In the book ‘What on Earth have we Done with the Teachings of Jesus?’ (available as a free download here), I listed the top ten teachings according to the frequency that Jesus spoke on them. In covering the top ten out of 83 different subjects, I am now looking at the 4th most common topic which is, ‘Do not store up wealth on earth’.
Wealth and more wealth
Wealth and more wealth – How can I get that pay rise? How can I increase my profits? How can I maximise the equity in my house? How can I better my pension scheme? If we truly consider our lives we have to confess that the answer to these questions has been our main driving force. The pursuit of money is the driving force behind the ‘reason to be’ for the majority of the world. In the world’s system – ‘Money talks’. In the world’s system – money raises our status, enables us to have credibility among our peers and gives most people the reason to get up in the morning. We have been inherently conditioned to do the best that we can to provide for our own needs.
Jesus speaks of a different way
But Jesus speaks of a different way. A way of letting go of our wealth to embrace a child-like trust in the Father in Heaven to provide for all our needs. And why? Because the Father knows that the pursuit of wealth and possessions is a great distraction. A stumbling block. How can we know that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh – our provider if we have spent our entire lives providing for ourselves? How can we be available for reaching out to those that are lost if the vast majority of our energy and time is devoted to doing a job simply for pay day.
In Mary’s song in Luke 1, she says ‘He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.’
Do you want to be perfect?
In Jesus’ own words – ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ ; ‘it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven’ ; ‘woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort’ ; ‘The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature’ ; ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God’.
1 in 9 people in the world do not have enough to eat
Who is he that is rich today? Living in the first world can totally obscure our mentality toward wealth. But when comparing this first world to the rest of the world, the statistics are shocking: If your annual income is £25,000 or above then you are in the top 1% of earners in the world. 1 in 9 people in the world do not have enough to eat. More than a third of people in the world have to live on around £1.50 a day – less than we would spend on a cup of coffee. Only 5% of the world owns a computer and only 25% sleep in their own beds at night. So then who is he that is rich? Is it not us?
How tempting it is to hoard what we own. To turn a blind eye to the needs of others. But oh the joy of living more simply, of shedding our possessions and sharing what we have with others. Of daring to live to seek first the Kingdom of God and to experience Him providing all that we need – that is to be rich toward God.
Christ designs not to deprive us of our treasure
Henry says – In choosing the treasure we lay up. Something every man has which he makes his treasure, his portion, which his heart is upon, to which he has all he can get, and which he depends upon for futurity… Christ designs not to deprive us of our treasure, but to direct us in the choice of it.
The caution is against making the things that are seen, that are temporal, our best things, and placing our happiness in them. A treasure is an abundance of something that is in itself, at least in our opinion, precious and valuable… We must not count these things the best things, nor the most valuable in themselves. We must not covet an abundance of these things, nor be still grasping at more and more of them, and adding to them, as men do to that which is their treasure, as never knowing when we have enough. They must not be our security and supply in time to come. We must be content with a little for our passage.
What are we laying up for in the next world?
Let us consider whatever we are laying up for ourselves is for the next world. We are given a choice we need to choose wisely, for we will have as we choose. If we know and consider ourselves what we are, what we are made for, how large our capacities are, and how long our lifespan we shall see it is foolish to lay up our treasures on earth.
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Those things that are unseen, that are eternal and to place our happiness in them. There are treasures in heaven, as sure as there are on this earth. Those in heaven are the only true treasures, the riches and pleasures that are at God’s right hand… It is our wisdom to lay up our treasure in those treasures… To look upon all things here below with a holy contempt, as not worthy to be compared with it. We must firmly believe there is such a happiness, and resolve to be content with that… If we make those treasures ours, they are laid up, and we may trust God to keep them safe for us.
The heart follows the treasure
Where your treasure is, on earth or in heaven, there will you heart be… the temper of our minds, and consequently the tone of our lives, will be either carnal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly. The heart follows the treasure, as the sunflower the sun. Where the treasure is there the value, love and affection are (Col. 3:2)… Where the treasure is, there our cares and fears are, there our hope and trust are (Prov. 18:10, 11). There our joys and delights will be (Ps. 119:111)… The heart is God’s due (Prov. 23:26), and our treasure must be laid up with him, and then our souls will be lifted up to Him.
Do not do your good deed to be seen by men
This direction about laying up our treasure is also cautioned with not doing what we do in religion to be seen of men. Our treasure is our alms, prayers, and fastings, and the reward of them. If we have done these only to gain the applause of men, we have laid up this treasure on earth. Hypocritical services (to be seen by men) lay-up nothing in heaven (Isa. 58:3). But if we have prayed and fasted and given alms in truth and uprightness, we have laid up that treasure in heaven. A book of remembrance is written there (Mal. 3:16), and being there recorded, they shall be there rewarded, and we shall meet them again with comfort on the other side death and the grave… His ‘well done’ shall stand for ever.
If we have laid up our treasure with Him, with Him our hearts will be; and where can they be better?
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
She Gave All Jesus was the guest of honour At that banquet spread. When May broke her jar of perfume And poured it on His head. Some people became angry What a terrible waste! Her intentions may be good But somewhat misplaced. In our considered opinion You really can’t ignore; The jar could have been sold The money given to the poor. So they criticized her harshly, She who lavished on the Son But on one can take away from Mary What she has done. Away with you who pretend! You think I cannot see. I know your intentions, but what Do you really give to Me? She poured out her heart. Not for her, an offering small. No the only thing of value she had; She gave her all. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father – When I look upon my life my heart is torn. I see that over the years I have been caught up in the quest for more of this world’s offering. Help me live from now on to store up treasure in heaven. To treat the things on this earth with a holy contempt and live purely for Your delight. In Jesus Name. AMEN