Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sermon on the Mount, part 9

Treasures in Heaven

 ‘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. (Mat 6:19-21)
In this section Jesus is highlighting the vulnerable nature of earthly possessions, not only to natural hazards but also human ones. The wider context suggests that thieves breaking in and stealing refers to legal threats – Jesus generally makes no distinction between court ordered acts and ‘private’ acts in considering their moral and legal quality.
Jesus is teaching a form of asset protection here, according to the modern asset protection maxim ‘what you do not own cannot be taken from you’. The form this takes is giving to the poor (Mat 19:21, Luke 12:33) rather than setting up offshore asset protection trusts, however.
The treasures in heaven surely do also include wisdom from God, the new wisdom taught by Jesus in this sermon, represented by the pearl in the following parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Mat 13:44-46)
It should be understood what the wisdom of God taught by Jesus consists of: it is the willingness to reject wrongdoing even at the cost of non-recovery of debts and injuries, and not re-marrying after a divorce.
The exchange of treasures on earth for treasures in heaven is also shown by the parable of the shrewd manager who gave away value from his master’s estate so that after he lost his job he would be welcomed into people’s homes. The master is God, and our worldly wealth is God’s estate, of which we are the manager. By giving away our worldly wealth rather than accumulating it, we can build up a form of social and financial security that cannot be taken away by litigation:
 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)

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