Are We Storing Too Much Treasure on Earth?

by Kevin on July 2, 2012

This is a personal finance blog, which is a place we spend a lot of time talking about money. But it’s also a Christian site, and as important as we acknowledge money to be, this is also a good place to step back in put money into proper perspective. As Christians, our view of money has to be…different.

Money isn’t the only treasure; it’s also the stuff it can buy, like houses, cars, electronic equipment, furniture, clothing, jewelry and a host of other possessions. All have the potential to lead us down some dark paths.

From time to time we need to think even of money in an eternal perspective. The biblical view of money is measurably different than the secular one.

What the Bible says about treasure

The Bible has much to say on the topics of money and treasure, but I think it can be summed up by what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus isn’t saying here that money isn’t important or that it has no role in our lives. In fact the whole concept of “treasure” is really excess money—the money over and above what we need for basic survival. It’s what we have for savings, investments and extra indulgences for ourselves. Once we move past the point of basic survival, it’s very easy for any of these to become our obsession—our treasure.

This is the way of the world and that makes it that much harder to resist.

How much treasure do we need?

Treasure in itself is not evil. The problem is our attachment to it. This is especially true when it comes to monetary treasure—savings, investments and even retirement accounts. Money is numeric in its content, it’s the way we measure wealth and know whether or not we’re succeeding when it comes to finances.

But one of the problems with numbers is that…they’re never quite high enough to satisfy us. When we reach one numeric money goal, we don’t sit back, declare victory and get on with life, not usually. We set a higher goal.

The problem with this approach is that enough is never enough, and we can easily dedicate our lives to chasing ever higher numbers.

Retirement accounts are one example. People with middle class incomes are chasing million dollar retirement portfolios as if their lives depend on reaching the numeric goal. Does it really? What if you don’t make the goal, then what? And what else in life are you prepared to give up to get there.

Trading up to a larger home every few years is another example. But how many square feet will ever be enough? Once you trade up, how long before what you’ve traded up to won’t be enough either?

How do we store up treasure in heaven?

One of the problems with storing up treasure on Earth is that building those fortunes has the stamp of public approval. It’s right in the ways of the world, and because of that we might not be aware we’re doing it. We might even attach exaggerated virtue to it.

The alternative is to “store up treasure in heaven”, but what does that mean?

Helping others. This is the most direct way to store up treasures in heaven. When we use our financial resources to give to others we’re making a statement of faith that we trust God to take care of our own needs. Helping others may empty our earthly bank accounts, but it draws us closer to God all the time. That’s a trade off a believer should make easily.

Dedicating our time and efforts to the Kingdom. We can sometimes look at money as an object in itself—which it is—but it’s much more. Building up a pile of treasure takes time and effort, and the time and effort we dedicate to doing that is time and effort we’re not spending building treasures in heaven. We do need to spend a certain amount of time and effort in achieving enough income to survive, but when we invest in our own prosperity we’re probably ignoring some very important Kingdom work. If we reach the point where we refrain from advancing the Gospel out of fear of losing that which is providing our earthly treasure, we’ve entered a very dangerous place.

Keeping God as our top priority. One of the worst aspects of treasure is that as we move toward something that looks like earthly security, we might begin to move toward a perception of self-sufficiency. God may not seem so important if we get to that point. In our own hearts, earthly treasure replaces God as a priority because we’re placing greater faith in our treasure than in God to provide for us.

Balance is the key

Money is a tough balancing act for all believers. We do need a certain amount in order to live and to function in the world. It’s also good to have some extra to deal with uncertainty and to be able to help others. But there’s a fine line we can easily cross that can exaggerate the importance of money and treasure in our lives.

Perhaps the problem is the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. It’s hard to know when we’re doing that, and most of us would have a hard time admitting to ourselves or to anyone else that we’re doing that.

Maybe the real question is, would you trust God to provide for you even if you lost all the treasure in the world that you have? If not, you may be storing up a little too much treasure here on Earth.

What do you think the right balance is for Christians when it comes to building up wealth—or treasure—here on Earth?

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