Yesterday I wrote about how it is our tendency as people, and especially as U.S. citizens, to accumulate stuff. We buy things we think are cool, or that we think we need, which then we have to protect and store, but it doesn’t make us happy so we go and buy more stuff to try to make us happy, and so on. The question I want to address today is why we do this to ourselves. Why do we continue to seek more stuff and collect more stuff?
I’m going to use Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV) again as my spring board to dive into this subject. It says, ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“
When we think of treasure we typically think of things like precious metals and jewels that are buried on some deserted island inside a locked chest. The treasure I’m talking about is defined by dictionary.com as, “any thing or person greatly valued or highly prized.” Anything that you really care about can be treasure for you.
I believe that when we value or care about something, we tend to want more of it. We set our hearts and minds on something and we have to have it! When we greatly value a person, we want more of their time and attention. When we love books (guilty!) we collect them and seek them out. When we value money, jewelry, shoes, animals, cars, our children’s art work, family photos, or anything else our natural instinct is to possess more or to spend more of our time with that thing.
But, what else does the Bible say about treasures? Are there any instructions from God about what we should value? Why does it matter what our heart is set on?
Luke 18:18-27 says, “Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” “
Note that Jesus didn’t say that everyone must sell all their belongings. He was talking directly to this man because He knew his heart. Jesus knew that the ruler valued his riches above God, and He called him out on it. The ruler was sad because he didn’t want to get rid of his stuff. Then Jesus says that it’s very difficult for people who have a lot of stuff to enter into His kingdom. Not because having stuff is bad in and of itself, but because that stuff ends up being what they love. They value it more than they value God. It matters what we have our hearts set on, because our eternity depends on it.
Jesus explains it more Matthew 13:44-46. “ “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.“”
He is speaking here of finding a treasure so valuable that we are willing to give anything and everything to have it. That treasure is “the kingdom of heaven”, and ultimately God Himself. We need to be willing to get rid of anything that would come between us and God. Anything that we value more than Him has to go.
Maybe now you’re wondering, how do I know if my heart is set in the right place? I don’t think there’s anything I value more than God…
To answer this, we have to really look at ourselves. What do we spend our time on? What do we spend our money on? What do we talk about? If we’re cutting short our reading time or are neglecting to read our Bible, and getting on social media instead (ouch! calling myself out!), our hearts aren’t in the right place. We are valuing our screen time over God. If we are fine with dropping a big chunk of money for a fancy meal at a restaurant or a new pair of shoes, but are reluctant to give toward helping people in need, we’re eating and wearing our treasure rather than storing it in heaven. If we’re talking about sports, politics, fashion or work more than we are talking about what God is doing in our lives, or sharing the gospel, or praying, it’s a good bet that we are holding the former things at a higher value than the later. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
How, then, do store up treasures in heaven?
One way Jesus mentioned was to sell things and give to the poor. Continuing farther in Luke 18 to verses 29-30, Jesus says “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
It seems to me that we store up treasures in heaven by doing the things God has for us to do. He wants us to take care of the poor, go tell people about Jesus, and whatever else he has planned for each individual to do. These kinds of acts don’t typically come naturally for us. We want to do what we want and have all we can get. It seems impossible to change our own heart and set it where it should be. However, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” and “..we have this treasure (God) in earthen vessels (us), that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
One good work the Lord is wanting me to do is to purge my home of a lot of the stuff. The stuff that takes my and my family’s time, attention, energy, and money away from more important things. I hope that you will continue to part 3, as I get into the ideas and plans I have for doing just that.