A brief series on stewardship. Part 2: What do you Treasure?
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned his attention to the idea of what we choose to treasure…
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 brea in and steal.Matthew 6:19-20
The idea, of course, is that we would invest in what is eternal, not in what is temporary. We are exhorted to not invest (lay up our treasures) in things that are fleeting, or that wear out, or that we can lose. Things that are temporary cannot truly satisfy, and usually result in anxiety rather than joy, as we are aware of their temporary status. And yet, our flesh (sin nature) so often leads us to set our desires on those very things.
But why is that such an important exhortation? What’s the big deal about treasuring temporary things? Jesus offers the answer by offering the punchline in the next verse when he proclaims,
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:21
As image bearers, we are created to be worshippers. As fallen image bearers, we have a worship problem. We also have a love problem. Whereas we continue, even despite our fallen nature, to have the capacity to worship and love, those things are now miss-aimed because of sin. And this is the reality into which Jesus is speaking.
Recently I spoke to a group of high school students at an FCA meeting. I wrote v. 21 on a whiteboard, and a big empty cloud out to the side. As students came in I asked them to take a marker and write something they really love, something they treasure, in the cloud. The answers they provided were not unlike I had expected: a sport I play, my dog, my family, friends, etc.
After everyone arrived I read through the verse, and we began to discuss together what it meant to treasure something, as well as the connection between what we treasure and our hearts. I shared the following progression with them, a progression about which I think often. It goes like this:
treasure ➡️ heart ➡️ passion ➡️ focus ➡️ life
It reads like this: Whatever we set as our treasure becomes the focus of our heart’s affections, and whatever holds our heart directs our passion. Whatever steers our passion becomes the focus of our life. And that, inevitably, therefore, is what we are looking to (and believing in) for life. In a simpler summary, whatever we treasure is also what we believe to be the source of life, or life-giving. That is, at least, how I believe Jesus is using that term there in Matthew 6:21. Just a few verses later he says, “No one can serve two masters,” so he is also asserting that what we treasure is ultimately what we serve.
I shared with the students that none of the things that they wrote in the cloud on the whiteboard were essentially bad things, nor are any of them things we shouldn’t love. But everything in that cloud can ultimately become a point of idolatry if we look to any of those things as the supreme treasure of our hearts, or as a source of life. None of those things are capable of being life-giving, nor are any of them enduring, or eternal.
But here is the good news: None of those things are designed to give us life. This is why none of them should be the supreme treasure of our hearts. There is only one thing that is truly life-giving, and his name is Jesus. He is the only treasure worthy of being supreme. So, here is the important distinction: only when Jesus is in the place of supreme treasure in our lives will we truly enjoy his good gifts. But when those good gifts become supreme, they will ultimately frustrate us, wrack us with anxiety (which, interestingly enough is the subject Jesus teaches on next in Matthew 6), and ultimately fall short of that expectation. Our posture toward those things intended as good gifts can actually begin to steal [true] life from us when we elevate them to a status they were never supposed to have. And that affects every aspect of our life. And, more importantly, it affects our relationship with God.
Just a few verses later Jesus says this: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). Jesus is eternal. His kingdom is eternal. Those things that are eternal are the only things worthy of treasuring supremely. So when those eternal things hold supreme sway over our hearts, that will direct our passion and our focus in such a way that we can and will begin to experience Jesus as our eternal life in all things.
So, what do you treasure? The answer to that question is most often not so much answered with our lips, but with this test: What does the pattern of your life proclaim as having the greatest worth? What do you most talk about? What do you most think about? What are you pursuing with the greatest vigor? What are the investments of your finances most aimed toward attaining?
Whatever I treasure as supreme will hold my heart. Whatever holds my heart’s affections will direct my passions. Wherever my passion is aimed will set my focus. And whatever I am focused is what I am ultimately believing in to give me life.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!