The Sermon on the Mount includes many of Jesus’ most famous teachings, including this one:
“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).
In verse 24, Jesus says that you cannot serve both God and money. Clearly, we’re not supposed to store up earthly treasures. In the words of an old pastor, ‘You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.’
So, what should we do? We should store up treasures in heaven. Let’s look at a few of the reasons why this is a good idea before seeing how Jesus says we can store up heavenly treasure.
A Few Reasons
First, Jesus tells us to do it, and what God’s Son says goes. It’s a matter of obedience.
Second, treasures in heaven are clearly treasures that last. We live in a passing world with passing fancies. Treasures in heaven are treasures that no one can take from your car, bank account, wallet or house.
Third, the right kind of treasure-seeking moves us in the direction of material modesty and single-minded fidelity to the Lord. In The Cost of Discipleship, martyred German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned about the “thraldom of material things.”
The more things we have, the more our things seem to have us. We start to organize our lives around them and spend money to maintain them. Bonhoeffer explains that hoarding is idolatry. It puts something other than God at the centre of our lives.
Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” meaning that we will centre our lives around what we value most. If we prioritize the wrong things, our lives will go off the rails. If we prioritize the right things, our lives will stay in the transformative footsteps of our risen Redeemer.
How to Store Up Treasure in Heaven
With those motivators in mind, let’s focus on how storing up treasure in heaven looks. I’d like to highlight some of the teachings Jesus specifically mentions in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. I’m not suggesting this is a comprehensive list, but I think the list certainly includes these things.
- Being humble and pure in heart (Matthew 5:5, 8)
- Hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6)
- Showing mercy (Matthew 5:7)
- Making peace (Matthew 5:9)
- Being persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10)
- Being “the salt of the earth,” which is about, in part, preserving the flavour of godliness in the world and in our relationships (Matthew 5:13)
- Being the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
- Following God’s commands (Matthew 5:19)
- Resisting anger (Matthew 5:22)
- Being faithful to one’s spouse (Matthew 5:28, 32)
- Keeping your word (Matthew 5:37)
- Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)
- Providing for physical needs (Matthew 5:40, 42)
- Going the extra mile (Matthew 5:41)
- Loving your enemies (Matthew 5:44)
- Praying for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)
- Giving to the needy discreetly (Matthew 6:3)
- Prayer, and specifically praying for God’s name to be revered as holy and for his kingdom to come (Matthew 6:6ff.)
- Practicing forgiveness (Matthew 6:12)
- Fasting (Matthew 6:16)
- Shunning worry, and trusting God to provide for your needs (Matthew 6:25)
- Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)
- Not being unfairly judgmental, but someone who examines their own life and integrity first (Matthew 7:1, 5)
- Pursuing the things of God (Matthew 7:7)
- Entering through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13)
- Being on guard against false prophets (Matthew 7:15)
- Practising authentic discipleship, meaning that we not only believe in Jesus, but seek to know him and do what he says (Matthew 7:21)
- Being wise. And what does it mean to be wise? Jesus gives us the definition of wisdom. It is hearing his words and putting them into practice (Matthew 7:24)
Sounds to me like heaven’s ledger works by a different accounting system than the one the world is used to.
The Eternal Pathways of God
Think about your favourite things. What are they? What about a fancy house, the latest gadget, an impressive social media profile, or clothes or cars that make other people turn their heads?
As a disciple of Jesus, reflect on what you prize. Also reflect on the sobering reality that when your heartbeat goes, so do your things. True commitment to the King means true commitment to his Kingdom.
Over sixteen hundred years ago, John Chrysostom wrote something which could have been written last week:
“we are only temporary guests on earth. We recognize that the houses in which we live serve only as hostels on the road to eternal life. We do not seek peace or security from the material walls around us or the roof above our heads. Rather, we want to surround ourselves with a wall of divine grace; and we look upward to heaven as our roof. And the furniture of our lives should be good works, performed in a spirit of love.”
Let’s hunger and thirst for the eternal pathways of God. In the glitter-obsessed and distracted eyes of the world, we may not be bigger, better, best, but we sure are blessed.
“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.”
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959), 178.
 On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom, comp. R. Van de Weyer, p. 11.