees boasted of their wealth now. They held parties to entertain their own. In this they were no better than the heathen. It is interesting that the word “Canaanite” means merchant. The Pharisees boasted that they were true Israelites, but in reality were the true Canaanites. The Scripture which the Pharisees claimed to revere and uphold told on them. One only need read the Old Testament to see what God thought of the Canaanites.