Some sayings of Jesus are not very difficult to hear or do. For example, Do Not Swear at All. Others are easy to hear, but difficult to do (Be Extraordinary; Be Perfect). Then there are those that are difficult to do, simply because we have a hard time hearing them. All that Jesus said about treasure is a good case in point.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

This saying is particularly hard to hear for those in the church that are tempted – and even presently deceived – by the American Dream. Consequently, I am concerned that I may lose a few of you on this one. To be honest, I may lose myself. It is a hard saying; probably one that Jesus used to drive away those that were less than serious about following Him.

So, before you turn away, let me encourage you: We are all in process; and our heavenly Father is sensitive to our place in the race. Consequently, this passage may not mean to you what it means to me – but it must mean something. Rather than run away from its meaning, trust God to reveal what you are to hear, and to give you the grace to do what Jesus says.

The Words Mean Something

Treasure (thēsauros):  the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up; a casket, coffer, or other receptacle, in which valuables are kept; a treasury; storehouse, repository, magazine; the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures. Outline of Biblical Usage,

It is interesting enough to note that a treasure is both the place where good and precious things are laid up, as well as those good and precious things. Earthly treasures are stored on earth; heavenly treasures are stored in heaven. This is, at least in part, why we cannot take our earthly treasures with us. They are of no heavenly value.

Lay up (thēsaurizō):  to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up; to accumulate riches; to keep in store, store up, reserve; metaphorically, so to live from day to day as to increase either the bitterness or the happiness of one’s consequent lot. Outline of Biblical Usage,

Searching further, we discover that thēsauros is the root word for thēsaurizō. (If this seems too technical, bear with me. Someone will find revelation in these meanings.) What we lay up is what we treasure. Who would lay up something that is not of value to them? In fact, the beginning of verse 19 might just as well read, “Do not treasure for yourselves treasures on earth.”

Destroy (aphanizō):  to snatch out of sight, to put out of view, to make unseen; to cause to vanish away, to destroy, consume; to deprive of lustre, render unsightly; to disfigure. Outline of Biblical Usage,

Break in (dioryssō): to dig through a house. Outline of Biblical Usage,

Steal (kleptō):  to steal; to commit a theft; take away by theft (i.e take away by stealth). Outline of Biblical Usage,

The earthly treasures Jesus is referring to can be destroyed, broken into and stolen; and, by inference, are things we would protect from such consequence. It occurs to me that it is the Devil’s work to steal and destroy. While the world encourages our laying up its treasures, he threatens their loss. Our carnal mind takes the bait on both ends and we end up doubly distracted from storing up those things of eternal consequence. The more we have, the more distracted we become. The treasures of this earth soon become our enemies’ most lethal weapons.

A Pause for Reflection and Prayer

Before we continue, it would be good to ask ourselves, “What are the treasures in my life?” Remember, treasures are those things we collect and attempt to protect. Presumably, they are things thieves would want to steal.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1971) points out, we must not limit our consideration of treasure to money. Treasure could be anything from inanimate objects to people: a championship trophy or a trophy wife. The most obvious treasure for many in the American church is wealth, but many also treasure honor, position, status, and their work. The fact is, most of us have more treasures than we care to consider.

The point of this pause is for each of us to prayerfully identify (meaning, let God show us) the treasures that require our attention – to discover the focus of this saying for ourselves. Anything that stops with this world before translating to treasure in the next is suspect.

So, make a list, check it twice, and get with God for His encouragement. We will continue to explore and respond to this saying in a future article. In the meantime…

God bless you with courage and grace to seek His answers to the hard questions. The truth will make you free.

Humbly yours and forever His,


Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1971), Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company.