Recently I heard a sermon. The preacher (whom I admire and respect deeply) was talking about Jesus, and that famous passage about storing up treasures. Most of us have heard that passage. It implies that, well, Christians are to not store up treasures on earth.
I listened. I looked around. I sat wondering what Jesus meant by “treasures.”
I think what’s meant by the word is simply STUFF–stuff that we like, stuff that we might even love, things that we want to hold onto.
As I sat and listened and gazed it seemed to me that everyone in the room was violating the passage; everyone was disobeying Jesus’ command to not store up treasures on earth. Why? Because everyone in the room, I presume, had stuff that they liked, or even loved: books, cars, handbags, iPhones, furniture, homes, jewelry, surfboards, shoes, clothes (not to mention abstract things like reputations and image).
“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, NIV).
So what could have Jesus meant with these famous words? I can think of a few options. First, perhaps he was speaking to small group of people who were called to take vows of poverty. He called the 12 to follow him, and leave behind everything else. He didn’t give those radical orders to everyone. Today, many monks and nuns and priests take similar vows. They give up their stuff. The scripture would make sense in this case; these people take Jesus at his word, literally, and give up on stuff.
Second, perhaps Jesus was saying something like this: “it’s okay to have stuff, but don’t love it too much.” We’ve all heard that axiom before. But I struggle with this option. How much is too much? I own a Rolex watch that was a gift from my father when I graduated from college. I like my Rolex. Or maybe I love it. I want to keep it (store it?) until I die. I thought I left it at my yoga studio once, and I was a complete basket case until I found it under the seat of my Prius (which I also really like). My attachment to my watch is not solely because of its monetary value; it has meaning to me, there’s a story behind it, I want to pass it to one of my children. I have other possessions, some that I keep (store up?) and which have great meaning to me: my books, my Martin J40 guitar, photos of my family and friends, a copper pan from France that I use to produce the best pasta sauce.
I don’t know how to resolve here. Other than this. I left church that day feeling unsettled. The congregation heard the words of Jesus and the preacher, but it seemed clear that everyone was in clear violation of his teaching.
I like my stuff. I like to store it up. Do you?