The Treasure and the Heart in Heaven!
Edward Griffin, 1770-1837
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!" Matthew 6:19-21
If the world were to counsel us it would say, "Buy and sell and get gain! Lay no restraint on your desire of wealth, so long as you seek it by lawful means. The more you have, the happier you will be!"
But the Gospel holds a different language. "Labor not to be rich." "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said — Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
It teaches us that great wealth, instead of being desirable, is rather to be dreaded, both on account of the cares and perplexities which it brings — and the dangerous influence which it exerts upon the soul.
"The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much — but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep." Ecclesiastes 5:12
"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!" Mark 10:23-24
"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs!" 1 Timothy 6:8-10
So different is the counsel of God — from the counsel of the world. No wonder then that God and the world are set in such strong opposition in the Bible. "You cannot serve both God and mammon." "Friendship with the world — is enmity with God."
In the verses preceding the text, our Savior had been condemning the spirit of vainglory. In our text and through the rest of the chapter, He condemns the other of the two strongest passions of the human heart — the inordinate love of wealth. He exhorts His disciples not to labor to be rich, and not to set their hearts on the world. He does not forbid the possession of property, nor the efforts of honest industry — but He commands us not to consider wealth as our treasure, not to hoard it and withhold a due proportion from the poor, and from those public objects which stand connected with His kingdom.
He exhorts us rather to lay up our treasures in Heaven. What does He mean by this? A treasure signifies something that is laid up and preserved with care for a future day. In a larger sense — it signifies any riches, temporal or spiritual, which men regard as their portion. The meaning of the injunction is: Do not seek large estates, nor regard your worldly possessions as your chief good; but seek first and most earnestly the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof. Secure for yourselves the happiness of Heaven — and consider God, and the light of His countenance, and the graces of His Spirit — as your most valuable treasure. Make them the supreme object of your desire and pursuit.
Value as your treasure — those perfections and manifestations of God which are called "the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God," "the riches of his glory," "the riches of his goodness," "the exceeding riches of his grace," "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Esteem the service of God to be your wealth — and count the very "reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt!"
Value as a treasure — all the graces of the Spirit; not only the "riches of the full assurance of understanding," but "the full assurance of hope." Secure for yourselves that heavenly country which Abraham sought and found, that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," that "better and enduring substance" which is "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in Heaven for you." This is the treasure in Heaven!
The means by which this treasure is to be laid up, are those habits of piety and virtue and active usefulness which, though they do not purchase life, are the "things that accompany salvation." But what is more especially meant is beneficence, particularly towards the poor members of Christ. This clearly appears from the parallel passage in Luke: "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!" Luke 12:33-34
That to devote our possessions to charity, is laying up treasures in Heaven — agrees with language very often used in the New Testament. "Go and sell that you have, and give to the poor; and you shall have treasure in Heaven." "Command those who are rich in this present world . . . to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life!" 1 Timothy 6:17-19
"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings!" "He who has pity upon the poor — lends unto the Lord; and that which he has given — will he pay him again." "He who sows sparingly — shall reap also sparingly; and he who sows bountifully — shall reap also bountifully."
"Then the King will say to those on his right: Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry — and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty — and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger — and you invited me in; I needed clothes — and you clothed me; I was sick and — you looked after me; I was in prison — and you came to visit me. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine — you did for Me!" The wicked will then be sent to perdition, because they withheld these charities from Christ's disciples. Men must devote a reasonable portion of their estate to charity — they cannot go to Heaven on easier terms.
When the Scriptures are so explicit and positive on this point, it is truly surprising that those who shut their hearts against the calls of charity should imagine themselves to be Christians. If you apply to them to relieve the poor or to support any public measure — then you must go away hurt and mortified. They say that they are too poor, although their poorer neighbors can give liberally. They are in debt for new houses and lands, and consider not that they are positively commanded to sell those new houses and lands if the demands of charity cannot otherwise be satisfied. "Sell that you have — and give alms."
This you may say is hard — and so thought the covetous young man who reckoned himself a friend of God, while supremely attached to his wealth. When he was commanded (that he might be undeceived) to "sell all that he had and give to the poor," with a promise that he would "have treasure in Heaven" — "he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich." Our Savior seeing his reluctance, pronounced, "How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." It was a trust in riches which closed the hands of that young man, and which closed the gates of Heaven against him. No wonder then that we should be exhorted not to "trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy." With such a trust in God, the calls of charity would never be disregarded.
But some may say, "I have never trusted in riches — I know that they cannot make me happy nor save me from death; and that the favor of God is far better. But charity begins at home — I must first provide for myself and my children." But on what is your trust for these future provisions founded? Not on God, for you disobey His commands by turning the needy from your door. You evidently trust for these provisions, solely to those riches which you hold with such an unyielding grasp. Could you be brought to trust "in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy," you would not have these misgivings about future poverty, but would cheerfully "cast your bread upon the waters," in confident hope of finding "it after many days."
It is difficult to determine who are Christians — but I can easily tell you some who are not. Those who, possessing as much property as their liberal neighbors, never hear a call upon their charity without pain, never give but when it is wrung from them, and then with murmurs and sighs, and generally refuse to give at all.
I know that some allowance is to be made for native stinginess. Some were not formed by nature in the same mold with the liberal. But yet that faith which cannot produce fruits even in the most contracted — is not the faith of the Christian. I have wholly to learn my Bible anew — if a man of this covetous nature can be a Christian.
Our text proceeds: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
If you consider heavenly things your chief riches, if you have, and know you have, stores of eternal happiness laid up for you above — then your heart will follow your treasure. Then your love, your desire, your care, your joy, trust, hope, and fear will center in God. Your soul will tend heavenward, and will keep Heaven in its eye, as men are accustomed to watch diligently their most valuable treasure.
But, if your treasure is on earth, if you consider worldly things your chief good — then your thoughts, your desires, your cares, joys, hopes, and fears will be earthly.
This verse is introduced as an argument to enforce the injunctions in the two preceding verses: "For where your treasure is — there will your heart be also." Therefore your treasure should be laid up in Heaven and not on earth.
The argument stands thus: In proportion as you are devoted to the acquisition of one or the other of these treasures, your soul will be exalted to the highest objects — or degraded to the lowest. You know that your heart ought to be in Heaven — then lay up then your treasures there; "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." You know that whatever has a tendency to detain your heart on earth, will prove your greatest curse. But overmuch wealth, regarded as your chief treasure, has an invariable tendency this way: "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The inference is, that you ought to lay up treasures in Heaven and not on earth. In this argument, it is assumed as a self-evident truth — that it is the duty and interest of all men to keep their hearts in Heaven. This truth is brought as an argument to persuade men to lay up their treasures in Heaven.
But, alas, such is the human heart that a truth so self-evident needs so often to be repeated — yes, and enforced by every argument even on sanctified souls. All the remains of the old nature are "of the earth, earthy." Every object around us, finds in us an appetite with which it can dally, and through which it can spread a charm to make us forget our God and our native Heaven. O that we could break this enchantment and always keep our hearts on things above! O that the invisible world could be opened upon us — as though our heads pierced through the floor of Heaven and saw all the glories of the upper spheres!
This subject shall be concluded with a presentation of sundry motives to persuade you, my brethren, to live daily with your hearts and eyes in Heaven.
1.It is evident from the texts already quoted, that there is no other way to obtain evidence that you are Christians — because without this heavenly spirit, you cannot be Christians. This simple position is indubitably proved by our text. That teaches you that if your heart is prevailingly in Heaven — then it proves that your treasure is there. But if your heart is prevailingly on earth — then it proves that your treasure is on earth, and not in Heaven; "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
This is a solemn and decisive test. If your treasure is in Heaven — then you may know it by your high estimation of divine things, by the tendency of your hearts towards these objects, and by your diligent endeavors to obtain them. If a man will be sincere with himself — then he may know whether he is most earnest in seeking heavenly things — or earthly things; whether his thoughts, desires, and cares center prevailingly in Heaven — or dwell mostly on earth.
2.It is the will of God, expressed in repeated and pressing commands; and therefore as respecters of divine authority, it is your incumbent duty to keep your hearts in Heaven. "Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world — then the love of the Father is not in him."
In your baptism you were by profession, by covenant, and by a sacramental sign, "buried with Christ" to the world and sin, and raised with Him to newness of life and heavenly things. Hence is derived the apostolic exhortation: "If you then are risen with Christ — then seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God!"
3.The things of the world are perishing. "Your riches will be corrupted — and your garments moth eaten. Your gold and silver will be cankered; and the rust of them will be a witness against" those who hoard them and keep them from a charitable use. Whatever precious things you lay up on earth — thieves will purloin. If you bar and bolt your treasuries, they will break through. Heaven is a safer storehouse than your barns and your granaries. Heaven is a better treasury than your vaults and your strong boxes. The goods which you deposit there — are inviolable and incorruptible.
Do not set your hearts on this transitory earth, nor lay up your treasures in this mad world, which is tottering to fall. The fire of the last conflagration will shortly devour it! The pillars of the earth shall tremble. The very fabric of the world shall be dissolved. Poor then will be that man who has not a treasure in Heaven. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare! Since everything will be destroyed in this way — what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat!" 2 Peter 3:10-12
Look not at the things which are seen — but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal — but the things which are not seen are eternal! And then you may joyfully add, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved — we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!"
4.Heaven is most worthy to engage your hearts!
Here on earth, are wretches abandoned to crimes.
In Heaven, are "the spirits of just men made perfect".
Here on earth, are beggars.
In Heaven, are angels.
Here on earth, are kings.
In Heaven, is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — there, is the glorified Jesus, who has exalted our nature to the throne of the universe.
Here on earth, are sighs and groans and tears.
In Heaven, is everlasting joy.
Here on earth, is a wilderness.
In Heaven, is a glorious city adorned with heavenly pearls.
Why should the paltry trash of this poor world, smitten with the curse of God — enslave your hearts and keep them from such a Heaven? Why should these worthless weeds — keep you from the laurels which God is ready to entwine about your heads? Why should they tie you to earth — and loose you from Christ and God? Indignantly burst these insulting bands — and rise to your native Heaven. For,
5.Thence your birth is derived. The New Jerusalem is your mother, and God is your Father — and will you leave your Father and your mother to consort with rogues and beggars? For shame, tear yourself from such company and employments. It is ignoble and disgraceful, for one who is born from Heaven, and calls God his Father — to be lost among the rubbish of this world!
6.Consider that Heaven is your home. You do not belong here on earth — you are citizens of another country. You are abroad in a foreign land, and are only "strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
As people when long absent from home and tired of strangers, pant after the dear objects they have left behind, and often revisit in their thoughts the beloved spot — so will your thoughts and desires fly to Heaven, if you possess the spirit of the heavenly birth. These are strangers who are around you, people to whom you have formed a temporary attachment — but you will soon leave them and see them no more. Your saved family and friends, your permanent relations, around whom your heart-strings are entwined and who will be most dear to you forever, are in Heaven, or fast tending thither.
How soon you will leave all things below and enter the heavenly country, and become familiar with those scenes, and feel that world to be your home, the center of all your thoughts and affections — and find this poor earth with all its strange scenes, like the section of a half-forgotten road on a distant journey.
7.In Heaven are deposited all your treasures — and to what spot is a man's heart so ready to return, as to that where his richest treasures lie? You are the "heirs of God," "begotten to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, which does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you." What have you to do with the dust of earth — who have such a "hope laid up for you in Heaven"?
You are called upon to "rejoice and be exceeding glad," "and leap for joy," "for great is your reward in Heaven." But how can you "leap for joy" in view of your inheritance — if you do not send your thoughts to survey it? With such a treasure in Heaven — will you brood over your poverty here on earth, over your lands and shops — and lose the present enjoyment of your eternal inheritance?
8.To live with your heart in Heaven, is to live a life of the greatest safety. It is to keep your heart above the region of temptation. It is to lodge it in the fortified castle of Jehovah. Satan cannot enter Heaven, nor prevail against a heart that lives above. It is when the heart roves into the territories of the god of this world — that it is found and seized by infernal tempters! And wandering thus alone, away from its heavenly Protector — it is easily overcome.
O trembling lambs of Christ, who are daily hunted by the hounds of Hell — if you would get out of the reach of their assaults, keep your hearts in Heaven!
9.Such a state not only is the most free from temptation — but is the most favorable to sanctification. The most conspicuous object in Heaven, is the glory of God; and the heart which lives in Heaven, is chiefly occupied in contemplating this. But no view is so transforming as a view of God. "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord — are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another!" 2 Corinthians 3:18
You may go to the graveyard, you may go to your Bible, you may go to sacraments — but you will find no means of sanctification like the open vision of God. If then you wish to conquer your sins, to rise to "the full assurance of hope," and blaze in the glorious image of God — then keep your hearts in Heaven.
10.Such a life is sure to be the happiest life. The heart that dwells on earth is exposed to all the arrows which fly in this field of strife, and is daily tortured with cares, disappointments, and perplexities — but the heart that lives in Heaven is out of the reach of them all. It abides "in perfect peace," and enjoys unclouded day — above the storms which beat upon the world beneath.
Faith, hope, and love are more highly excited by a nearer approach to their object. Faith feeds upon him, hope relies upon him, and love embraces him — while clearer light shed upon the divine character and government fills the soul "with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Are those in Heaven happier than those on earth? For the same reason, the heart that lives in Heaven is happier than the heart that dwells on earth. O how much do we lose by confining our affections to this poor world! How much of Heaven might we enjoy, if like Enoch we would walk with God! I would rather go forth with Isaac to meditate at the evening-tide, and see the heavenly world opened to my view — than to be arrayed in imperial purple, and make nations tremble at my name. If then you wish for the most exalted and soul-satisfying delight — you must keep your heart in Heaven.
11.Finally, it is from that point, that our dearest Friend is to make His final entry into our world. And how natural for strong desire to keep its eye on the way by which a beloved friend is expected.
"Our citizenship," said the apostle, "is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!" If we have a realizing sense that Christ will triumphantly come to destroy the world with all its idols, and to complete the salvation of His people; if we believe that all that men have to hope or fear, will come from Heaven — can we do otherwise than fix our eyes upon that glorious place?
Christians, will you not wait with an uplifted eye for your descending Lord? He will come, though He tarry long. Do not be like the virgins who "slumbered and slept — while the bridegroom tarried." He will come. Yonder vault shall open and show Him, with all His illustrious train, to the astonished nations. The last trumpet shall sound.
Who then will be rich? For ten thousand worlds — I would not be the wealthy worldling then! O Savior, when You shall make Your final entrance here, let our inheritance — O let our inheritance — be found in You alone! Amen.