September 21, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:33-34 (NRSV)
Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus says some surprising things about treasure. For example, he observes that real treasure, treasure that lasts, isn’t about what you accumulate for yourself but rather what you give away to others. As people who strive for God’s kingdom, we choose to value what God values most of all, and this leads us to a life of generosity.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
When I was a boy, I loved treasure hunts. Every now and then Mr. Goff, who lived up the street from my family, would make treasure hunts for my friends and me. He’d create a bunch of clever clues that led us all over the neighborhood. Sometimes his hunts would take a couple of hours. But, at the end, there would always be an ample supply of candy, thanks to Mr. Goff and his generosity. Tricky clues, lots of running and scrambling, plenty of candy, sharing with friends . . . what’s not to love about a treasure hunt!
As far as I know, Jesus never talked about treasure hunts, but he did have things to say about treasure. In Luke 12:32, after noting that our Heavenly Father loves to give us the kingdom, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” This is a surprising way of talking about treasure. Usually, treasure has to do with having valuable possessions, the more the better. Treasure is something we keep in purses and protect from thieves and moths.
But Jesus tells us that real treasure is something else. It accumulates when we sell our possessions in order to give to the poor. It’s a matter of giving, not getting, of generosity, not gathering. Through giving to others, Jesus says, we will produce “an unfailing treasure in heaven.” The Greek work translated here as “unfailing” can also be rendered “incessant, uninterrupted, infinite, inexhaustible.”
Scholars often talk about the kingdom of God as the “upside down kingdom.” Here is a good example of how God’s ways are the reverse of the world’s ways. If you want lots of lasting treasure, then start giving away your earthly treasure to those who need it. Not only will you experience joy in the moment, but also you’ll be accumulating a kind of treasure that lasts forever.
One reason to be generous, according to Jesus, is that you actually receive much in return. You receive the joy of giving. You receive the gratitude from those who are blessed by your generosity. You receive God’s blessing and the knowledge that God delights in your altruism.
But that’s not the only reason. Jesus adds in verse 34, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This isn’t only a statement about your emotions, though we do tend to love that which we treasure and treasure that which we love. Yet the heart, in the language of Jesus, isn’t only or even primarily the location of our feelings. Rather, it’s the faculty by which we choose. The heart, in Scripture, includes our thoughts and feelings, but has everything to do with our will. When you choose to act in a certain way, that choice is an exercise of your heart. Our choices reflect the things we treasure. We pursue that which we value the most.
Jesus urges us to value things that will last forever, things like love and grace, generosity and justice, kindness and worship. When we strive for God’s kingdom, we choose that which God values most. Our beloved treasure is no longer what we accumulate for ourselves, but rather what we give to others.
What do you treasure in life, really? Can you identify what you value most of all?
To what extent are you storing up treasure in heaven?
What makes it hard for you to be generous?
What helps you to choose to give generously?
Let me encourage you to consider giving a gift today in support of the poor. If you have an organization you already support, you might make an additional gift. (My wife and I support World Vision, and I just now gave a modest gift online. I trust World Vision to get resources to those who need it in a wise and effective way.)
Lord Jesus, thank you for your challenging words about treasure. I can easily treasure things that do wear out, things that thieves can steal or moths can destroy. I sometimes cling to my stuff more than I should. My treasure can be in the wrong place.
Forgive me, Lord, for my confused priorities. Help me, I pray, to value you what you value most of all. May I learn to be generous and kind. May I choose to strive for your kingdom in all things, including how I spend money.
Today I pray with gratitude for organizations that help folks like me to “give alms” wisely. Bless their work, Lord. Provide for them and those they serve. Give them wisdom as they seek, not only to care for the poor, but to empower the poor in ways that set them free from poverty. Help me to be faithful in playing my part in this work. To you be all the glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Store Your Treasure in Heaven, Not on Earth (Matthew 6:19-34)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.