Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.Matt. 6:19-21
If there is one point in this passage of scripture worth noting right from the onset, it is this, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Take careful note of the connection between treasure and heart in this scripture as it will become a prominent theme during this Bible study on what do you treasure in life?
Treasure, as described in scripture, typically refers to material possessions of wealth. In the Old Testament, this ranged from gold, silver, land, even priestly garments, in addition to money or common currency. More broadly speaking, treasure may also comprise virtually anything in life, quite often something that is coveted, meaning a desire to have things often belonging to someone else or even things idolized.
In short, treasure is anything that may be taking away time, attention and focus from God and his will for your life. This all tends to harmonize with the parable of the sower shared by Jesus, “And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” [Mark 4:18-19] Here in this parable, the sower is the one who plants seeds, or used figuratively here as one who plants the word of God. The thorns then represent the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and lust of other things.
Similar comments were shared by Jesus in reference to the rich, not so much that the people were rich but that it became their god in life so to speak, “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” [Luke 6:24] King David also wrote of this correlation between riches and unrighteousness by contrasting it with having small means and righteousness, “A little that a righteous man hath [is] better than the riches of many wicked.” [Ps.37:16]
Trusting in Riches
Let us look at three other comments made by Jesus as it pertains to treasure. He often referenced wealth and riches to illustrate the point of what people should truly value and treasure in life as expressed here, “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” [Mark 10;23-25] Don’t let anyone ever say that Jesus did not have a sense of humor in his expressions but his point is well intended; the rich are often comforted by their riches and wealth.
Here is a second occasion where Jesus made an opening remark before sharing a parable about a rich man. The man was more focused on treasuring up wealth for himself instead of for God, “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” [Luke 12:15] Note the connection between coveting and the abundance of possessions, where more and more becomes the norm. How seldom are rich people seen living modest or minimalist lives; do they not tend to live to their limit of wealth and extravagance?
Interestingly in this third instance, Jesus shared a prophetic vision with the apostle John on the effect of riches upon people. This was for the church of the Laodiceans who were described as being neither hot nor cold, but were rather lukewarm towards God. Jesus goes on to say that, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” [Rev. 3:17] This group of people was in essence spiritually poor from overly focusing on their riches and apparent need for nothing else.
There is a message here that also parallels this theme from Paul’s writings for believers as he writes, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” [1 Tim. 6:9-10] This is indeed something worth contemplating from the perspective of faith in asking the question of what do you treasure in life.
Peril of Riches
The scripture also tend to frequently highlight the relationship between riches with greed, corruption and covetousness. Three examples of this are as follows with the first one involving one of the disciples of Jesus who ended up betraying the saviour of the world for ill gotten gain as shared, in this passage, “And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard [it,] they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.” [Mark 14:10-11] While Judas later regretted his actions it was too little too late for his life as he was marked by the phrase, the son of perdition [John 17:12]
The second example of money and corruption was when the religious rulers realized the tomb of Jesus was empty without any ability to explain it, thus forcing them to contrive a false public statement, “And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him [away] while we slept.” [Matt. 28:12-13] For such ineptness, the guards would have surely been sentenced to death during the early years of the harsh rule of the Roman Empire.
The third example from scripture involved a couple in the early church who sold their home but collaborated to hold back part of the funds for themselves, “And kept back [part] of the price, his wife also being privy [to it,] and brought a certain part, and laid [it] at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? ” [Acts 5:2-3] While times were certainly different in the early church, it was evident that believers were either all in or they were out of the church, there was no middle ground back then.
This now raises the question at hand of what do you treasure in life? Does all of this mean that people are not permitted to attain any wealth during their lives and are destined for a life of poverty? That supposition would clearly be false based on scripture since many notable individuals who followed the Lord were possessors of great wealth. Take these for example just from the book of Acts – Joseph called Barnabas, Cornelius, Jason, Lydia, Paulus, Dorcas and Mnason of Cyprus. The important point to note however was where their heart was toward God and not their riches much like the praise Solomon received following his heartfelt prayer to God.
“And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge [is] granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that [have been] before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.”2 Chron. 1:11-12
Further on this point of accumulating wealth, Jesus shared a relevant message in the parable of the talents. All of the individuals who made money from their initial talents (money), were rewarded, however the one that did not was punished for his inaction [Matt. 25:14-29], therefore the prudent and honest attainment of wealth is not in question here.
Rich in Christ
Readers may have observed in some of the scripture shared thus far that another richness of treasures exists with God instead of material possession and wealth. Paul writes of this in his letters by saying, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” [1 Tim. 6:17-19] This passage of scripture lies in such stark contrast to so many notes thus far where Paul now exhorts believers to become rich in Christ through good works.
Earlier in the same chapter, Paul provides examples of these good works in God’s eyes as he writes, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” [1 Tim. 6:11] Hopefully, readers who have been following the many Bible studies on this section in Matthew are seeing a common theme on the benefits of having a heart and soul seeking after God’s will in their lives before anything else. The very opposite of this desire is sadly described here in the Psalms, “Lo, [this is] the man [that] made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, [and] strengthened himself in his wickedness.” [Ps. 52:7]
The scriptures continue to speak about the incredible riches of God bestowed upon believers in Christ which Paul referred to frequently, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” [Eph. 1:7] This was emphasized further in the same letter where the riches of Christ are worth more than any material possessions, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” [Eph. 3:8]
Treasure in Christ
This is where believers are truly rich, not in any worldly possessions of wealth but through new life in Christ as their living saviour. Paul gave further reference of this reflecting upon the richness of God in his grace, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” [Eph. 2:7]
For readers who may not be clear on what this means, Paul is highlighting the new birth where people possess the true, genuine and authentic riches in God as expressed, “To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” [Col. 1:27] Gentiles, as a reminder, are often referred to as non-Jewish people in scripture but for both Jews and Gentiles, the riches of Christ awaits as they come to him by faith.
In another letter, Paul described this rich treasure in our earthen vessels, meaning our physical bodies as described in this passage, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” [2 Cor. 4:6-7]
Rich in Faith
To close off this Bible study on what you treasure in life, let us conclude with some key points worth mentioning. The following passage highlights how God is rich toward all people but not necessarily riches of material possessions, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” [Rom. 10:12]
The richness of believers comes from the inheritance the Lord is providing upon all that call upon him by faith as shared from this passage of scripture, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? ” [Jam. 2:5] What a phrase to ponder upon, rich in faith!
As Paul wrote in one of his letters, the very notion of this fact should really leave us desiring the Lord’s will for our lives as foremost importance, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” [Col. 2:3] This may not equate to the same riches as friends, neighbors, co-workers or people of celebrity status but scripture instructs us contrariwise of that to, “[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” [Heb. 13:5] The riches of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness therefore are worth more than all of the riches of the world and are indeed the answer to what do you treasure in life.
Bible Study Questions
- In this Bible study on what you treasure in life, why do you think most people store up treasures for this world?
- Name at least three examples of worldly treasure.
- What are some of the consequences of seeking after worldly treasure?
- Name at least three examples of heavenly treasure.
- In general, is it acceptable to honestly and ethically accumulate wealth?
- Fill in the blank. To whom God would make known what [is] the _________ of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27
- What is one small thing you could do to lay up treasures in heaven today in response to what do you treasure in life?
WORD GUIDE – * (doth – does) * (woe – affliction or distress) * (Greek – another term used back then for non-Jewish people)