If you could have anything in the world, what would it be? This is a question we love. It stirs up images of the gadgets, devices, toys, and mansions that we could potentially own if only we dream big and work hard. And my guess is that (if you're anything like me) you have a decent sized list that could fit at the end of that question.
The Pursuit Of Treasure
Jesus talks a lot about money in the gospels. In fact, Jesus talks more about money than anyone in the entire New Testament. Often, when Jesus talks about money, he generalizes, using the term treasure. Many of Jesus' parables directly confront this idea of treasure and many of his most heated conversations have monetary treasure attached to the heart of the disgruntled questioner of Jesus' ways. In one instance Jesus devotes an entire portion of his famous Sermon On The Mount to the concept of treasure.
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
In this passage, Jesus is dealing specifically with the pursuit of treasure. He preaches that there are two kinds of treasure–earthly and eternal–and that we are not to pursue after the former but the latter.
Because It's Perishing
Have you ever noticed how quickly new things can diminish in their value or even be gone in a moment? For example: the moment you push the gas pedal of a new car and drive it off the lot it's worth less than what you bought it for. Homes are supposed to be "good investments" but many thousands of people have realized that taking on a mortgage isn't a guarantee to future riches. Not to mention the fact that it's only a good investment as long as you keep on investing. My wife and I recently found out that the Hard Drive of a computer usually only lasts three to five years (even if it's a Mac).
Over and over, you and I can recall story after story of cool new things we've acquired only to see them diminish in value, completely die, or even just become boring.
It's because of this that Jesus tells us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth. Because ultimately, these things, though they may be of some value, ultimately wind up being something of no value. And no, Jesus is not saying, nor am I, that it's bad to have things. Buy your cars, houses, clothes, and whatever else it is that you think you "must have." But know this. Someday, you are going to move, and while you're in that process you're going to go through all of the things you've acquired over the years, and things that once seemed so important and so valuable will suddenly have almost no value and in turn those things are going to wind up in a box headed to the Goodwill or the next garage sale.
What Jesus wants us to see in this passage is that there is a real treasure, a type of treasure that will never perish, rust, or be stolen. It's an eternal treasure and it's found in seeing and having Jesus. Jesus is the best treasure. He is infinitely more valuable than anyone or anything and he has defeated death so he is beyond perishing. A life spent devoted to Jesus is a life that will build in us that which is truly valuable. Listen to what John Stott says in reference to Jesus's words:
It seems that Jesus is referring to the development of Christlike character (since all we can take with us to heaven is ourselves); the increase of faith, hope, and love, all of which (Paul said) ‘abide;’ growth in the knowledge of Christ whom one day we shall see face to face; the active endeavor (by prayer and witness) to introduce others to Christ, so that they too may inherit eternal life; and the use of our money for Christian causes, which is the only investment whose dividends are everlasting.*
These things are eternal things and we will never regret spending our time, talent, and money on them.
So what are you pursuing? Treasures that will one day end up in boxes? Or the Treasure that lasts for eternity?
When we believe in the gospel our idea of treasure completely changes. Where we used to be mastered or enslaved to the things we pursued, we no longer are. Where we were once stingy with our money, we are now generous. Where we once pursued relationship for what we could get out of it, we now pursue in hopes of giving.
Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24). The idea there is being enslaved. The irony of the gospel is this: when you enslave yourself to God by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, you find that you are truly free. Free from treasuring the ever-vanishing material of this world. Free from treasuring the always-swaying opinions of man. Free from needing the next best things–whatever gadget it may be. Simply free. Enslaved to the glorious God of the universe but at the same time experiencing eternal freedom.
*Quoted from The Message Of The Sermon On The Mount. in The Bibles Speaks Today commentary series. Pg. 156.