8. 'Treasures on earth' or 'Treasures in heaven'?


Matt 6:19-21

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.      NKJV 


To know what Jesus was referring to in this passage we need to look at these verses in CONTEXT. The real meaning is something you are very unlikely to have ever heard from a pulpit.

(Remember that TRUTH is that which sets you FREE ...it does not bring you into BONDAGE - John 8:32)


The event where Jesus was speaking is commonly referred to as 'the sermon on the mount'. The context broadly is that of the Old Testament and Jesus was addressing the prevailing Jewish religious interpretation of the Law in contrast to what God had intended. 


Note the phrase ‘You have heard it said ... , but I tell you ... ,’ which occurs six times in Chapter 5. The rabbis had twisted the requirements of the Law and made it such a burden that people no longer knew what God really wanted.

Jesus also addresses this elsewhere in a series of indictments commencing ‘Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees' (seven in Matthew and ten in Luke’s gospels). The key indictment in this matter is..

Luke 11:46

46 And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  NKJV

But Jesus showed that God’s way was different.

Matt 11:28-30

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."     NKJV 


Now with this background let us see the immediate context of the passage as it starts in Chapter 6.

The teaching commences in vs 1 where the hearers are challenged to seek either rewards on earth from men or rewards in heaven from our Father for charitable works which they may do according to who they are seeking to impress.

What Jesus points out is that God is not impressed with ‘religious’ actions when the motivation of the heart includes seeking temporal rewards such as glory or honour from men. These works will then not achieve any reward from God for those doing them.

The wording used is clear in that if the motivation is wrong there is NO reward from the Father IN HEAVEN and instead only  a reward of honour from men on earth.  


Vs 1 no reward from your Father in heaven

Vs 2 that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward

Vs 4 your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you

Vs 5 that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward

Vs 6 your Father who sees in secret will reward you

Vs 16-18

"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.     NKJV


The subject of this chapter is the choice between seeking ‘rewards from men' on earth for ‘acts of righteousness’ such as charity, prayer and fasting ...or ‘rewards from our Father in heaven’. In serving God, who are you seeking to please? What is your motivation? What rewards are you looking for?


This is something Jesus rebuked the pharisees for doing elsewhere.

John 5:41   "I do not receive honor from men.  ......  44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? NKJV


The same original context in our passage now flows straight into vs 19...it is not a new topic.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.      NKJV


Our treasure in this context IS the accumulation of our rewards for our religious works (as perceived in the heart of man)

Treasure on earth is the glory or honor of men and the status within religious communities along with the rewards that come with it.  


Despite the context, suddenly most preachers and commentators suggest that the subject has been changed from the accumulation of earthly rewards of status before men for religious activities which we should not be seeking ...... to the accumulation of finances as the legitimate reward for working hard to provide for ourselves and for our families which the scripture commands that ALL believers should do?

2 Thess 3:6-12
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.    NKJV

Believers are being led to believe that God does not want them to accumulate money they earn to provide for their future expenses and being guilt manipulated into parting with their money because this might somehow mean they will have 'treasure in heaven' in return for giving money away. The bad news is that giving money away does NOT get you 'treasure in heaven'. We do not earn God's blessings in the NEW COVENANT by our WORKS but by FAITH alone!


Jesus tells us what would cause this in the next verses.

Matt 6:22-23

"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!     NKJV 

The evil or bad eye is that which looks at what another person has (because they have worked for it) and COVETS IT rather than being CONTENT with its own reward. (Prov 28:22, Mat 20:15) 


Matt 12:35

35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  NKJV 

Is your heart into ‘religion’ (i.e. outward observances) so that a religious organization on earth acknowledges you as being ‘holy’ and so that men will reward you? (i.e. evil treasure)


Is your heart in a love relationship with God i.e. where what we do is not done for any reward on earth but as a response to who He has made us to be by His love for us and our free gift of salvation? ...and where the great reward is KNOWING GOD as our Father? (i.e. good treasure)


So what then is the 'treasure in heaven we can receive as a reward from our Father'



The 'gift of God'


Our eternal inheritance...eternal LIFE


Luke 12:32-34

32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   NKJV 


The Old Covenant was coming to an end...the whole Israelite religious system of the Law of Moses was what they had invested their lives and values into. The temple was about to be burned down...the priesthood destroyed by the loss of all the genealogical records...sacrifices ended..the nation decimated and taken into slavery.


The Jews had been trying to EARN their way into the kingdom by their WORKS....and they also saw wealth and this world's religious trappings as a sign of 'holiness'. Religious status was very important. BUT in order to be saved Jews have to let go their own 'self righteousness' to even see the KINGDOM of God. (Rom 9;30-32, Rom 10:3-4)


Matt 18: 1  "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. NKJV

Paul elaborates on this in Phil chapter 3

Phil 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; NKJV

Paul had in his own mind spent his life before acquiring TREASURE on earth! ...which he realised was ALL actually rubbish!

Paul...and ALL JEWS ...and even 'religious' people today... have to lay aside their OWN righteousness and works ...in order to be saved. Centuries of family religious history cannot save you....but faith in Christ alone!


Do you TREASURE the reward of being a child of God with an eternal inheritance in heaven more than anything else? ... or are you also looking for an earthly treasure of rewards also?

1 Peter 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you



Col 3:23-24

23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. NKJV 


Now how did Paul explain this?

1 Cor 9:15-18

15 But I have used none of these things (i.e. the right to eat and drink representing earthly rewards of being an apostle), nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. NKJV

Reward for our religious service here on earth is NOT to be sought... ie neither the glory nor honor of men or material reward for ministry. 


Acts 20:33-35

33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"    NKJV

1 Peter 5:2

2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;  KJV 


Matt 6:24

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.     NKJV


Mammon here refers to serving God with the wrong motivation i.e. for EARTHLY or worldly benefits and rewards! 


So what about 'crowns'?


We will all receive equal rewards in heaven...each believer will receive the full inheritance.

Matt 20:8-16

8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.'  9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.  10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.  11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'  13 But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?'   NKJV

We all get everything that Jesus has earned for us at Calvary. Sorry, but if you think your works and long service in the ministry have earned you a better reward than others then you do not realize how incredible the gift is that God has given us!


The opportunity to minister to others is a GREAT BLESSING God allows us to participate in ... not a way for us to build up "kudos" for our eternal "piggy bank" 


There are no different classes of believers in heaven... only children!

Luke 18:29-30

29 So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."  NKJV


(Brethren, the context is that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed...and all Jews either killed or taken into captivity. The way in which the apostles received many times MORE in this present time was NOT MATERIALLY....they became part of the family of God and were welcomed as BRETHREN into homes wherever they went)


John 1:12-13
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.    NKJV