“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
James 5: 1-6
On the surface these seem to be extremely harsh words for the rich and wealthy, however if we unpack their meaning we find deeper truths. Firstly it seems that James is talking about non-believers who are rich, he does not once refer to them as fellow believers or brothers. Secondly he is speaking into a context where many Christians were poor and being exploited by the rich. So, perhaps his aim is to reassure the poor that God is aware of what is going on and the guilty will not escape accountability. I am sure that he is also encouraging those who are without not to envy those who have. Remember the earlier sections of his letter where he points to equality of all in the Lord’s eyes (1: 9-11). Having highlighted these issues it is important to note that exploitation still very much exists today, the gap between rich and poor is ever increasing. These words are therefore more than worthy of hearing and heeding. Within them there are three traits that we would all do well to avoid.
The first is that of storing up our wealth; hoarding (vs. 2-3). When we moved here from England we reduced all our belongings to half a container; it felt genuinely liberating. That said probably a fifth of what we brought over still hasn’t been used. Hoarding is something seems to be a trait in the West. The Lord would have us share what we have with those who haven’t and to instead store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 5: 42, 6: 20).
Secondly there is the trait of overindulgence (vs. 5). God gives us blessings and good things to enjoy (John 10: 10, 1 Timothy 4: 4-5) but if we go beyond this and make ourselves the centre of all matters without reference to God or the needs of others we can easily slip into extravagance.
Finally James points to injustice (vs. 4 & 6). Exploitation of the poor in the pursuit of profit is rife in our world today. Below standard wages and child slavery are wide spread ensuring bigger profits and cheaper products for the consumer.
James twice points to a day of accountability that will come for all of us (vs. 3 & 5). Looking to our quoted verses above it is clear that the Lord seeks our hearts and for us to have Him as our ‘treasure.’ When we realise our ‘rich’ state in Christ we will want to share with others both our physical and spiritual wealth.
To Ponder: Where would you say that your treasure lies; listen to your heart for confirmation? Do you see areas of hoarding, extravagance and injustice in your community or indeed yourself; what might you do about this?
Pray: Lord Jesus you became for us sin that we might become the righteousness of God, you became poor that we might become rich. In our blessed state enable us to see and meet the needs of others, both in the material and spiritual. May you be our treasure that we truly desire to share with others. Amen
From 2 Cor. 5: 21
Praise: The Goodness of God by Bethel Music
The unsearchable riches of Christ
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.