Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19–21 NRSV)
Jesus appears to have exercised a utilitarian view of wealth. He had little of the stuff we use to define the term and appeared not not to miss much what he did not possess. He was also severe about the ability of wealth to distract, detour, and corrupt.
‘How can this be?’, one asks in a world where accumulated resources feel as though they’re the important bulwark against calamity.
For starters, Jesus seemed to find the greatest beauty in what his Father himself had created. Not to make a romantic naturalist of him, he found in the lilies and birds of the field not only beauty but also a bit of instruction.
And then Jesus appears to have found the little he needed, when it arrived, to be gift rather than achievement or prerogative.
The twice-used phrase (do not) store up for yourselves treasures and the following—third—reference to treasures (Greek θεσαῦροι) probably points to excess rather than modest provision against hunger and the evil day. Yet this observation does not relieve the would-be follower of Jesus from asking how much that might be.
One is faced down here with a conventional division of reality into ‘heaven’ and earth’. Unconventionally, we are asked to invest our productive capacity in the former, because it endures. The world, we read, makes a poor investment for our limited and precious energies because it is so impermanent.
Only a fool would stock up on perishables that are surely to be rotten long before their anticipated usefulness has been exhausted.
Appearances as to what endures and what is most real savage us with their persuasive deception.
‘Find heaven’, Jesus might tell us, ‘and do not mess around with diversifying your portfolio beyond that rather expansive category. Your enthusiasm will follow your allocation like a well-loved puppy. Trust me.’