Returning to our discussion of money and wealth…
We recall that Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, God’s special possession (see Exodus 19 and my previous posts “God & Treasure” and “What is your Treasure?“).
That was then. What about now? Does that call still apply to us? If so, how should we respond? What bearing does it have on how we live, on how we view treasure, or possessions, or wealth?
The truth is that the call to be an alternate society, a contrast community, comes just as powerfully to us today as it did to Israel then. Right at the start of his ministry, Jesus made it clear that he was restoring what his Father had intended, and what Israel had failed to achieve. This had implications for all who followed Jesus. Their first priority was not to seek treasure and wealth. Their treasure was to live out God’s rule and be treasure.
Jesus says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31–33, NIV) God was promising to bless them, provide for them, and bring his Kingdom to light through them.
Jesus addressed the matter of treasure directly in Matt 6:19-24. This passage has often troubled readers. People wonder what ‘treasures in heaven’ are, and whether they are working for the right stuff.
The nature of ‘treasure on earth’ is reasonably clear. By talking about ‘earth’ Jesus refers to the human domain and dimension. We seek earthly treasure when we build our lives and aspirations around the things that represent fallen humanity. In the context of Jesus’ metaphor, ‘earth’ is a place of decay, an impermanent existence where everything disappoints. The things we strive for: success, beauty, reputation, influence, possessions, the sense of security that our relative wealth brings – none of these things will last. None of these will deliver the life we aspire to, or the peace we long for. This is what it means to be ‘of the earth’. To store up ‘treasure on earth’, then, is to make these impermanent and ultimately unsatisfying things the focus of your life.
seeking ‘treasure in heaven’ is to build our life around the things of God
If earth is the impermanent dimension of humanity, then heaven is God’s dimension. Heaven is the place where his will is done perfectly. Where there is grace, beauty, justice, relationships of perfect love and integrity. These are things that will last. This is where life is perfectly centred in Jesus, expressing the full perfection of God’s original design.
So, seeking ‘treasure in heaven’ is to build our life around the things of God. To centre our lives and aspirations around the things that matter to him and the things that reveal his true intention for life and his world. Heaven is where God’s will is done. Heaven is where Jesus’ new life and his better way come to perfect expression. Grace, humility, justice, compassion, beauty, faithfulness – eloquently revealed in relationship with him.
When Jesus enters peoples lives, his rule comes to expression as they stop living to gain treasure, and instead start to live as treasure bringing love, forgiveness, care and mercy into every part of their lives.
Q: What one thing is God calling you to change? How would your life be different if you started to live this way every day? How would your church be different?