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Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 6:19-21.

Treasures in Heaven – Matthew 6:19-21

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.

But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

These verses contrast treasures on earth with treasures in heaven.

The above verses, Matthew 6:19-21, in Greek is as follows:

19 Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει καὶ ὅπου κλέπται διορύσσουσιν καὶ κλέπτουσιν· 

20 θησαυρίζετε δὲ ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ ὅπου οὔτε σὴς οὔτε βρῶσις ἀφανίζει καὶ οπου κλέπται οὐ διορύσσουσιν οὐδὲ κλέπτουσιν· 

21 ὅπου γὰρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρός σου, ἐκεῖ ἔσται [καὶ] ἡ καρδία σου.

In Greek the verb for “store up” or “hoard” or “treasure” is θησαυρίζω and for the noun “treasure” or “hoard” is θησαυρός. Both verb and the noun have the same root θησαυρ and therefore can be literally translated, “Do not treasure up treasures.” A treasure is not only the stored object but also the place for safe keeping. Where a treasure is stored is just as critical as the stored object itself.

Moth was a symbol of destruction, particularly of clothing.

  • They shall be like a garment eaten by moths, like wool consumed by grubs; But my victory shall remain forever, my salvation, for all generations. (Isaiah 51:8)
  • Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, (James 5:2)

In the ancient world and during the period of Jesus, clothing symbolized wealth and status and was often used as dowry.

Hoarding food without distributing to others can cause decay and destruction.

The phrase “thieves break in and steal” might refer to robbers stealing valuables such as jewellery, money and other treasures. Ancient Palestinian houses during the period of Jesus were mainly built with mud bricks making it easy for burglars to dig through walls.  Hence, treasures hoarded on earth, whether food, garments or money, are never secure.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:21)

In Jewish thought the heart represented a person’s very being.  So, Jesus prompts his audience to choose one of the two available alternatives: heaven or earth. Which of the two one chooses determines one’s destiny.

A few points to ponder

Our world’s 400 billionaires have a combined wealth equal to that of the bottom half of the world’s population

Today, the average American sees more advertisements every 2 weeks than would have been seen in a lifetime, 100 years ago.

In 1960, the average head of a major U.S. corporation made 20 times as much as the average worker; now it is 500 times or more.

The richest 1% of Americans own twice as much wealth as the poorest 80%.

One billion people in the world do not get enough to eat. Yet half of American adults are overweight.

The average child graduates from high school having spent more time in front of the television set than in the classroom.

In developing countries, six million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes.

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