January 25 I Friday
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” —Matthew 6:19
There are two fundamental characteristics of treasures stored up on earth. They are temporary—subject to decay, and they are troublesome—leading to worries about the accumulation and sustaining of material wealth.
In March of 1975, Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate who owned the world’s largest private shipping fleet, was on death’s door. At the time, a New York newspaper included an article aptly titled, “How much is he worth?” trying to estimate his assets. When Aristotle died that morning, the late edition of the paper announced his death and included the same article but with one change. Now, the article was called, “How much was he worth?” The same exact details followed, but what in the morning had been present tense was now past tense.
Our earthly treasures, like our time on this earth, are temporary. Although Aristotle Onassis was one of the world’s richest men at his passing, he left no more nor less than any of us will leave one day—he left everything! This is not to say gathering material things is inherently wrong. Scripture calls it wisdom to store up in times of plenty for when we enter times of need, and to provide for our family is an obligation we are never to ignore. What concerns Jesus is when we store up earthly treasures “for ourselves.” When accumulation of wealth is motivated by selfishness rather than service, there is fault. Material things are neutral, but it is when they play too great a role within our value system that they become dangerous and destructive.
Material things are also troublesome because with wealth comes worry. The more we have, the more we can lose, and the more we can lose, the more we will worry about the damages of losing. The irony is that riches are supposed to be a source of security, but they actually bring insecurity. Those with the fanciest houses are usually the ones with the fanciest security systems. When we make material prosperity our goal or measure of significance, we instantly and inevitably are characterized by worry.
It is a myth that the more we have, the more content we will be. Contentment has little to do with the accumulation of wealth but everything to do with relationships. Jesus warns, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). The pursuit of material satisfaction—of temporary and troublesome treasures—has undoubtedly led to the fragmentation of personal, family and national life. This is clearly evident in many relationships today and is what Jesus forewarns—that when treasure on earth is our goal, worry is our experience.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me if I have overprioritized my personal accumulation of wealth. Grant me wisdom in how to best use my earthly possessions to serve others. Thank You, God.