The Disciple and His Material Possessions

The next topic of the Sermon on the Mount is potentially very disturbing for professing Christians whose primary motivation in life is the ever-increasing accumulation of material things:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay 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 will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:19-24).

Jesus commanded that we not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth. What then constitutes a “treasure”? Literal treasures are normally kept in treasure chests, stored away somewhere, never used for anything practical. Jesus defined them as things that attract moths, rust and thieves. Another way of saying it would be, “non-essentials.” Moths eat what is in the far ends of our closets, not what we wear frequently. Rust eats away at those things we rarely use. Thieves most often steal things people really don’t need: art, jewelry, expensive gadgets, and what can be pawned.

True disciples have “given up all their possessions” (see Luke 14:33). They are simply stewards of God’s money, so every decision to spend money is a spiritual decision. What we do with our money reflects who is controlling our lives. When we accumulate “treasures,” hoarding money and buying what is not essential, we reveal that Jesus is not in control, because if He was, we would do better things with the money He’s entrusted to us.

What are those better things? Jesus commands us to lay up treasure in heaven. How is that possible? He tells us in Luke’s Gospel: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).

By giving to charity, we lay up treasure in heaven. Jesus is telling us to take what is sure to depreciate to the point of being worthless, and invest it in something that will never depreciate. That is what the disciple-making minister is doing, and he is teaching his disciples to do likewise.