Have You ‘Stopped Storing Up Treasures on Earth’?
“Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.”—Matt. 6:19
1. (a) What is the aim of commercial men today? (b) Why is there no satisfaction in fulfilling ‘created desires’?
THE WORLD at the present time abounds in material goods and possessions. There is no end or limit to the variety of material things money can buy. Realizing this, commerce today has as its objective the making of great gains for itself rather than satisfying the basic needs of the people. Accordingly, the commercial men are investing great sums of money in advertising, advertising, advertising. With what end in view? In order to create in you a desire, the desire for their products, that they may exploit you. Once you have entered into the way of not only satisfying your actual needs, but also trying to satisfy these created desires, you find yourself on an interminable path that will consume the major part of your time, energy, attention and interest without giving you, in the end, the satisfaction that you desire. How true the words of the wise man Solomon, who wrote: “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income [proceeds]. This too is vanity”!—Eccl. 5:10.
2, 3. (a) What excellent advice did Jesus give regarding earthly treasure? (b) How can both the “remnant” and the “other sheep” benefit from this counsel?
2 In his Sermon on the Mount the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, showed that those who were seeking the blessings of God’s Messianic kingdom would occupy themselves with treasure far more important. Accordingly, how opportune today is his counsel to his disciples: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal”!—Matt. 6:19, 20.
3 What excellent advice this is for the remnant of the anointed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who have the prospect of an “unfading inheritance” in the spiritual heavens! (1 Pet. 1:4; Eph. 1:18) For in the long run, at the end of their earthly career, they have to leave ALL their material possessions behind them. They cannot transport these with themselves to heaven. In the same manner with regard to the “great crowd” of “other sheep” who have the prospect of surviving the “great tribulation” that is just ahead, to live eternally on a paradise earth. (Rev. 7:9-14; Matt. 24:21, 22; Ps. 37:29) Jehovah God has not promised these “other sheep” that he will preserve all their material possessions here on earth through that “great tribulation” to be used thereafter.
4. How does Peter show Jehovah’s ability to deliver, and what do we learn from the example of Noah?
4 For a certainty, we have no reason to doubt Jehovah’s ability to preserve and deliver. This power has been demonstrated on many occasions and in many ways in times past. The apostle Peter reminds us of this and assures us that “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” (2 Pet. 2:9) In this connection he gives us some striking examples, such as when Jehovah “did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” (2 Pet. 2:5) Clearly and accurately God’s Word preserves this account for us, going back over four thousand years to the time when Jehovah delivered this faithful patriarch, Noah, and his family through the global flood in an ark that he was privileged to construct according to God-given instructions. (Gen. 6:14-16) However, we must note that no mention is made that God preserved the home, the fixed abode, of Noah and his family on earth. Undoubtedly, these earthly, material possessions were swept away when “all the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights.”—Gen. 7:11, 12.
5. How does Lot’s deliverance further stress the point?
5 Peter next refers to the time of Abraham’s nephew Lot. When God brought the wicked, immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to a fiery end, “he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.” (2 Pet. 2:7, 8) Here, also, we observe that, when Lot fled with his wife and two daughters, there is no record of their bringing their material possessions with them. They could not do so. The angelic instruction to them was: “Escape for your soul!” But Lot’s wife undoubtedly still retained a “longing” for the material things left behind. She disobeyed the angelic instructions by looking back, which resulted in her becoming a pillar of salt.—Gen. 19:17, 23-26.
6. What instructions were given the Christianized Jews regarding Jerusalem?
6 Likewise, in the first century of our Common Era, after the temporary siege of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Roman legions under the leadership of the Roman general Cestius Gallus, the Christianized Jews had to obey the advice of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had to abandon their properties and possessions in Jerusalem and Judea and “flee” to the mountains outside the province of Judea, leaving practically everything behind them. Those who were at the time outside this district were not to come in to claim anything that they may have had there of a material nature.—Luke 21:20-24.
7, 8. In 607 B.C.E., what two men received Jehovah’s special blessing, and how?
7 Going back farther in history, we find a similar situation. God’s Word shows that in the year 607 B.C.E. there were two men whom Jehovah God particularly named and who would have his special blessings at the time when the Holy City of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonian armies. One of these men was an Ethiopian by the name of Ebed-melech. He was the one who interceded with King Zedekiah of Jerusalem for the prophet Jeremiah, in order that the king might rescue Jeremiah, who was in danger of dying in a cistern. (Jer. 38:6-13) Speaking of the reward for Ebed-melech’s consideration of Jehovah’s servant, Jehovah said to him: “‘I shall without fail furnish you an escape, and by the sword you will not fall; and you will certainly come to have your soul as a spoil, because you have trusted in me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jer. 39:18.
8 The other man named by Jehovah was Baruch, the faithful secretary of the prophet Jeremiah. He had the wonderful privilege of writing two scrolls, at the dictation of Jeremiah, pronouncing the prophetic message of Jerusalem’s doom. During the writing of the first scroll, which was later burned piece by piece by Jehoiakim, Baruch complained of weariness. Jehovah cautioned him: “But as for you, you keep seeking great things for yourself. Do not keep on seeking.” However, due to his faithfulness he was promised preservation and safety, not only during this terrible siege of Jerusalem but also later when the rebellious escapees compelled him and Jeremiah to go down to Egypt with them. (Jer. 36:4-32; 43:4-7) But note of what this preservation would consist: “‘For here I am bringing in a calamity upon all flesh,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will give you your soul as a spoil in all the places to which you may go.’” (Jer. 45:1-5) So both Baruch and Ebed-melech were promised nothing more than their “souls,” their bare lives, during the time of siege and destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES
9. In view of the time in which we are living, what questions should we seriously consider?
9 As we consider these fine examples and appreciate today that “the end of all things has drawn close” (1 Pet. 4:7), that we are living in a much more serious time period with a far greater destruction impending, it causes us to ask ourselves seriously: Is it sensible for us to spend much time and effort on specialized training for some professional job in this worldly system of things, that we may increase our income? Is it reasonable for us to want to increase our earthly possessions beyond our actual needs so that we may feather the bed of our future life here on earth and live more comfortably and luxuriously in the short remaining time before the “great tribulation”? Do we fail to see that there is something far more important and valuable about which we should now be concerned? Do we lack faith that, if we put Him first in our lives, our Great Preserver will look after us in the days to come? These are questions that each of us, individually, must consider. Our lives depend upon it!
10. Why should we be concerned with Jesus’ words at Luke 17:26-30?
10 Living in a generation where there are so many things that can consume our time, interest and attention, how we need to keep clearly in mind Jesus’ prophetic words! He said: “Moreover, just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man: they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, women were being given in marriage, until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood arrived and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it occurred in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30) Having this advance knowledge, where do you find yourself? Are you being submerged with the affairs of everyday living? Is this where your treasure is, where your heart is? (2 Pet. 3:17; Matt. 6:21) How appropriate, therefore, it is that Jesus Christ has counseled all of his disciples, including those of us today who are living at the end of this system of things, to store up for themselves treasures in heaven! What a blessing it will be to us if we do this!
11, 12. (a) What does it mean to ‘store up treasures in heaven’? (b) How is it possible?
11 But you may ask, What does this mean, to store up treasures in heaven? Just how can this be done? It means this: That we endeavor to obtain and maintain a good standing with our Creator, Jehovah God. It means pursuing a course in life of being “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) An individual’s record of “fine works” is like riches deposited with the Creator in heaven, assuring him of everlasting benefits that even death itself cannot take away. (Heb. 10:24; Jas. 3:13; John 11:25) This standing is maintained by our continuing steadfast in faith and loyalty to our God, Jehovah, and in doing the divine will.—Rom. 11:20; 2 Cor. 1:24.
12 Jesus continually emphasized these heavenly treasures and set the pattern for us. (1 Pet. 2:21; Heb. 10:5-10) After counseling his disciples on earthly treasures, he urged them: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) So for us to store up these heavenly treasures, it is of utmost importance that we live our lives and act now with a view to gaining a record of approval with our Father in heaven, Jehovah God.—Ps. 5:12; Prov. 12:2; John 6:27.
13, 14. Who was Zacchaeus, and what dramatic change took place in his life?
13 In the first century of our Common Era we have an example of a man who did that, who abandoned his treasures here upon the earth that he might devote himself to the interests of the Messianic kingdom. Who was this? It was a very rich man by the name of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who lived in the city of Jericho. To this day the district around Jericho, which is just west of the Jordan River, is very fertile and productive. Undoubtedly, in ancient times it yielded considerable tax returns. In the manner of many tax collectors of his time Zacchaeus employed questionable practices in connection with his position to procure part of his notable wealth.—Luke 19:2, 8.
14 Jesus came to Jericho in the spring of 33 C.E., just before going to Jerusalem and to his death. Zacchaeus, desiring to see Jesus, but being short in stature and unable to see over the crowd, ran ahead and gained a vantage point by climbing a tree. Apparently this attracted Jesus’ attention and he called him down and informed him that he would stay with him while in Jericho. This disturbed the townspeople, who complained: “With a man that is a sinner he went in to lodge.” (Luke 19:3-7) However, Jesus’ association had a dramatic effect on Zacchaeus. Listening to Jesus, he evidently gained appreciation of the real treasure, for he exclaimed: “Look! The half of my belongings, Lord, I am giving to the poor, and whatever I extorted from anyone by false accusation I am restoring fourfold.” Yes, he expressed his desire to dispense with his wealth and to become a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful joy Zacchaeus must have experienced when Jesus said to him: “This day salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham”!—Luke 19:8, 9.
15. What modern-day example do we have of one’s putting heavenly treasures first in one’s life?
15 So today, it is with joy that we note modern-day examples of individuals who have seen fit to fix their attention on the things of the Kingdom and to turn their backs on accumulating further wealth here on earth. One such example is that of a brother whose life story was reported in The Watchtower of May 15, 1968, a very successful businessman. His natural abilities enabled him to become highly successful in the field of buying, selling and management of real estate. On one occasion some business associates who were well acquainted with his business acumen approached him with a seemingly tantalizing business offer. What was that? It was a proposition by which he could clear $1,000,000 for himself in just one year! What did he do? He turned his back on it! Why? Because he would have to devote all his time for that period to intensive business matters. As he said: “It is not possible for me to give up my wonderful privileges of serving Jehovah here for even just one year, no, not for ALL the money in the world. Serving my brothers here in Washington, D.C., is more precious to me, as here I know I have Jehovah’s blessing. I no doubt would make a million dollars but at the end of the year of that kind of life what would I be like spiritually or even physically?” Would you make a similar decision if such an offer was temptingly placed before you?
16. What other example can we appreciate today? Why?
16 Consider, also, another example from sometime earlier, that of a man who was entering his twenties back in the 1870’s, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He was in business with his father, operating a chain of stores in men’s furnishings and was on his way to becoming a millionaire. This was before John D. Rockefeller started out in the oil business to become a multimillionaire. But what did this young man of Allegheny do? He saw the priority of studying the Bible, of finding out what it had to teach and what was its message for today. In 1879 he saw the need to publish a new religious magazine, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (now The Watchtower). Later on he became the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. His name was Charles T. Russell, and his entire fortune he invested in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. Yes, what excellent examples we have, past and present, of putting Kingdom interests first in their lives! Are you making such wise decisions to store up for yourself treasures in heaven?
17, 18. (a) How is it possible, before we are aware of it, to be robbed spiritually? (b) What course of Jesus helps us to appreciate the true value of this world’s riches?
17 What if someone made an offer to you of $10,000 if you would give up your faith in Jehovah and your privilege of serving him? Would you accept? How about $100,000 or $1,000,000? “Why, that is unthinkable,” you say. “No amount of money in the world would permit me to do that!” The only proper decision to make, is it not? Yet, how many, in order to have a “little extra” or something that they greatly desire, have taken on greater responsibilities, perhaps an additional job or just working a “few” evenings a week or weekends! This, of course, prevents them from attending the regularly scheduled meetings of the congregation and profiting by the fine association there. It also hinders their preaching activity and it affects the influence of God’s spirit in their lives. Before they realize it they have been robbed spiritually, losing their love and appreciation of Jehovah and his organization. They are materially richer, yes, but so much poorer spiritually. What a price to pay for a “little extra” or some additional possession, and they even had to work hard for it at that!
18 When the Devil took Jesus up on a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said they would all be his if he would just “fall down and do an act of worship to me,” Jesus said: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matt. 4:8-10) May we, likewise, appreciate the value of heavenly treasure, making decisions that bring credit with God and gain his approval.
THE VALUE OF HEAVENLY TREASURE
19. In what way is it a course of wisdom to heed Jesus’ advise respecting material possessions?
19 Let us always appreciate the wisdom of Jesus’ words in respect to material possessions. He said that they corrode, they are in continual danger of being lost, stolen or destroyed. The more one has, the more one has to worry about. How often this is an unnecessary burden! One’s giving too much attention to these material possessions can also cause one to lose out on the “real life.” (1 Tim. 6:19) We have a first-century example of this.
20-22. (a) What advice did Jesus give a rich young ruler, and what did the young man show to be first in his life? (b) If he lived on to 70 C.E., what probably happened to this young ruler?
20 About the year 33 C.E. Jesus was on his way through the Province of Peraea, on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. A man, a rich young ruler, came running up to Jesus and asked: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” (Matt. 19:16) Jesus told him what to do and advised him not to let his material possessions on earth prevent him from gaining the everlasting treasure in heaven. Jesus said: “Go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” (Matt. 19:21) Being under the Law he was obligated to help needy Israelites. (Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:7-11; Isa. 58:6, 7; Ezek. 18:5, 7-9) But did he appreciate this advice of Jesus? No! (Matt. 19:22) What happened then to this young man? Did he go on to continue successful with greater wealth? If he lived thirty-seven years more to 70 C.E., he was in for some drastic changes.
21 As mentioned, he was living in the province that the majority of the Christianized Jews fled to in 66 C.E., in order to escape with their lives from the destruction of Jerusalem, which was just at hand. The Roman soldiers did not find themselves obligated to invade the Province of Peraea in order to put down a rebellion of Jews there. But what about this rich young ruler who was living in that province with all his earthly possessions? He was a very conscientious observer of the law of Moses. (Matt. 19:20) If he survived to 70 C.E. this conscientious Law keeper would probably be crossing the Jordan River to the western side, entering into the Province of Judea and going up to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Passover to God.—Deut. 16:1, 2.
22 Being then in the city, he would be trapped by the Roman legions that surrounded the Holy Place. So he would either perish in the destruction of Jerusalem or survive to be taken captive by the Roman soldiers and to be led off into slavery somewhere in the Roman Empire. In any event, he would have to leave everything behind him upon this earth, but not for the sake of Jesus Christ, not as being one of his followers. What stupidity upon the part of that young man! With each one of us, how we need a credit, a good standing, with God up there in the heavens! And our credit or standing with him is something most valuable and it will endure forever.
23. In what way can the wisdom of Proverbs 23:4, 5 be seen?
23 The governments of this earth cannot guarantee that our material possessions will not lose their value in the course of time, either by an economic depression, inflation, revaluation of currency or by a disastrous crash in the stock market. God’s Word assures us, in Proverbs 23:4, 5: “Do not toil to gain riches. Cease from your own understanding. Have you caused your eyes to glance at it, when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.”
24. What illustrates the folly of trusting in earthly treasures?
24 How true when we consider the economic conditions within just this generation! “In Germany at the end of 1923 it took 1,200,400,000,000 paper marks to buy what only 35 marks could purchase just two years earlier, and in Hungary it took 1.4 nonillion pengoes to buy in 1946 what only one pengo could obtain in 1938. (One nonillion equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.)” (See Money and Economic Activity by Houghton Mifflin.) In Uruguay, South America, during a recent year, the cost of living rose about 500 percent. In the neighboring country of Chile the figure was 375 percent. Certainly if we store up treasures in heaven, they will not undergo such alterations in value, becoming cheapened and finally be of no worth.—Luke 12:33.
25, 26. (a) In view of the time, what course should we be pursuing? (b) What future is there for those who store up “treasures in heaven”?
25 So, then, it behooves us today to follow the counsel of the Lord Jesus Christ and, instead of submerging ourselves in the game of acquiring further riches for ourselves, let us submerge ourselves in the most urgent work of all time: preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and making disciples of people of all the nations. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Let us remember that no amount of material riches will carry us through the coming “great tribulation.” Just as it is written in Proverbs 11:4: “Valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury, but righteousness itself will deliver from death.”
26 Let us make it our decision to look heavenward and to put the kingdom of God and its concern first in our lives. If we do this, we are assuring ourselves of countless blessings, indescribable blessings, both material and spiritual, for ourselves now and also, after Armageddon, eternal life in God’s new system of things. That is something that all the money in the world cannot buy. Is that what you desire? Then know that everlasting life, peace and happiness in God’s righteous new order under Christ’s kingdom are the reward of all those who today stop storing up for themselves treasures on earth.—Isa. 9:7; 1 Tim. 6:17-19.