An old saying has it that, "You can't take it with you." Yeshua (Jesus) contradicted that adage by citing the common Jewish belief that resources given to the needy will be repaid and rewarded in the Messianic Era and the World to Come.
"Treasures in heaven" does not refer to literal treasure stored up someplace beyond the sky; instead, it means "treasure with God." That is to say, "Invest in the things of God, and He will reward you."
"Lose your money for your brother and your neighbor, but do not let it rust under a stone to be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the most High, and it will bring you more profit than gold. Store up charity in your storehouses and it will deliver you from all affliction" (from an ancient piece of Jewish wisdom literature called Sirach, 29:10-12)
A person who accrues wealth for himself risks losing that wealth. Life is temporary and uncertain. Thieves might steal. Time destroys. Wealth depreciates. James, the brother of the Master, expounds upon Yeshua's teaching as follows:
"Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days" (James 5:1-3).
How does one store up treasure with God? Yeshua says, "Sell your possessions and give alms. Provide yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:33-34).
A man's heart (that is, his mind, thoughts and intentions) will be focused on the accumulation of his wealth. If he has accumulated wealth on earth, his mind will be focused on earthly matters, but if he has invested in the things of God, his mind will be focused on matters of godliness.
In the Apostolic Era, the famous convert to Judaism, King Izates of Adiabene, sent an enormous sum of money to Jerusalem for famine relief. His brothers and countrymen criticized him for squandering the family inheritance. His reply, recorded in the Talmud, reveals influence from the teaching of Yeshua:
"My fathers stored up below and I am storing above ... My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with ... My fathers stored something which produces no fruits, but I have stored something which does produce fruits ... My fathers gathered for this world, but I have gathered for the future world" (Talmud Tractate Bava Batra 11a).
Daniel Thomas Lancaster is a writer, teacher and the Director of Education at the Messianic ministry of First Fruits of Zion (www.ffoz.org), an international ministry with offices in Israel, Canad, and USA, bringing Messianic Jewish teaching to Christians and Jews. He is the author of several books about the Jewish roots of Christianity and the Jewishness of the New Testament, and he is the author of the Torah Club Bible study program (torahclub.org). He also serves as the teaching pastor at Beth Immanuel (bethimmanuel.org), a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Hudson, Wisconsin. Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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