19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6
Jesus is a brilliant communicator. When I was working in the intelligence community, there was a section in our training manual on communications that essentially described a method of publicly communicating in a way that only the people who were supposed to receive a certain communication could understand. When I read the description, the method did not seem as sophisticated as the authors probably thought it was, because I had been reading those types of communications almost my entire life. They were parables—which is basically talking about common things in uncommon ways in order to draw the listener to consider a new way of approaching an old paradigm. And that’s what Jesus did best.
Take the word “treasure” for example. Just by saying the word “treasure”, Jesus ensured that he got the attention of listeners of every type—from those who seemingly had nothing to those who many would say had everything. Who doesn’t like the idea of treasure after all? But the way Jesus talks about treasure is different. In a few sentences, he removes the idea that “treasure” has some objective reality that everyone should value and replaces it with the notion that what is “treasure” is in the heart of the beholder.
He then reminds the listeners that no one wants to lose what they treasure—whether it be by theft or the naturally occurring corruption that is part and parcel of holding on to anything in the material world. We don’t want to lose what we treasure because our hearts are attached to it. But here’s the deal. We will experience everything we treasure in the material world as going away one way or the other. The question is, “Do we want our hearts to go along with it?” That is the human dilemma that Jesus attempts to solve.
“What does it profit someone to gain the whole world but lose their soul (heart, life, etc.)?” asks Jesus. Even if one person had every earthly treasure imaginable, it can never bring them the “treasure” of the one thing of inestimable value—life itself. What I believe Jesus is trying to communicate to us is if we treasure what is temporary, then the life we’ve chosen will end with the dissolution of all things bound by the effects of time—whether they are material riches, fame, approval, etc. However, if what we treasure is eternal (love, peace, gratitude, spirit), then our true life—the One gifted to us by our eternal Creator—will endure eternally.
Teach me what is worth treasuring so that the gift you have called me to be in this world endures forever. This I ask according to the pattern of Christ who treasured all of life. Amen.