Thursday, January 28, 2021

Laying Up Treasures in Heaven


In my previous email we discussed the correct meanings of the Hebrew idioms “good eye” and “evil eye” found in the teachings of Jesus. He used this saying in two different contexts. Today I will discuss the first place it appears (Matthew 6:19-24). This parable has three parts and the idioms are in part 2.


Part 1 (vv. 19-21):


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.


This part uses two parallelisms to set the stage for the opening question and statement.


Parallelisms: Will you lay up treasures on earth for yourself or treasures in heaven with God?


Opening Statement: Your heart is where your treasure is.


Part 2 (vv. 22-23):


The lamp of the body is the eye.


If you are a generous person that gives food to the poor,

your whole body will be full of light.


But if you are a greedy stingy person that does not give anything to the poor,

your whole body will be full of darkness.


● What purpose was a lamp created to fulfill? It was created to give light.


● “The eye” is a play on the words of the two Hebrew idioms – good eye (generous person) and evil eye (stingy person).


The body was created to be “full of light” by doing generous things that meet people’s needs.


The body of a stingy person is like at lamp that doesn’t give light.


Part 3 (v. 24):


No one can serve two masters;

for either he will hate the one and love the other,

or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.


● Note the words used in contrast to each other: hate or love; loyal or despise.


The generous person loves God, is loyal to God, and serves God.


The stingy person hates God, despises God, and serves mammon (wealth).


A generous person’s heart is with God.


A stingy person’s heart is with mammon.


Jesus appears to have been familiar with two scrolls that are not part of the Jewish Scriptures today. The first is Ben Sira, which was written between 200-175 BCE. The words below are from Ben Sira 29:8-13:


Be understanding with those who are poor; do not keep them waiting for your generosity.


It is better to lose your money by helping a relative or a friend than letting it rust away.


Use your wealth (mammon) as the Most High has commanded.


Count among your treasures the fact that you give to the poor.


It will save you from all kinds of trouble and be a defense against your enemies.


The second scroll is Tobit 4:7-11 (written about 150 BCE).


Give generously to anyone who faithfully obeys God.


If you are stingy in giving to the poor, God will be stingy in giving to you.


The more you have, the more you should give.


This is as good as money saved.


You will have your reward in a time of trouble.


Taking care of the poor is the kind of offering that pleases God in heaven.


Do this and you will be kept safe from the dark world of the dead.


Jesus was repeating ideas that had been in circulation for almost two centuries before he was born. Be sure to note Tobit’s connection of “giving to the poor” to “being kept safe from the world of the dead.” The idea of “being generous and inheriting eternal life” didn’t originate with Jesus. Please share and discuss it with others.



Jim Myers


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