In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His listeners the difference between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure, and He emphasized the importance of the heavenly: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21). Whatever we focus on dictates our actions. When we focus on earthly success and wealth, we will expend our energies on earthly matters. However, when we focus on God’s priorities, our actions will reflect different priorities—and our reward in heaven will last forever.
Treasure is anything we value above all else and that which motivates us to action. For some it is money. For others it is power. Still other people strive for fame or attention. There are many things in this world vying for control of our heart. According to Jesus, determining where our treasure is also determines where our heart is. Many people claim to look forward to heaven, but their hearts are really not in it—their hearts are caught up in the cares of this world, because that’s where their treasure lies.
Jesus warned us that earthly currency has an expiration date. While it may satisfy us temporarily, it is unstable and fleeting. The ever-changing faces on magazine covers remind us that the famous are here and gone in a blink. The stock market crash of 1929 taught us that the wealthy can quickly lose it all. Power, prestige, and public approval are limited and can be gone in an instant. Even the Son of God experienced the fickleness of human approval. One day people were trying to make Him king (John 6:15), and the next they were leaving Him in droves (verse 66).
“This world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). The moment we take our last breath, earthly treasure won’t matter anymore. Jesus urged us to think beyond that last breath to eternity. When our focus is on eternity—when our treasure is laid up in heaven—our lifestyles reflect that perspective.
We will all give an account of ourselves before God for every action (Romans 14:12) and every idle word (Matthew 12:36). No one is exempt. Excuses are not accepted. God sees and knows every thought we think and holds us accountable for the truth we’ve been given (Romans 1:18–22). We store up “treasure in heaven” when we make choices on earth that benefit God’s kingdom. Jesus said that even offering a cup of cool water to a fellow believer is worthy of eternal reward (Matthew 10:42).
In Luke 16:19–31, Jesus told a story about a rich man and a beggar. The rich man had invested his life in opulence and pleasure. He cared little for anyone or anything but himself. When he died, his riches could not follow him. His life choices had prepared him only for hell, and all the money and prestige he enjoyed on earth counted for nothing. After death, he would have given everything he ever owned for a single drop of water, but his treasure had been invested elsewhere.
It is no sin to be rich, but our passions follow our investments. Wealthy people who consider their riches as belonging to God will use what they have in ways that have eternal significance, protecting their own hearts from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). People whose treasure is in heaven cannot be owned by their possessions. They cannot be bought off because nothing on earth is worth the price of their soul. They value the currency of heaven and use their earthly treasure to purchase “heavenly gold,” which will never lose its value. Investing our treasure in material things keeps our hearts anchored to earthly values; however, when we invest in things of eternal value, our hearts remain loyal to the Lord, and we will not be tempted to foolishly attempt to serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).