Editors’ note: The following is an excerpt from a new curriculum by John Piper and Brian J. Tabb based on Piper’s book What Jesus Demands from the World. The curriculum is co-published by TGC and LifeWay.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19–21).
Think about your toys as a child. You doubtless spent hours playing with those toy cars, dolls, stuffed animals, or video games that are probably now either stored in a box in the attic or discarded in a landfill. Think about your family’s first computer. As useful and enjoyable as it was, the technology has now become obsolete, forcing you to replace it with a newer model that doesn’t require floppy disks or DOS commands. Today’s top smartphone will be cast off in three years. Your new car will rust and eventually break down. The birthday present your children ask for will likely be neglected or forgotten a year from now. Such is the life cycle of all our possessions.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” doesn’t mean that Christians shouldn’t give gifts, use computers, drive cars, buy homes, or save for retirement. But his teaching raises the important question: Where is our treasure? What does how we spend our paychecks say about what we most deeply enjoy and esteem? Jesus teaches a great deal about money because he knows that the way we use it signals where our heart is—that is, what we worship.
Christians and non-Christians go to the same grocery stores, shopping malls, and websites to buy what they need and want. They deposit their earnings at the same banks. Yet Jesus demands that his followers lay up treasures in heaven. We do this by using our money and possessions strategically and sacrificially to serve others in love and to advance God’s kingdom priorities.
In Matthew 13:44 Jesus tells a short parable to explain how people come to experience God’s kingdom: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The point is that God’s saving presence and sovereign rule are extraordinarily precious treasures, more valuable and more desirable than anything else. The man in the parable is not motivated by duty but delight—“in his joy he goes and sells all.” This is the nature of genuine conversion, when we are awakened to the stunning glory and satisfying fullness of King Jesus. We would gladly sell our baseball card collection, iPad, and Honda hatchback to gain the Hope Diamond—provided we recognize that it’s more than a glittery rock. How much more the kingdom of heaven?
Following Jesus with our finances means giving generously and sacrificially to the needs of others, especially the poor. When we experience the new birth, behold the glory and grace of God in Jesus Christ, and receive him as our Savior and Lord, we are like that man who discovers hidden treasure and sells his possessions to acquire that treasure, not out of guilt but out of gladness. Jesus satisfies our longings more than any treasure this world can offer. The kingdom of God is infinitely more valuable than everything we possess or could possess in this world. This is why we renounce it all with joy.