Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 6:19
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:19
Before we move deeply into this passage, it is important to see what was considered as treasures or wealth in the ancient world. Treasures consisted in clothes or raiment. Raiment was considered as covering, clothing, or general garments. However, treasures also consisted of gold, silver, gems, jewelry, wine, lands, and oil. The ancient world delighted greatly in display, in splendid equipment and costly garments. In fact, their treasures consisted much in beautiful and richly ornamented articles of apparel.
Now, looking at verses 19 and 20, their wordings are almost the same words as the other, but with very clear distinctions regarding the definitions of treasures. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” Matthew 6:19-20. The thought here is not to ‘treasure up treasures.’ The word in the Greek for ‘store’ is the Greek word ‘thēsaurizō’ meaning to amass or reserve, to treasure together things. In these two verses, Jesus set up an absolute contrast between on earth and in heaven. He urged his followers to forget earth and think of heaven. We must not waste our time trying to get ahead in this world. He was asking them which is more important, temporary life here on earth or eternal life in heaven?
Later, He uses different wording to express basically the same point. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” Matthew 16:24-27. Notice the wording here, ‘he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’ The idea isn’t that earthly treasures are intrinsically bad, but ultimately, they are of no eternal value. If this is the case, then it is unwise for a disciple of Jesus to dedicate his life to continually expanding his earthly treasures, for they will, in the future, have it taken away by theft or destruction. Heavenly treasure, on the other hand, cannot be stolen of destroyed.
What He was saying was whatever you consider your treasures, either those things on earth or those things in heaven, is what you consider most important to you. And this is nicely capsulated in verse 21. “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. Jesus drew the conclusion that you can only have your treasure in one place, either in heaven or on earth. We cannot have it in both places. He is not saying we cannot be rich here on earth and be a true Christian for God has given many of His people wealth. But which is most important to us? Where are our desires, our heart?
Then Jesus finalizes this idea in verse 24. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24. It is important in understanding this verse to note that the Greek word translated ‘wealth’ is ‘mammōnas’ or mammon. Christ proceeds to illustrate the necessity of laying up treasures in heaven from a well-known fact, that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. One he would love, the other he would hate. To the interests of the one he would adhere, the interests of the other he would neglect. This is a law of human nature. The supreme affections can be fixed on only one object. So, says Jesus, the servant of God cannot at the same time obey him and be greedy, or seek treasures supremely on earth. One interferes with the other, and one or the other will be, and must be, surrendered. Theologian Albert Barnes describes it quite well. “Mammon is a Syriac word, a name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. It has the same meaning as Plutus among the Greeks. It is not known that the Jews ever formally worshipped this idol, but they used the word to denote wealth. The meaning is, ye cannot serve the true God, and at the same time be supremely engaged in obtaining the riches of this world. One must interfere with the other.”
In closing, the idea is that if we place God as who we will follow, no matter what, then we cannot focus on attaining wealth. Also, if we place wealth, or mammon, as what we will follow, then we will not focus on God and His ways. It is important that we look at our thoughts, desires, and how we live our lives and ensure nothing comes before following God and obeying every command He gives us. Nothing should ever come before serving God in all things. And we must remember that we don’t have to be rich to serve mammon’ money and material things; the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.