“Do not seek the treasure!”
If you are familiar with the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?, you remember when Pete spoke these words to Ulysses and Delmar in the movie theater. Pete had given them up to Sheriff Cooley so if they went after the treasure, it would be at the cost of their lives. Since Ulysses and Delmar were not the most discerning of individuals (We thought you was a toad!), they go after the treasure anyway, with Pete tagging along for good measure. And if not for a timely intervention, it would have cost them their lives.
The words of Jesus to us in Matthew 6:19 sound a lot like Pete’s—“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” The treasure Jesus speaks of are those tied up with our material existence. The principle is simple: we can’t love God if we love things. Our hearts can and will only hold one treasure at a time. If our lives are built upon seeking earthly treasure we will end up with something far worse than movie character disappointment.
What should be primary in our lives is the seeking of God (6:33). He is the treasure that we seek (6:20). Earning money, having possessions, saving for the future; all of these things have their place in life—they are all to be done with reference to God. But we aren’t to act like it all depends on us because it doesn’t (v. 30-32)! And we don’t act like our life is defined by a having a big house, a full closet, or the latest gadgets because it isn’t (Luke 12:15)! Neither is it to be our life’s aim to anxiously try to cover every contingency as if there were no God (v. 31-32). It would be impossible to do so anyway but it is the mere mentality that we could somehow do this that steals our trust away from Him and shifts it to ourselves. The main thing we’re to do is to make sure the main thing remains the main thing!
This must have been challenging to Jesus’ listeners who, while not necessarily living a day-to-day existence, nonetheless had far less provisions for tomorrow and safety nets than we do today. Today most of us enjoy a more secure, comfortable existence. Nonetheless, we are confronted with our potential worries (i.e., rising health care costs, saving for college, retirement, etc.). These things are neither to debilitate nor define us. Instead they should drive us to God and the seeking of true treasure.
Treasure here represents security. It is our hedge against the uncertainties of life. It is something saved up for the rainy day when our normal provisions and plans fail us. But Jesus says the problem with earthly treasure is that it is subject to the same uncertainty. Insurance is not the same thing as assurance, is it? Only “treasure in heaven” gets the job done because it is totally secure.
I can’t help but think that the heavenly treasure Jesus is referring to is the heavenly kingdom (6:10,33). To “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (v. 20), is to “seek first His kingdom and righteousness” (v. 33). Entering into this type of lifestyle and relationship with God is a proclamation not just that we trust Him to provide us with security, but that He is our security.
There’s nothing like faith in our Father to promote peace in our hearts.