Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
Jesus seems to have taken things that were being discussed, or things that he could see at the time, as the subjects of his parables. Perhaps it was so in this case. He was speaking to a large group of people. Possibly he had been listening to the news being spread, or his apostles had brought news to him. People have not changed that much over the centuries. The same things catch our attention today as then. So picture the following news story. Today it would be on the radio, television, or Kindle. Then it would probably be passed by word-of-mouth.
Capernaum News, 26 Adar 30 “Shovel Shears Sheepowner” Yesterday Yosef ben Shlomo was the richest man in Capernaum. Today he may still be the richest man, but his personal wealth is greatly reduced. The owner of the largest herd of sheep in Capernaum, ben Shlomo is the proprietor of the large house just east of the Roman amphitheatre. The house has been known for its interesting architecture, a combination of stone and stucco, that has been pleasing the eyes of local residents for a decade. Last night the stucco portion proved too promising of possibility for plunder. Unknown thieves, wielding shovels and picks, dug through the walls of Villa ben Shlomo and made off with clothing, jewelry, and a reported ten talents of silver. The thieves did leave Yosef a few moth-eaten tunics and some green copper coins.
It may have been just such a news story that caught his attention just before Jesus sat down to speak. And so we have the famous lines about putting treasure “where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” He admonished his hearers that true treasure is not that which is temporary, but that which is lasting. An account in the bank is less important than an account in heaven.
Some might ask the value of an account in heaven. After all, you can’t spend it here. “In God we trust; all others pay cash.” The thing is, though, that God pays interest on our treasures invested with him, and that interest is not always in kind. One way to lay up treasure in heaven is to divest ourselves of some treasure here. But when we do, we get God’s interest. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Lk 6:38)
Jesus reminds us that we have to be active in our investment strategy. We have to be deliberate about what treasure we store, and where we store it. Some people shop around for a bank or credit union. Which has the best security record? Which pays the highest interest? Which gives the best gift for signing up for an account? (Do banks do that any more?) We have to shop for our treasury as well. Does the treasure just sit around gathering rust or dust? Can anybody beat heaven’s security system? No, in heaven nobody has been able to dig or blast through the walls.
One subtle idea of what Jesus said must also be addressed. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If we lay up treasure here, we will not want to go home to God. But maybe the reverse is true as well. Where your heart is, there is your treasure as well. The one says your heart will follow your treasure heavenward. The other thought is we treasure those things we love. If we love money, that is the root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:10) If we love people, our treasure will be spread among them.
Imagine getting all of this out of a simple news story.