“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.” (Matthew 6:20-21)
By definition, treasures are anything that we value, cherish, or prize. They’re typically associated with money, but technically speaking anything could become a treasure to us.
Before we dive in, let it be noted that it is both natural and healthy to treasure things this side of heaven —loved ones, experiences, environments etc. This is normal to enjoy and delight in God’s creation, and I would even go so far as to argue that it is what the Lord intended when he invented things like love, children, dessert, and memory foam mattresses. To cherish something and value it as a prize is to experience, on one scale or another, what the Lord feels for his son Jesus and his Children.
That said, it is neither Biblical, nor logical, to meticulously deprive yourself of pleasure and enjoyment of earth—lest then become treasures—in order that you might then treasure Heaven. It’s not a matter of cherishing nothing but Jesus, but rather cherishing Jesus more than we cherish everything else. Recognizing that he is of more value than anyone or anything on earth. He is the ultimate treasure. Heaven is the ultimate prize. And following him is more valuable than any other pursuit.
I know this. I say this. But I’m not confident that my lifestyle reflects this.
When we consider what we are seeking first, we can’t help but notice where our heart and treasure are as well. I am still reeling over the quote I recently shared from John Piper that references our nibbling at the table of this world. Piper says, “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
Maybe it’s the fact that I notoriously fill up on fine delicacies like puppy chow, lil’ smokies, and cheese and feel miserably full before the actual meal begins, but this quote hits way too close to home for me. I want to be keenly aware of what I’m filling myself with, to be able to identify which things I cherish, and to differentiate between what I say I value and what my lifestyle says I value. I want my heart to be where Jesus is. I want to cherish him above everything else. And I want my lifestyle to affirm what this mouth of mine is saying. But I need Jesus to want Jesus. I need Jesus to value Jesus. I need Jesus to cherish Jesus.
As we consider seeking him first and what distracts us from doing so, our riches also comes to mind. Riches, like treasures, are not necessarily limited to finances. So no one is off the hook here.
Look at this encounter Jesus had in Mark:
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
It’s not about your actions; it’s about what you cherish and value in your heart.
This man is approaching Jesus in reverence, running up to him, kneeling before him, calling him “good”. So when Jesus says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” it reads oddly. Jesus is implying that for this man to call him “good” is to call him “God”. This seems obvious, since the man says he has kept all of the commands Jesus lists since he was young.
The part of the passage that melts me to my core is when it says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘you lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me’”
He looked at him and he loved him and he responded.
Jesus’ tone was not scoffing or snarky, as if to say, “prove it!” but rather loving and knowing—an invitation more than an accusation.
But isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ guidance for him was to sell his belongings and give to the poor—sell and give—and we are just around the corner from a holiday that has become about buying and receiving? I find it ever-so-slightly ironic.
And the last and most sobering line of the entire passage is vs. 22 when it says, “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
That’s the end of the story. It could have ended so differently for the man. This passage evokes a nauseating restlessness in me because I don’t know how I would have responded had I been in his shoes. It’s not a matter of being wealthy and having more to lose than the average person; everyone, regardless of socio-economics, has an abundance of things to cherish above Jesus. We literally invent them. So the matter is not wealth, but rather our willingness to relinquishing what we value to pursue something of greater value. One commentary says,“material possessions can be a dangerous instrument for reinforcing self-sufficiency and independence from God.”
That’s just it. The self-sufficiency and independence from God. The constant nibbling at the table of the world. The reallocation and misplacement of value.
I want to cultivate a heart that treasures Jesus above all things. A heart that loves deeply and cares fervently and receives warmly, but recognizes that and prioritizes what is truly of value. I don’t want to be disheartened when Jesus asks me to seek him first, to treasure him most, and to follow him above all else. But I know I need Jesus to seek, treasure, and follow Jesus.
How do we cultivate a heart that treasures him above all things?
Would love to know your thoughts!