If there’s anything COVID has taught me, it’s that life can change within the blink of an eye. Those things that we have devoted endless hours into building and attaining can be stripped away from us within an instant. We can do everything we can to create a type of security in life, but the truth is, everything in this life is temporary. If that’s true, why is it that so many of us Christians often live for this world alone? To answer this question, let’s dive into Matthew 6:21 and learn what Jesus meant when He said to his disciples, “where your treasure is there your heart is also.”
What Does 'Where Your Treasure Is There Your Heart Is Also' Mean?
My mom has always taught me the importance of not having attachments in this world. And yet I still struggle with this. After all, I am a human, living in a natural world. We were designed to crave security and affection. Because of this, we often direct this drive in the wrong places.
We work endless hours in an attempt to build financial security. We expect our relationships to fulfill our deepest longings for adoration. And while these things are certainly not wrong within themselves—after all, we’re called to be a good steward of our resources, and God designed us for relationship and community. But it’s healthy, every now and then, to stop and reflect on our motives. Do we work crazy hours in an attempt to accumulate wealth, as though our finances alone can keep us stable and secure? Are we looking for a relationship to give us only what God can provide? And the biggest question is this:
If our belongings and treasures in life—those things we hold dear to our hearts—were to be destroyed, would it destroy us as well?
Intellectually, we may be aware of how short our time on earth is compared to eternity; but most of the time, we don’t live with this mindset. Most of the time, we seem only to be concerned with choices that benefit us for the time being rather than choices that will echo into eternity.
If we truly long to be like Jesus, why do we not prioritize working for the kind of treasure that doesn’t spoil? If we know that this life is only the prologue to the one to come, why do we often devote our lives to accumulating earthly gain alone?
These treasures that we store for ourselves are idols in disguise. Because according to Matthew 6:21, it’s impossible to separate our hearts from our treasures—and a treasure is anything that we have become attached to. If I find myself looking to this world—and even relationships—to give me something that only Jesus can provide, that’s when I know that I have created an idol, a treasure, of my heart.
What Is the Context of Matthew 6:21?
This verse is included in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus addressed to a crowd, including His disciples. This sermon begins in Matthew 5. The teachings in this sermon provide a foundation for Christian morality, as it discusses the Kingdom of heaven and illustrates how the world’s way of operating with principles and justice should differ from ours. (For example, Jesus teaches how we should avoid treating our enemies the way the world does and instead learn to love and pray for them. See Matthew 5:43-44.) Jesus describes how we should be the salt and light of the earth, shares the Beatitudes, teaches on prayer and fasting, and then dives into money and possessions in Matthew 6:19-34.
Similar to the passages before it, this one, too, shows us how God’s perspective of earthly values differs from the world’s perspective. It begins with the following Scriptures, verses 19-21:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Later in this passage, Jesus teaches against idolatry and how it is impossible to serve two masters. Take a look at the final sentence of verse 24: “You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
When our hearts are attached to anything this world offers, we become a slave to that thing. And yet there is a freedom that comes with working to store eternal treasures rather than mere earthly treasures! After all, God promises to care and provide for those who seek His Kingdom first. This is made clear in the Scriptures that follow, in verses 31-33:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
What Does the Bible Have to Say about Treasure?
If God commanded you to give your belongings to the poor, including your home, would you obey? That might sound bizarre, but that is exactly what Jesus asked of a rich man in Matthew 19:16-23. Take a look at verses 21-22:
“Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
If we could only see the eternal rewards we could reap in comparison to these earthly treasures, then perhaps our eyes would open. Perhaps the way we spend our time and money would be vastly different than it is today. But maybe it’s good that we can’t see these heavenly treasures. After all, God wants our motive behind seeking Him to be purely for the sake of loving Him rather than loving the rewards we may receive.
If our hearts are in the right place, then we should have no problem in applying the following Scriptures:
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it” Luke 12:33.
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life” 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” Mark 8:35.
We need faith not just to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but also to live a life that pleases Him. Those who do not have this faith will only believe in what they can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. For that reason, they can only see the treasures right before them—the jobs that promise financial security or perhaps the fame that could grant them the acceptance they long for. But to live through the eyes of faith requires that we recognize the invisible values that come with living a life in complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
If we live by this type of faith, we will begin to put more effort into attaining these heavenly treasures instead as we recognize its value, and perhaps we will behave in the same manner as the man in this parable:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field” Matthew 13:44
How Can We Make Sure We Pursue the Right Treasure?
I’ve often heard it said that, if you want to see evidence of what you value in life, take a look at your bank statements. Analyze the way you spend your time. Reflect on your thought life and ambitions. Because even though we can claim that we love God and want to please Him above all else, the truth is, our actions speak a lot louder than our words.
Are we consumed more with the idea of reaching certain roles of influence in our career than we are with influencing people with the Gospel?
Do we go throughout our day concerned with meeting our own needs and desires alone, or do we seek out opportunities to help and serve others?
Do we spend most of our free time scrolling through social media than we do digging into God’s Word?
Where do we direct our energy? Are our priorities in line with God’s?
Are we working more for the Kingdom that lasts forever or the world’s kingdom that is here today, gone tomorrow?
Our treasure is the thing or the person, that drives us. It’s the motive behind our actions, decisions, thoughts, and behavior.
And whether we realize it or not, we are eventually going to reap what we sow. To plant good seeds for eternity involves that we follow in Jesus’ footsteps by living a servant lifestyle, walking in obedience to our Heavenly Father, and loving others. It involves that we use our gifts for the purpose of spreading the Gospel and remain in constant communion with God, feeding on His Word daily.
When Jesus was on earth, He was focused on one ambition alone: to complete the purpose by which God had sent Him to earth. That is why He said, in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” He didn’t strive to get ahead in life. Rather, He knew that these treasures were nothing compared to the treasure of living in intimacy with His Heavenly Father and doing His will alone.
When we reach heaven, we’re not going to say, “I wish I would have driven a nicer car. I wish I would have been famous on earth.” I doubt anyone has ever wished these things when they see Jesus face-to-face! Rather, it’s the opposite, because it’s then that their eyes become open to the truth of God’s Kingdom. If it’s possible to have regrets after we die, then I wouldn’t be surprised if people regret their lack of pursuing the right kind of treasures on earth.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to risk having those types of regrets.
I don’t want to make choices that could carry eternal consequences.
Let’s make it our life’s mission to keep our hearts in the right place. Let’s free ourselves from the attachments of this world and step into the freedom that comes from fulfilling God’s ultimate will for our lives. Then, when our hearts are in the right place, we, like Paul, can learn the secret of being “content in any and every situation” (see Philippians 4:12).
Because as fleeting and unpredictable as this world may be, there is something that it could never take away from us.
And that is our heavenly treasures and our relationship with Christ.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/FediushkinaElena
Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who wrote her debut novel when she was sixteen. She is now a multi-published author of both fiction and non-fiction inspirational yet authentic books for teens, including her latest release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa's passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. She is guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 128 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, teaching at writing conferences, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is to connect with readers is on her mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.