The Downsizing Series
A series of devotions about paring down so it is easier to look up.
“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.” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)
I have a friend who likes to contend for individual words. He believes it is difficult to have a genuine conversation unless people can agree on definitions.
With that in mind, I can’t help but contend for the word “treasures” in the context of Matthew 6:19-20. Christ’s teaching seems clear, right? Do not lay up treasures on earth because moths, rust, or thieves are going to take them anyway.
But what exactly is Jesus forbidding in verse 19? Is he talking about our savings account? Jewelry? Boats? Laptops? Are we to forsake such items so we can be freer to lay up treasures in heaven?
The Greek word for “treasure” here means “a deposit, that is, wealth (literally or figuratively).”
“A treasure is an abundance of something that is in itself, at least in our opinion, precious and valuable, and likely to stand us in stead [be useful or helpful] hereafter,” says Matthew Henry in his “Commentary on the Whole Bible.”
“It meant an abundance of ‘anything’ that was held to be conducive to the ornament or comfort of life,’ writes Albert Barnes in his “Notes on the Bible.”
If these commentators are right, what would it look like for us to stop laying up treasures on earth in favor of laying up treasures in heaven?
In Adam Clarke’s “Commentary on the Bible,” he quotes Pasquier Quesnel, a French theologian from the seventeenth century, in an attempt to answer this question.
“The only way to render perishing goods eternal, to secure stately furniture from moths, and the richest metals from canker, and precious stones from thieves, is to transmit them to heaven by acts of charity,” Quesnel said. “This is a kind of bill of exchange which cannot fail of acceptance, but through our own fault.”
This makes me wonder what sort of treasure I need to transmit to heaven by acts of charity. How about you?
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.
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