A year ago, I moved from Austin, TX and took a “cush” job in San Francisco. As a young, single dude with a good job in an unbelievably exciting city in the most beautiful region of the US, the world was suddenly open to me in entirely new ways. I moved with the explicit reason to live on mission in a creative, secular city and with the implicit reason of experiencing all that northern California had to offer. Slowly, I began dropping cash on great food and great fun every weekend. I was spending tons of my free time on things like hiking, surfing (i.e. getting pummeled by waves and trying not to drown), and all kinds of other new excursions. A few months into this, and with the help of a new community at King’s Cross Church, I began to ask myself—what am I actually investing my life in right now? When I added up all my money, time, and energy, the answer was obvious—I had made a subtle shift from investing in the Kingdom of God to investing in treasures on earth. My heart was trending more toward the love of earthly treasure like experiences and less to the treasure of ChristPerhaps you are trending in the same direction.
But what does Jesus mean when he tells Christians not to lay up treasures on earth? To lay up treasures on earth means to invest your life in the pursuit of worldly wealth. This is more than just the love of money. Most of the time, we pursue worldly wealth not because we love money, but because we love what money affords. Materialism has different faces and each of us is tempted to invest our lives in worldly wealth in one of three ways. First, many of us invest our lives in worldly wealth because we value stuff. We want the nicest homes in the most ideal neighborhoods, the slickest cars, and the hippest gadgets. We work hard at our businesses and jobs to acquire more and greater “things.” What do you spend most of your money on? How often do you find yourself shopping? How often are you thinking about your next big purchase? The answers to these questions will give you an indication of your treasure. To this, Jesus gives a blunt warning: Moth and rust destroy and thieves break in to steal. Material things will not last and are not worth the investment of our lives.
Others of us invest in worldly wealth because we value image and acceptance. We don’t care about stuff in the most general sense. What we really care about is the right stuff that will help us build the right image. We are buying our way to acceptance into a particular community. Maybe you invest in your image as the successful businessperson, as an artist, or even as a mom that has the perfect Pinterest home. You invest in worldly wealth because you value the acceptance of the business world, or the artist community, or the other homemakers in your neighborhood. Perhaps wealth is the in-road to your ultimate treasure—acceptance.
Finally, many of us are prone to invest in worldly wealth for the experiences it can afford. We want to travel, see shows, and live a life full of rich experiences. I often hear people frame this as the opposite of materialism—but they are wrong. The investment in experiences can be a manifestation of materialism. The experiences we want cost money and it is all too easy to spend dollar after dollar on sporting events, concerts, and vacations. How much time, money, and energy do you spend on the next great experience? How much money do you drop on shows every year? How much time do you spend thinking about your next family vacation? Do you spend more time on fun experiences than you spend serving others? Are your experiences your greatest treasure?
To be clear, when Jesus tells us “not to lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” he is not attacking worldly wealth in itself. He is not saying to get rid of all your earthly stuff and to never enjoy experiences. He is arguing against an inordinate focus on those things—a preoccupation with temporal worldly wealth over the timeless wealth of the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us not invest our lives into worldly wealth because all these things will be destroyed or stolen from us—they won’t last! You might say, “Wait a second, your image doesn’t rust and experiences can’t be eaten away by moths, can they?” Material stuff breaks or gets stolen. Image is shallow and acceptance is fleeting. The high of an experience always fades. Jesus is saying that pouring your life into worldly wealth is a bad investment because it will not last into God’s Kingdom.
On the other hand, laying up treasures in heaven does not mean “Be a good Christian so that you can have more rewards and more stuff in heaven.” It means to invest in those things that are of value in the Kingdom of God. Heaven refers to God’s space—where he resides today—that in some mysterious way has interlocked with earth in the coming of Jesus and in his Spirit who fills the church. Heaven is the Kingdom of God that has already been launched and will one day be fulfilled. So, what then are the things that matter in the Kingdom of God? How might you invest in those things that will last into God’s future? First, God wants you to invest in his family—the church. The church matters to God, so she should also matter to you. He loves his family so much that he entered into his creation to suffer and die that we might be restored to him for eternity. If you are a Christian, you are part of that family. As a part of that family, you have a spiritual responsibility for the care and well being of it. God’s family will last into his great and future Kingdom. Are you investing in the family of God in practical ways? Are you actively engaged in caring for folk? Commit to invest your time, energy, and money into the family of God.
Second, God wants you to invest in his mission. God’s mission is to redeem the world and fill it with his presence. A key part of this process is renewing people so that they are united to God and worship Christ. God has sent us out into our everyday lives on his mission to make disciples so that more people would know the love of God and more people could worship him. Are you committed to the work of making disciples? Does your investment of time, energy, and money reflect a commitment to the mission of God? What would need to change in your life this year to prioritize the mission of God?
Finally, and most importantly, we must invest in our relationship with God. Ultimately, this is what we have been rescued to—the joy of knowing the living God and walking with him daily. Are you listening to him through his Word? Are you meeting the Spirit in prayer daily? Are you committed to knowing God and growing in grace? If you are not daily investing in your relationship with God, you are missing out on the greatest treasure of life. God is a perfect Father, who loves you, cares for you, and desires to know you. We have the opportunity to step into that each day.
What do you treasure? What are you investing your life into day-in and day-out? Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart, in Jewish teaching, refers to the center of the entire person. It encompassed the will, the desires, and the emotions. Jesus is saying that whatever you treasure, whatever you invest your time, energy, and money into is an indication of where your heart is. Ultimately, what you invest in is where your heart is, and where your heart is, is what you worship. If you worship God, then you’ll invest in his Kingdom. If you worship stuff, your image, or experiences then you will pour your life into those things only to see them fade away or be ripped out of your grasp. Treasure on earth will pass away, but the Kingdom of God will endure forever.