In this episode we will be exploring the topic of trust, and how our attitudes and actions demonstrate whether our trust is in earthly things or in heavenly things.
Yeshua stated it this way:
“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; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
A typical interpretation of this passage is that we should not be focused constantly on amassing earthly wealth which is regularly subject to loss. Instead, we should be gathering and storing heavenly wealth, for it will always be perfectly safe. Which type of wealth we are pursuing reveals our true heart motivation.
This is not an incorrect deduction; we certainly should be focused on the spiritual over that which is earthly and temporary.
However, looking at the passage from its literary construction, the subject doesn’t appear to be so much the type of wealth, but the storehouse in which the wealth is kept. The word used for treasure here is a little misleading in the English. The definition of the Greek word means “a store-house for precious things; hence: a treasure, a store.” This is where we get our English word for thesaurus; a thesaurus being a type of storehouse of words that can be used in various ways.
A more literal rendering of the passage might be something like this:
“Do not amass storehouses on the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But build up for yourselves storehouses in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your storehouse is, there your heart will be also.”
You see, it’s not the treasure itself that is the focus, but the storehouse. Wherever you are storing your stuff, that’s where your heart will be.
This simple shift in focus also makes more sense of the parable Yeshua uses to explain the principle.
Luke 12:15-21 He [Yeshua] then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. “He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? “I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. “Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared – whose will they be? ‘ “That’s how it is with the one who amasses storehouses for himself and is not abundant toward God.”
The storehouse was for worldly security and ease; that’s where this man’s heart was. He was more focused on the storehouse of his earthly ease and security than the state of his spirituality. Everything he did was deliberate towards his own physical satisfaction, and nothing toward understanding the real spiritual nature of his life or bettering the spiritual state of others. His focus was on his personal earthly storehouse, not his spiritual one in the service of others.
We all know that the wealth of this world is temporary and the Bible is very clear on this topic, as well.
Psalm 39:6 Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage.
Proverbs 23:4-5 Don’t weary yourself to be rich. In your wisdom, show restraint. Why do you set your eyes on that which is not? For it certainly sprouts wings like an eagle and flies in the sky.
Proverbs 27:24 For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
If we spend the bulk of our time focused on collecting riches for our own benefit, the Bible is clear that it is time and energy spent in vain. Like everything, there is a balance. God knows we need to have an income, and hard work and discipline are to be commended.
Yet, if this is our primary focus above all else, Yeshua warns us that it could all disappear tomorrow; someone could break in and steal everything you have.
For example, just like anyone else, I enjoy the home and belongings my wife and I have accrued over the years, but we also recognize that some disaster like a fire or earthquake or violent storm could take it all away in an instant. Robbery is also a possibility, but we really don’t have anything of great value that would be meaningful to anyone but us. We both recognize that the things we have, while we enjoy them, are not permanent in any way, shape, or form.
How many times have you seen news interviews with victims of tornadoes or fires who have lost their homes, only to hear them say something like, “We’re just so grateful everyone made it out safely,” or something to that effect. In that moment, they are confronted with what is really important in life, and it is not their stuff.
You see, it’s not the riches themselves, but the attitude one carries about them that makes the difference. Some people can be super-wealthy and yet remain humble and submitted to God’s kingdom; they may use their wealth to help others in meaningful ways. Some people may be dirt-poor and yet just as satisfied knowing their basic needs are met, and they are equally generous with whatever they do have. The amount of money or wealth is not the deciding factor, but the heart-attitude toward that wealth that makes a difference. This attitude is an indicator of where a person’s storehouse is.
We also know everything is relative to one’s circumstances or local market conditions. What might pass for poverty here in the U.S. might be considered wealth when compared to Third World conditions elsewhere. There always appears to be someone more wealthy or someone who has less. This is the way of life here on this earth. Yeshua is encouraging us to not be wrapped up in the struggle and striving for that which ultimately has little or no value.
Additionally, Yeshua desires his followers to have a single purpose, not to have divided interests.
“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
You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.
The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task loving God in among other responsibilities in this life. We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option.
According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry.
Colossians 3:5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many. Yeshua taught that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.
So if we have determined that a constant focus on worldly storehouses is not appropriate for believers, what should we be focusing on? So far, we have reviewed the perils of trusting in worldly wealth in earthly storehouses to the exclusion of trusting in God wholeheartedly. But Yeshua mentions another type of storehouse, a “heavenly storehouse.” What is this heavenly storehouse and what type of wealth should we be storing in it?
So, in regard to this heavenly storehouse and its contents, Yeshua states it this way:
But amass for yourselves storehouses in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal. Matthew 6:20
Why is it that thieves, moths and rust cannot touch this type of wealth? It is because the storehouse is in a heavenly place filled with a spiritual type of wealth. What is this wealth? Based on the structure of the Sermon on the Mount, the answer appears to be being rich in good works and ethical actions that God approves of through his word. There is no way that anyone or anything can detract from these good motives and good actions. This is the type of wealth that Yeshua encourages us to store up. Let’s look at how we can arrive at that type of conclusion.
The Sermon on the Mount has a natural flow and progression to it when it is viewed as a whole. Whether this was an actual sermon or a collection of Yeshua’s teachings, what is recorded for us in Matthew has a certain structure that moves logically from one focus to the next.
It begins with the blessings of the righteous and how the righteous stand out from the rest of the world. This is due to their adherence to torah, the instruction of God, not just the traditions of the elders. In abiding to torah, believers begin to shine in the world.
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
After presenting his hearers with this truth about good deeds, Yeshua then reminds them that they should not be letting the recognition of their good deeds become the motivation for doing them. He proceeds to give some examples of oral traditions of the religious leaders, which were considered examples of good works or doctrine, but he presents them as teachings to be avoided.
Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43 “You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ … “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ … “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a legal document.’ … “Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ … “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ … “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’
While these oral traditions were based on the truth of God’s written torah, or instruction, the leaders had corrupted those things into false and hypocritical practices, and Yeshua set about to correct those teachings.
Further, Yeshua provided reassurance that God does in fact see the things that we do for the right reasons when they stem from a heart of obedience, even when they are done privately and intimately as a heart of obedience to God.
Matthew 6:3-6, 17-18
But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
The overall context of Yeshua’s instruction is that true obedience to God’s torah or instruction comes from the heart, not from outward conformity to corrupted traditions or opinions of others. The wealth of heaven is exhibited in God’s recognition of our heart motives and private obedience, while the wealth of this world comes as outward recognition of actions. When our heart motives and private obedience are exhibited in the service of others, it is then that we become the light of the world. But our motives should always remain tied to a heart of compassion and love, regardless of any outward recognition. This, in God’s eyes, is what true wealth is.
The focus in the sermon then becomes the benefits of trusting in God and single-minded devotion to the kingdom of God. This will keep us from hypocrisy and keep us on the narrow path. This will also allow us to see false teachings (and teachers) for what they are. If we remain faithful to the wisdom that Yeshua provides, we will be able to weather any storm.
Throughout the entire Sermon on the Mount, we can see how our beliefs and our actions are tied together; one reveals the other. We believe what we do, and we do what we believe. To do one thing while claiming to believe something else, something perhaps nobler, is an inconsistent and potentially hypocritical position.
Some people may say they intend to do the right thing, but they aren’t always successful in doing so. Intent is not the same as belief; intent is simply an abstract concept and cannot be demonstrated until an action reveals its presence. If a contrary action is demonstrated, then the true belief is revealed; the ideal in which we place our trust will be evident. If our intent and beliefs are aligned, then our actions will harmonize with our beliefs and we will be consistent.
All through the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua is encouraging those who are righteous to be faithful to their calling and act in righteous ways, not in the hypocritical ways of their false teachers and leaders. The storehouses we build will be filled with something, either good and faithful actions, or hypocritical self-serving actions. Where your storehouse is will likely determine what you fill it with, and where your heart will be. An earthly storehouse will receive worldly actions, but a heavenly storehouse can receive righteous actions. One is built on sand, the other is built on the rock. Yeshua encourages his followers to trust and abide by his words, and so be building upon the rock.
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that through our attitude and actions we are building storehouses either here on earth or in heavenly places. If we have an attitude of trust in God, we can remain focused on his purpose and kingdom, even in private and intimate ways of obedience to his instruction. God will recognize and reward those efforts, and those spiritual storehouses will provide eternal rewards.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.