Earthly vs Heavenly Treasure

Earthly vs Heavenly Treasure

In a materialistic world trying to turn our attention to all the new, shiny, faster, and better items which promise us a better, happier, more fulfilling life, Jesus calls us to something completely different. Rather than storing up the earthly treasure the world is selling, he tells us to store up heavenly treasure which pays an everlasting reward.


Today we start a new series to see what the Bible says about “Treasure.” We don’t talk a lot about treasure these days, but I remember many movies and television shows back in the 1980s that were about hunting for lost treasure.

I grew up with the cartoon “DuckTales,” featuring Scrooge McDuck and his nephews. Most episodes included a hunt for hidden treasure. The show immediately following this one was “TailSpin,” which was about a bear who was a pilot. Guess what. He often found himself flying to find hidden treasure.

It wasn’t only the television shows that talked about treasures. For breakfast I ate Lucky Charms, which were all about a leprechaun and a rainbow and a box of treasure at the end of the rainbow. Usually the back of the cereal box had a maze with a treasure chest at the end.

At the pet store, by the aquariums, they sold little hidden treasure decorations because obviously the ocean floor was littered with such things.

So I grew up pretty much believing that these old wooden treasure boxes existed in various hidden caves, or at the bottom of the ocean, or in dusty attics all around the world – IF ONLY I could find one! These magical boxes were always filled with the same thing: GOLD! Gold coins, gold necklaces, gold bars – everything that’s so important to a child.

I find it interesting that although my generation has grown up, we are still on the hunt for treasure. It looks different now, though. For some it is finding a steal of a deal at a thrift store or an undervalued piece of equipment at an auction. For others it’s investments in the stock market and Bitcoin.

I recently started a new book service that gives me 15-minute audio summaries of popular books. When it finishes one book it automatically starts another. I have found that MANY of the books are about money and getting rich in a hurry. They say it’s not a “get-rich-quick” scheme, but then one book immediately said that by the age of fifty you could easily be like the author and have $1.5 million in the bank.

After listening to one book that was completely uncompelling, I let it roll to the next – and the next – and the next. I was fascinated that all four books I listened to were essentially about acquiring as much treasure, money, gold, Bitcoin, and investments as you could as fast as possible. “Retire by 45” is a new goal many people are selling in their books.

However, do you know what was missing from every one of these books? There was no mention of generosity or giving your money to those in need. It was all about hoarding, with not even a side discussion of what the goal of all money might be. It obviously was all for YOU to spend on YOURSELF, YOUR comforts, and whatever makes YOU happy!

Jesus Tells Us About Treasure

We’ve seen what the world is telling us about treasure, wealth, and controlling our finances for maximum happiness. But guess what – the Bible has a very counter-cultural stance on treasure.

Let’s look at Matthew chapter 6, a portion of Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount, where He compares earthly and heavenly treasure.

Matthew 6:19 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

First, Jesus tells us NOT to treasure earthly things – the types of things the world tells are most important to us – the types of things mice destroy and thieves steal.

Living in the country, I’m learning really fast that the more I store for the winter, the more the mice can destroy! Extra tarps, a bag of bird seed, a wire on my string trimmer – all ruined by mice my first winter here.

The King James Bible uses the word “rust” instead of “vermin.” Rust destroys. Translators aren’t totally sure which is being referred to here, but I can equally attest to the detriment of rust destroying equipment of great value. Regardless of how your Bible translates this verse, we all understand the point.

There’s also the risk of theft. If you have a shed with a dirt bike or a four-wheeler, or even a stockpile of lumber in it, you have to worry that one day you might open the door and find the shed empty. That’s part of living in this imperfect world.

I don’t think this verse is saying you shouldn’t have anything in a closet or a garage that you don’t use every day, or that you shouldn’t own anything of value that someone might steal. People are sinister, and some will steal whatever looks easy to take, even if it has minimal value.

No, this verse is pointing out that BECAUSE earthly stuff is so temporal, it shouldn’t be the basis of your affection. You shouldn’t build a treasure chest of STUFF thinking it will make you happy. In this world, that stuff that you think will make you happy can be ruined or taken in a moment.

Matthew 6:20 – But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Next, Jesus tells us what to put into our treasure chest – heavenly treasure. It can’t be eaten by pests, corroded by rust, or stolen by thieves. Righteousness, mercy, grace, good deeds, worship of God – these are the treasures God sees and accounts for. These are treasures that, rather than having a temporal existence, will exist for eternity.

Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus makes it clear: you can treasure earthly things or heavenly things, but whatever treasure you seek will expose where your heart is. We see this all around us. Whatever a person values most is the thing they constantly seek.

Extreme sports fans seek glory. They live and die by their team’s success. They build their calendar to make sure they can watch ALL the games, and they decorate their homes to celebrate their treasured team.

  • The Instagram Elite seek attention. They are all about their carefully curated online images. Their hair, makeup, outfits and lighting all have to be perfect all the time because their images are so valuable to them. They treasure the “Likes” and the comments people leave; their hearts insatiably continue to chase even more attention.
  • World travelers seek excitement. They love to see the world all around; and so they are constantly dreaming about their next vacation, the next location, the views they will see and the food they will eat. They save every penny to make each experience amazing, and they never fail to show off all the pictures they take to us poor peasants who can’t afford to go.
  • Materialistic people seek comfort and satisfaction. This group applies to so many of people in America. They want shiny, exciting trucks; big houses; nice clothes; bigger tractors; more land; bigger TVs; faster phones; healthier food; smarter kids; greener grass – you name it and they want MORE of it. The irony is that every new purchase leaves them still unsatisfied.

Unfortunately, living in America in 2022, we have to battle every day against the temptation to seek these counterfeit treasures. The reason we have such a constant battle is shown in the following verses.

Matthew 6:22-23 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 

You see (pun intended), what we treasure begins first with what we spend our time looking at. Materialism doesn’t begin in your heart; it begins with what you see. If you like what you see, you let your gaze linger on it, and you want it for yourself. Then materialism grows in your heart.

That’s exactly what these verses are saying. If your eyes are healthy (and that Greek word for “healthy” means “singular”) and if your eyes are singularly focused on the right things, then your whole body, your heart included, will be full of light. You will be focused on heavenly things and so your heart will be filled with joy.

But if your eyes are unhealthy and if they go to and fro looking for everything that could satisfy the lust for more – more excitement, attention, glory, satisfaction – then your whole body will be filled with darkness. Your heart will be full of lust, jealousy, hatred and anger as the counterfeit treasures fail to satisfy. How frustrating it is to think you are attaining exactly what you want, only to find that you still feel you need more!

  • The new car or new phone didn’t make you feel any happier, and now you have payments to make.
  • The vacation was fun, but you had to return to your home and the job you dread.
  • The last photo got 1000 Likes, but the one you just posted has only 57. Are you really that ugly? You probably need to lose more weight, change your hair color, buy a new top, and get a better phone to take your next selfie.
  • That never-ending feeling that “everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” was described by the writer of Ecclesiastes a thousand years before Jesus lived. This is probably what Jesus was alluding to here when He says, “And how great is that darkness.” Perhaps that is the feeling many lottery winners experience when statistically they blow their winnings within just five years.

Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus concludes His teaching on treasure by making one final contrast: you cannot serve both God and Money.

Jesus talks about the absolute devotion He requires of our lives. There’s no room in our hearts for devotion to Jesus AND. You can’t be devoted to Jesus AND your popularity . . . AND your family . . . AND your money.

Do you notice that I included family in that list? Even family can become an unhealthy treasure in your life. It can become a master that demands you serve it before your God, and that is wrong. That’s why Jesus taught that we must hate our fathers and mothers (relative to Him) if we are to be His disciples.

Jesus makes another point when He says we can’t serve two masters. A master has authority. Our lives must be submitted to the desires of the master. We don’t get to make our own decisions or follow our own dreams; our decisions and dreams must be in alignment with what the master wants.

That’s why no slave could serve two masters. You are a slave to one or the other. It would be like trying to be a football player on two different teams at the same time. It can’t happen.

Fun Fact: Last week I read an article about Equifax, the big company who tracks our credit reports. They monitored the computers of 1000 employees and found 24 who were working second jobs at the same time. They were all fired. This proves that no master wants servants splitting their allegiance.

While our culture encourages people to chase after hoarding money so they can live comfortably and own whatever makes them happy, Jesus points us in the opposite direction. He tells us we cannot serve God and Money. We can’t treasure earthly things and heavenly things. We cannot focus our eyes on all the shiny things this world offers and still have a heart that seeks Jesus. We have to submit to and serve one and only one Master: Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wealth Isn’t Wrong

I must make one caveat on this “Treasure” message: Wealth isn’t wrong.

In this message I’m not saying that having a garage or pantry with extra items is bad. Nor am I saying that saving for retirement or having a substantial level of wealth is evil. A poor person is every bit as capable of being jealous and driven by a desire for money as a wealthy person.

Having money is not a sin; the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil. When money is the focus of your worry, your hopes and your self-esteem, then you have likely made money your MASTER.

Understand that money is a tool, given by the God you serve, for you to use to honor Him and expand His glory. This is the proper relationship we should all have with our money, whether we have much or little. Even the widow in the Bible who had only two small coins gave what she had because she wanted to glorify God with it.

Earthly treasures are idols

Earthly treasures aren’t just an alternative to the heavenly treasure Jesus tells us to collect – they are an idol! Jesus’s teaching here in His Sermon on the Mount is an extension of what God had been teaching since the time of Moses. The first of the Ten Commandments was: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Ever since God gave that command, people have struggled to keep it. It’s as though the human heart is constantly drawn away from our Creator and to the creation instead. We worship what God made and said was good rather than the God who made all these things that are very good.

The Israelites worshiped the competing gods of other nations: gods of water, birth and harvest. While we may not worship golden calves and may feel we are not guilty of idol worship, it’s not that simple.

For fun, I Googled “most common idols in America” and found a few interesting lists. They included many things I have discussed already, such as money, materialism and fame. They also included sports and celebrities, both of which have a uniquely oversized impact in our nation. Or, like Burt preached last week, technology and social media can become idols.

Interestingly, the lists included nationalism and guns. I thought that was weird until I recognized that some people are more devoted to national politics or our right to bear arms than they are to Jesus. If our nation became a socialist country like China and we lost most of our freedoms and our guns, would that crush you? Would you spiral into despair? If so, then this may be an idol in your life.

As a pastor, I have unique idols to guard against. Do I treasure success and growth more the One we are centered on? Do I seek to be theologically perfect with a winsome delivery rather than faithful to what Jesus wants me to speak?

There are many things we can worship above Jesus – items or people or feelings we treasure more than we treasure a relationship with Him. I’m not saying you can’t have things that are important to you; but when measured against the importance of Jesus in your life, everything else should pale in comparison. If you lost everything – if you had your own “Job” moment when you lost your money, your home, your family, your health and even your guns – would you still stay faithful to Jesus? Or is Jesus simply an add-on to all your favorite things?

You can identify your idols by paying attention to the things you spend the bulk of your life thinking about and pursuing – the things on which you spend your time and your money. You worry about losing them. You focus on increasing or improving them. You think these will give you the greatest possible joy, but they likely are stealing your peace and joy without you even realizing it.

This week I want all of us to evaluate our lives for treasure. What hidden treasure are you seeking that competes with Jesus in your heart? Is it status? Achievements? Health? Retirement portfolio? Politics?


We must recognize we are all treasure hunters. All of us have the inner drive to seek the things our hearts desire most – the treasures of our hearts.

Whatever your treasure, if not Jesus, it is something with no lasting power. It is temporal and will one day cease to exist. Meanwhile, Jesus tells us to store up heavenly treasure, to focus our time, money and affection on things that will pay an eternal dividend and offer an everlasting reward.

I understand that the materialism of our world is constant and unrelenting. It’s the air we breathe. We have been wired by our culture to seek for treasure that FINALLY will make us happy. Unfortunately the world offers NOTHING that fills that need. It makes promises it will never fulfill.

Our truest and fullest joy can be satisfied only when we realize our greatest treasure is the King Himself, Jesus Christ. Turn your heart to the One who loves you and satisfies like nothing else.


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