Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
It is most unimportant, in meditating on the succeeding portions of this wonderful discourse of our Lord, to insist on tracing some imagined connection between them. If on the surface it be plain, or if by careful examination it becomes plain, let us love to notice it, and to learn its continual contribution to the instructiveness and beauty of the teaching. Otherwise there is no incumbent necessity or advantage in stringing such pearls as these, at any rate. With this proviso, it is possible to suggest that there is a connection to be traced, not fanciful, between what we have here and the foregoing eighteen verses - that whereas the solemn refrain of each of the three examples which they comprise has been that no heritage of human praise be sought, but only that surest intrinsic reward, the approving eye of him who sooth in secret, now the subject launches out into the open; he who speaks, lovingly admonishes all, at all times, under all conditions, whether they give alms, or pray, or fast, "or whatsoever they do," to take heed and beware, not only of the lust of human praise - one particular shape of earthly treasure - but of seeking or storing in any sort the unsafe treasures of earth. The ground now rested upon for this admonition is, in one general word, the untrustworthiness of treasures laid up on earth. But this untrustworthiness has deepening shadows and a deepening suspicion as it is deeper looked into. The place, indeed, Jesus Christ says, of treasure laid up upon earth lays it open to suspicion, and to more than suspicion, to condemnation, in the matter of a right and wise investment. For of such treasure it is to be said that -
I. IT IS INSECURE. By the perfection of figurative language, in brevity, force, and clearness, this insecurity is set forth by the operation of:
1. Rust; an agent so silent, so constant, so natural, so certain, that nothing seems wanting to perfect the figure, for all that wide sweep of earthly wealth which iron, the king of metals, may be held to typify.
2. The moth; the stealthy destroyer of all the vesture and texture by which, again, another such wide stretch of earthly wealth is typified; but not only so, such a wide field of human vanity of wealth displayed.
3. The thief; who the more precious and less destroyable what remains may be, so much the more eagerly and skilfully compasses the grasping of it. So earthly treasure is cumulatively insecure by its unconscious and inanimate enemy, by its unconscious but animate enemy, and by its very conscious and very animate enemy.
II. IT IS TEMPORARY, EVEN WHEN AT THE SECUREST. If it is laid up on earth, it is bound to be left down on earth. The whole wide world of men all always have known that earth is not their abiding country; that if they are to be always, it is just the opposite of fact that they are to be always on earth; and that if the earth, in a sense, "abideth for ever," its fleeting generations the very opposite.
III. IT Is LOWERING INSTEAD OF ELEVATING, IMPOVERISHING INSTEAD OF ENRICHING, EVEN WHEN LEAST "TEMPORARY," AND EVEN WHEN MOST "SECURE." This is not said of a right use of earthly advantages, a use that does not abuse. But neither is it this at which Christ aims when he says, "Lay not up treasure on earth." No; the "for" which Christ uses here so emphatically, and the most weighty clause which it leads in, tells his most significant meaning. A treasure laid up on earth chains the heart with it to earth; "for" wherever the treasure is the heart is; whatever the treasure is, it is fashioning the heart to it. "What folly to store your treasure in the place you must soon leave!" What folly to have as treasure that which enslaves but never ennobles! What folly to have as treasure that which condemns thought never to think high, and which dooms affection's growth to be opposite of lasting in any upward direction, and, so far as its downward direction goes, the deeper its roots, the deeper its torments! Human nature and character only then rise, grow, purify, and are blessed as the heart of man rises and becomes purer, till its upward tendency is secured and its sanctification safe. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: