By Ryan Shaw
The most challenging problems disciples face tend to surround how we relate with the world according to God’s ways. Jesus frequently alludes to the fact that being His follower is not an easy task. It is not meant for the half-hearted.
If we will faithfully live as Jesus calls us, teaching the unreached the truths of life in the Kingdom, it will be the result of consistently fellowshipping with the Father, receiving empowering from His hand to be obedient.
Matthew 6:19-21 is an important passage in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He calls disciples to pursue the right kind of treasure while we live on earth. The primary emphasis of the passage is getting free and remaining free of covetousness as we commune with God the Father and live in the real world.
Covetousness is in effect the unhealthy clinging to or seeking after possessions, status, reputation, position, etc. The Bible, church history & contemporary experience all reveal multitudes of disciples going astray because of this very issue.
Covetousness traps our heart with fear and worry over finances and produces foolish and harmful desires for wealth resulting in actions prioritizing “laying up treasure on earth” instead of heaven.
For the most part we tend to be unaware covetousness has gripped us and is leading to destruction. For many disciples, we mistakenly think our primary treasure is heavenly when in reality it is still very earthly.
We have often never identified covetousness and how it is motivating our actions. Many of us assume we don’t have a problem with covetousness when in fact it is all over the body of Christ. We think the other person may have it, but not me.
Covetousness may take on many guises and is not only meant to surround money or wealth (though that is the primary meaning).
In the monetary sense treasure refers to wealth and things that are costly, for example property, gold, land, precious stones, etc. Treasure could include, however, love of money, love of honor, position, status, even one’s work in an idolatrous way. It is anything that stops with this life and this world.
The exhortation is not to spend undo time gathering or hoarding this world’s wealth and status for our own use. Instead we pursue “heavenly” treasure and give ourselves entirely to this process in our lives.
This means we live in this world using everything we have, possessions, gifts, abilities, time, energy, focus for the purpose of laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven. Jesus is calling disciples to invest all we have primarily on that which will last for eternity and not merely the temporal.
He is not primarily concerned about the possessions of a disciple but our attitudes toward those possessions and using these for the sake and benefit of others.
This passage has often been overlooked by those without worldly means. It is said that Jesus is teaching rich people and since I am not “rich,” it is not for me. This is a misunderstanding of His intention and purpose.
What is in view is not wealth or position or lack of it. Jesus is focusing on the tendency of the human heart to unduly seek after these things. Human nature is hardwired to give ourselves to this pursuit. This is what Jesus is guarding against.
In essence He is saying “pursue the right things in life as you live in the world and don’t be sidetracked with that which only lasts in this life and world.”
Rich, poor, famous or not has nothing to do with it. It is the heart of self-centered seeking that Jesus is wary of. He is teaching “don’t become overly concerned with seeking these things because in the end they have no eternal value.”