#11.Store up Treasure
‘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. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – NRSV
We base the rules of our Food Rescue and Redistribution Project, The Flemington People’s Pantry on the rules given to Moses in Exodus 16. In Exodus 1:11, the Hebrews are described as enslaved building ‘store’ cities for the Egyptians and so one of the rules of freedom for a liberated people in the wilderness is to not store up economic wealth.
More than any other writer Matthew connects Jesus with the traditions of Israel and so we see this ancient rule reflected in today’s instructions; as well as in Jesus’ own practice of spontaneous wilderness feeding (Matthew 14, WAY#30)and even at the core of the spirituality he offers us in yesterday’s command to pray.(WAY #10)
“When you pray say ‘….Give us this day, our daily bread”
Notice its not a week by week, month by month, year by year ‘storage’ spirituality but one of daily, simple trust.
At our pantry “Don’t store it up” means being aware of use by dates on food that is rescued. I think there is an acknowledgement in this rule that all true wealth is organic. It has a shelf life and so the art is not to store it up where moth and rust can destroy but to keep it moving. At the pantry this means we don’t spend too much time or energy stockpiling or worrying about whether we will have enough any given week but put our focus on keeping stock moving. Our motto is “If in doubt, get it out…” I think this is a great spiritual principal for how we thing about money and possessions in general.
The trick with money is to keep understanding that it does not have a value in and of itself but is instead a marker of value. Too often we fetishise the object itself and cling to it for purposes of security, fear, status or power at the expense of the thing that it values. Through history we can see ways that both centralised, command economies as well as neo-liberal free markets can have tendencies to concentrate wealth and power that oppress humanity and creation. Matthew warns ‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’ (6:24) and that its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to truly participate in this economy. (19:24.)
Matthew 13:44 describes Jesus’ alternative way of seeing reality and wealth ( The Economy or Kingdom of God) like treasure in a field. Treasure has a much deeper meaning than physical or material wealth in the bible and whilst pursuit of the former is discouraged, treasure is valued.
Treasures are a kind of insurance, both materially and emotionally.What are we investing in? How is our money and possessions serving relationships, creating justice and connections of healing, hope and new beginnings?
In our society of plenty, one of the fastest growing industries we have is self storage and the expert de-clutterer has become a kind of necessary spiritual guide for anxious/wealthy souls. We have also become discerning consumers of treasure. We evaluate things by what they say about us, developing highly refined skills of discernment and discrimination determined by popular regimes of meaning and worth.
My question is how do we discern and invest in the kingdom / economy of God? To seek it first in terms of meaning and worth. This teaching of Jesus can often mean we can treat treasure in heaven as good works we do, as another kind of guilt based commodity. Remember Jesus is not wanting us to abandon the earth here. His prayer in the passage previous is all about connecting earth and heaven (6:10).
As I read the gospel storing up treasure in heaven for me means spiritual practises, worship, prayer and fasting. Giving ‘alms to the poor’ (Matthew 19:21) is seen as a spiritual investment, making a treasure of mercy and right relationships. These are the things people remember for at our funerals, our organic relational wealth, not our bank balances.
I’m once again taken back to the Beatitudes (5:1-11) at the start of this teaching cycle as treasure I might seek first in my life. How might we see and invest in poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst for justice, purity of heart, peacemaking, persecution for justice etc. as life’s true treasure.
Such an approach allows us to move beyond the perpetual anxiety of never having enough ‘stored up’ to the ‘enough’ of Gods gracious provision which allows us freely to live in the abundance of God’s Economy right now.
Clean out your fridge and prayerfully compost. Check the use-bys as you do and think of all true wealth as organic.
Think of something that you most treasure. What would it mean to ‘not store it up’ but to give it away in an act of generosity?