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Wealth and Anxiety

(Matthew 6:19-21, 24-34)

Lesson 12 -- fourth quarter 2001
November 18, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications

Another "least" commandment?

Sometimes I think we treat the first part of Matthew 6:19 as one of those least commandments spoken of in the previous lesson: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth." Remember that a "least" commandment is one we treat as though obeying it ranks low on our priority list...and as though God views it in similar fashion. In other words, we live as though such a commandment just doesn't matter all that much.

When I consider this commandment, I have to wonder just how far to take its application. To determine that, I suggest we look at some things we can infer from key word choices.

"Lay...up" means "to accumulate; to store up." This makes me think of the motheaten garments James 5:2 talks about. The owner obviously did not need them, or these clothes would have been worn frequently enough to keep them from becoming moth lunch. That sounds to me like the wrong kind of laying up, the kind we are to avoid. Just like a certain rich man Jesus spoke of in Luke 12 should avoided. God had other uses for his surpluses, but all that fellow could think of (it seems) was storing them securely. So...do you have more than you need and more than you can sensibly use? Beware!

"For yourselves" adds the fleshly, materialistic, worldly dimension of selfishness and self-gratification. If the person condemned in James 5 had sold or given away those destined-for-the-moths clothes, they likely would not have gone to waste as moth fodder. If the individual condemned in Luke 12 had used at least his surplus to bless the needy, he would have been rich toward God. Tragic, right? But how readily do we take warning from the experiences of these folks? Let's open our eyes and honestly look at the stuff we're collecting and storing up -- is it for us alone? Beware!

"Treasures" encompasses anything and everything that has our passion, attention, and affection. In Jesus' words, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). Again, let's be absolutely candid with ourselves: How do we feel about the stuff we have? One way to gauge that is by the amount of thought and attention we give it. Another gauge must surely be the time we put into its acquisition, enjoyment, and protection. I sold a car once because my relationship to it failed these tests. Yet even now, over 20 years later, I still have occasional twinges of regret at no longer owning it (or was it the other way around?). Do we have such earthly treasures? Beware!

Oh, talking about gauges, have I made you uncomfortable...or defensive? Maybe you're just writing me off as too radical or literal or something equally fearsome. But probably not. However, if you experience such reactions, that may be yet another gauge indicating you have laid up for yourself treasures upon earth. I know; I have a gauge like that also!

How to lay up treasures in Heaven.

We know how to lay up treasures on earth, but then we are right here right now. Laying up treasures in Heaven seems more difficult because we aren't there neither can we commute between here and there. So just how do we go about getting treasures stored up there?

We transfer treasure from here to there by investing in the only "things" from this life that will go there: people. Now, how would you do that?!

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