Where are our hearts?

Our God requires us to trust Him implicitly. He requires us to believe what He has written in His Word: “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb 11:6).

However, our belief has to be more than an intellectual assent (where we agree with what has been stated in the written Word); it has to become an actionable way of life.

We can all agree with this concept intellectually. We have the examples of Israel wandering through the wilderness, and their failures due to their inability to put their trust in their God. These are the examples we read about and the stories we have come to cherish. The heroes of the Bible are the ones who demonstrate their faith, while all around them there is a complete lack of it.

Faithful heroes and armchair critics

We can tend to take a dim view of Israel journeying through the wilderness under Moses’ leadership, being led into the land by Joshua, and during times of adversity under the judges and kings. We can judge them with a little self-righteous contempt. We have to put their story into context. We happen to know the end of the story, how God would deliver them, while they only knew the desperation of the situation they found themselves in (or put themselves in), and had to trust God would deliver them. We know how the story turned out, and that God did deliver them, while they did not know the exact outcome at the time. We need to remember we are passing judgment from the comfort of our armchairs, in our studies, or ecclesial halls.

Daniel’s three friends fully believed that God was able to deliver them out of the furnace, however to them there was no guarantee (Dan 3:16-18).

Esther didn’t know if she had been raised up to save her people or if she would survive the death penalty for intruding into the king’s presence without the proper protocol.

Jonathan and his armourbearer had no absolute assurance of the outcome of their climb to take on the Philistines at Michmash.

How would we fare in the circumstances of Daniel’s three friends, Esther, or Jonathan? How would we behave when the outcome was uncertain, and a near-death experience was on the horizon? Most of us will never face these kinds of life-and-death struggles. We will not stand at the edge of a burning fiery furnace where a grisly death is the only logical outcome. We will not stand before kings who have the power of life and death over us. We will not face armies when we are outnumbered hundreds of times over.

Yet we will still be tested to see if we will follow God’s ways or not. The tests are much less dramatic, but the faith required to stand them is the same. Do we have the faith to believe God can deliver us? Our test of faith often comes in the mundane, everyday things of life, and the challenge placed upon us by the Lord Jesus Christ. In our material day and age, faith in God flies in the face of everything we are taught by the world and its institutions.

The Lord Jesus Christ challenges us on a very ordinary level. No burning furnaces, no totalitarian emperors, no overwhelming armies. He simply asks us to choose the kingdom age, and put our trust in God above the cares of this life.

Lay not up treasures on earth

The challenge is simple, easily agreed to intellectually, but requires much more faith to act upon. Our Lord said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matt 6:19).

To “layup” carries the idea of “to gather up, heap up, store up, accumulate, keep in store or reserve”. Christ instructs us not to keep in store or reserve treasures on earth. The word “treasures” is closely related to the words “lay up” and relates to the “store house, or treasuries where things are collected”, and can also refer to the “things that are stored up in a vault”. So, plainly put, we are not to accumulate, or keep in store, corruptible materials.

This includes stores of clothing that can be eaten by moths, or gold and silver which can “rust” and “corrupt”. This is difficult to heed when we live in a ‘consumer’ world, where the goal is to hoard as many ‘consumables’ as possible. These are all the things that the world desires, so much so that “thieves” are willing to “take away by stealth”, as the meaning of the word conveys. All the things that the world values are fleeting and will pass away, they will corrupt, or be stolen. This cannot be where we put our hearts.

Christ is drawing on the consistent teaching of Scripture. We need to detach our affections from the fleeting present to the future, because the present will soon wax old like a garment and pass away (Isa 51:6-8). In contrast, God’s righteousness and salvation will never be abolished.

Proverbs 23:4-5 presents a similar challenge: “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven”.

We need to labour to make a living but not labour to make ourselves weary with work in order to become wealthy. We cannot put our effort into the accumulation of wealth, draining all our physical resources, wearing ourselves out for riches that will simply fly away.

Our attention cannot be on the present world which, as 2 Peter 3:10-13 states, is going to be “dissolved”. The idea of that word is “to come undone or fall apart, and be burned up and pass away”. What “manner of persons” should we be? Or as the phrase means “from what country” should we be of, or where should our citizenship be held?

The prevailing philosophy of the western world is to expend all our effort to make ourselves rich and accumulate goods. We have seen bumper stickers and slogans such as “He who dies with the most toys wins”. Business schools and universities are geared to teach us how to accumulate wealth efficiently, and at much greater levels. There are whole industries built around how to store it up and keep it from corrupting.

Where is our treasure?

Our Lord lays out the contrast to this way of life: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:20-21).

Instead of hoarding up corruptible treasures, we are to hoard up treasures in heaven. This poses the question, what are treasures in heaven? Paul answers this question when writing to Timothy: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim 6:17-19).

Paul addresses those who are abounding in material wealth. In today’s age this is most of us. We are exhorted not to be “highminded”. We are not to put any confidence in the uncertainty of riches. This runs completely counter to the world in which we live. All the advertising campaigns encourage us to trust in retirement savings plans, investments, nest eggs, trust funds etc, and this flies in the face of what Paul argues. Instead of trusting in wealth we are to put our trust in the living God who gives us all things. The word “give” means “to be the author of, to render from one’s own stores or resources”. As human beings, we have a problem with this – we want to trust in the material things, and not the Creator who provides all things from His store.

The exhortation is to “do good” and be “ready to distribute”. We should feel free to impart what God has freely given us to those who need it. We must be “willing to communicate”, that is, inclined to make others sharers in our possessions, inclined to impart and to give. This is a form of God manifestation. He has given us wealth out of His abundance and expects us to impart out of our abundance to others, reflecting what He has done for us. This is an investment, or “laying in store…a good foundation” for the future kingdom age, with the goal of “lay[ing] hold” and seizing the life of the age to come.

This must be the investment we put all our effort into. This is a complete paradigm shift from what our consumer-driven world thinks about. It is a different way of thinking, and this is not surprising because it is God’s way of thinking.

We must elevate our thinking, align it with the thinking of the Creator, and put our confidence in His way of doing things. As God supplies for all mankind through the rains of heaven, so His Word will accomplish what He has set out to perform (Isa 55:10-11). The question is, will we allow it to accomplish what it has begun in us? Will we put our confidence in the Creator who provides all things, or in the provisions He has provided?

Christ makes a factual statement: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21). The word “treasure” is the Greek word “thesauros”, meaning “the treasure vault and the things that are put in it”. The things we choose to store in our vault demonstrate where our hearts and affections are. We must examine ourselves and ask what we value in life. This question is answered by where we invest our time and effort. If we are labouring only to be rich, and that is what is in our vault, it reflects where the desire of heart lies. If we are labouring in the truth, and that is what consumes our time, effort, and resources—then the Truth is probably our heart’s desire.

Ask the question, what tires us out? Is it running around organising the sports and social activities for our children? Is it working 12 to 14 hours a day to ac- cumulate wealth and climb the ladder, or is it the work and service of the Truth? What are we labouring to do? What is the foundation we are building?

We need to busy ourselves with laying up treasures in heaven. We need to value our eternal inheritance much more than the things of this life that will pass away: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:3-5).
Our inheritance is “reserved”in heaven. The Greek means “to be guarded”. Hence nothing and nobody can touch it. Furthermore, it is “undefiled”—meaning it cannot be soiled or have its force or vigour impaired – and it “fades not away”. This is completely different to worldly riches which, although guarded by men, can be stolen, easily corrupt, quickly rust out and rapidly disappear. On the other hand, the reward God offers will never fade (1 Pet 5:4).

In our next article we will explore what real wealth is.