“Do not pile up treasures on earth where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasures in heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For heart and treasure go together.”
Ah, this teaching is a killer! It tells me that my true self is with my savings. The money I have saved for my old age, for some luxuries meanwhile and some care when I need it, that’s where my heart is, he says.
Is he right?
At first I reluctantly agree with him. I know he wants me to trust in God’s provision, on the model of the flowers and the birds.
But then I rebel against his daft presumption. Had he never seen a dried up flower or a starved bird? And anyway birds look out for their own interests with some skill and vigour. So he can’t have been so daft as not to know that I have to work and save for myself and my dear ones.
With this in mind I look at his words again. Perhaps “treasure” is the word that needs interpretation. It means the things that are precious to me. So do I regard my earthly possessions as precious? Well, I suppose I like them well enough, they seem useful to me, but I would share them if there was a reason to do so . On the other hand, I would resent a revolution in which private property was abolished. Does this mean that I am storing up treasure on earth?
Then again, I do regard many things that are not mine as treasure, the natural world especially along with the fruits of human creativity; social justice, the arts of healing, music, drama, literature, painting, sculpture, all of these and more are treasures I gladly share with others. Did Jesus mean any of these when he spoke of treasure in heaven? For him, heaven meant God and everything that shared God’s goodness. I think Jesus would have regarded anything inspired by God’s goodness as treasure in heaven, because its full enjoyment might only be possible in the time and place of God’s Rule.
So if I’m working out my status in the light of Jesus’ teaching, I have to admit a greater love of earthly treasure than he advocated along with a modest love of heavenly treasure.
But his words won’t let me go. They ask me if I’ve really reckoned with the unreliability of all earthly goods subject as they are to human evil and natural decay; and the complete reliability of all things that share God’s goodness.
“fading is the worldling’s treasure
all his boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting pleasure
none but Zion’s children know”
I hope it may be so and that my tentative faith will be exposed as a fault and forgiven.