Cashing Out

“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 (ESV)

Early in our marriage, Kerri and I were mercifully introduced by some older, wiser friends to the work of Dave Ramsey. With his hard hitting, no nonsense style and a wealth of incredibly practical principles, Dave literally changed the face of our financial world, teaching us how to budget, save, and get out of debt in a way that was relatively simple, straightforward, and even at times fun. Additionally, he taught us how to understand our own unique personalities when it comes to viewing and using money.

Ramsey argues that there are two basic types of financial personalities, which he plainly labels “free spirits” and “nerds.” If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised at all to know that I land firmly in the “nerd” camp. I love to set goals, make plans, and work to turn them into a reality. There are few things, at least financially speaking, that are more energizing to me than to save now to spend later, to work a plan in the present that leads to a satisfying future payoff. Graciously, God gave me a smart and savvy wife who thinks much the same way, and as a result, we’ve been able to walk together in a unified effort to meet some significant goals in our years together.

Now that you know this about me, you can pretty easily imagine that one of the most frustrating, disheartening scenarios possible in my world would be to spend weeks, months, even years “storing up” diligently in pursuit of a goal, only to find on the back end that everything I had saved was gone. No goal met…no payoff to get…nothing. Only shattered hopes and the feeling that I had wasted a ton of time, energy, and resources. Even if you aren’t a “nerd” about saving like I am, you’d probably feel much the same way. There are few things more discouraging than to invest, and invest, and invest in something that in the end amounts to nothing.

This is why what Jesus says to us in Matthew 6 is so absolutely critical to wrap our heads and hearts around. He argues that all of us, everyday, are “storing up” treasure somewhere, in something, in the hopes of a future payoff. Two options are before us- we can “store up” treasures in the things of this world, or in the things of the world to come, on earth or in heaven. Our culture draws us- quite loudly, at that- to choose the former, to relentless pursue “more and better” of the seemingly endless trinkets and toys that this world has to offer us. Jesus, though, warns us that to make such a choice is to set ourselves up for one of the most disheartening ends we can imagine.

Jesus doesn’t pull punches here. He says to us that a life spent in the pursuit of this world’s “treasure”- as alluring as it is on the surface- ultimately amounts to nothing. Everything money can buy in this world will eventually decay to nothing (note the moths and rust) or be taken from us (note also the thieves). We can expend immeasurable energy acquiring it and accumulating it, saving it up and storing it up, and on the day we die (and make no mistake, that day is coming for all of us), it is gone in an instant. If our ultimate treasure is stored on earth, every day we live we grow one step closer to losing it all. That’s sobering.

Contrast this, though, to the alternative which Jesus proposes- “storing up” treasures in heaven. Such treasure, while perhaps less alluring and exciting in the short term, can’t be touched by the inevitable decay and destruction that awaits the things of this world. There is no “moth” that can overtake the Gospel of Jesus, no “rust” that can corrode the church of Jesus, and no “thief” that can steal the righteous reign and rule of King Jesus in this world and in the lives of those who trust and follow Him. An investment in a relationship with Him, and participation in His ongoing work in the world around us, won’t return void; quite the opposite! Indeed, if our ultimate treasure is stored in heaven, every day we live we grow one step closer to gaining it all. That’s encouraging, to say the least.

I think often, especially in our context of extreme American affluence, we read Jesus’ words here and mistakenly believe that He is trying to take something from us. But recognize that God is not in the business of making His people miserable. He loves us, and as a result, He is offering us a vision of something so much better than the cheap substitute peddled by our culture. He doesn’t want any of us to come to our end and realize that our lives have been wasted on the passionate pursuit of everything that doesn’t last. No, He desires instead that we would invest in a Kingdom that will never pass away, one whose “return on investment” is beyond anything we could ever ask for, hope for, or imagine.

The question, then, becomes clear- Where are you “storing up” your treasure? Are you setting your hope in the things that money can buy? Truth is, it will be satisfying to you- for a little while. But in the end, your hopes will be dashed when you realize that it all evaporates the day you die. I encourage you, echoing Jesus, to make your ultimate investment in the something- in Someone- far better. Enjoy God’s good gifts, but live open handed with them. Prioritize people over things. See past what’s right here, right now to that which lasts forever. “Store up” your treasure in heaven, and on the day you go to “cash out,” it’s guaranteed that you won’t be disappointed.

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