Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:…
The all-absorbing desire of humanity is happiness. A depraved heart naturally seeks this in the world. Money, which "answereth all things," is the exponent of the world's good. Hence the feverish desire to accumulate money. Wealth comes to be loved and laid up because it is loved. This hoarding is sin.
I. MAKING PROPER PROVISION FOR THE FUTURE IS NOT HERE CONDEMNED.
1. God commends this prudence in his system of nature.
(1) He has so ordered the seasons that one harvest yields enough to serve us until the next. The elements that ripen fruits in the soil tend to rot those gathered the preceding year. God cannot be displeased at our following his providence.
(2) He impresses his providence upon the instincts of animals. Thus the bee stores in summer the honey that will serve it for the winter. The morals of nature are for our profit.
2. He commends it in the economy of grace.
(1) The term of our natural life is given as a probation to be utilized for eternity. It is the seedtime which, if neglected, will leave us to reap a harvest of thorns and thistles.
(2) The God of grace is also the God of providence. The principles of grace, therefore, have their lessons of providence for us.
3. He commends it in the lessons of providence.
(1) History and experience teach us that not only in Egypt in the days of Joseph, but in all lands and in all ages, seasons of plenty are followed by seasons of scarcity. Hence the proverbial "rainy day."
(2) We see the sufferings of improvidence. The artisan, in times of plenty thrifty, will not need in duller times to sing through the streets for charity. While the asylum of the workhouse is no disgrace to the unfortunate, it is a disgrace to the improvident. The injunction of the text is that we are not so to lay up treasures upon the earth as to deprive us of the more precious and enduring treasure in heaven.
II. HOARDING IS DEPRECATED AS SINFUL AND PERNICIOUS.
1. The hopes of riches are delusive.
(1) They do not give immunity from anxiety. The moth, the rust, and the thief, like spectres, haunt the dreams of the wealth-lover. He finds more anxiety in preserving than he found in acquiring his treasure. Men are killed by money.
(2) They do not raise us above the fear of want. Millionaires have been so haunted with this fear, that to relieve them their friends procured for them parish relief, and have set them to work for wages on their own estates.
(3) Gold cannot purchase health.
(4) It cannot remove the terrors of a guilty conscience.
2. The love of riches is degrading.
(1) The heart will be with its treasure. Its treasure, therefore, should be worthy of it. If heaven be the treasure, then the heart will be ennobled; for the God of purity is its glory. No moth, no rust, no thief, can deprive us of that treasure:
(2) If the hoard be the treasure of the heart, degradation is inevitable. The heart cannot be separated from its treasure. Upon this principle it is that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," etc. (Matthew 19:24).
(3) It hardens the heart. Monopoly is selfishness. The heart of the miser is hardened by a systematic resistance to the promptings of benevolence. We may challenge the world to produce a tender-hearted miser (see 1 John 3:7).
3. Riches invest death with additional terrors.
(1) For they have to be relinquished. Garrick conducted Johnson over his mansion, and, directing his attention to valuable pictures and other articles of treasure, expected to be praised for his taste; but the moralist said, "Ah, David, these are the things that make death terrible!" A clergyman walking with an elder brother through his grounds in Yorkshire remarked, "This is a lovely place. You ought to be happy here." "Yes, man," was the reply, "but there is that damned death!"
(2) The guilty steward is also haunted by the terror of the account he will have to render to his judge (see James 5:1-4). The wail, not of the poor only, but of lost souls who might have been saved had the Lord's money been invested in Christian enterprise, will pierce and alarm his conscience when death stares him in the face.
4. Hoarded treasure is often a pernicious inheritance.
(1) How often is such an inheritance dissipated in prodigality! Young men who hope to inherit fortune are seldom disposed to grapple with the difficulties of gaining a profession. Habits of indolence lead to dissipation.
(2) Sometimes the hoard inherited becomes the nucleus of a greater. To become a millionaire, or something like it, the inheritor will sell his very soul for gain.
(3) How different is the history of the youth who has to rely upon his education and the blessing of God, and who helps the cause of God and humanity with the fruits of his industry! His heart is light. He dies in faith.
III. HOW DOES THE GOOD STEWARD MANAGE HIS ESTATE?
1. He claims no absolute right of acquisition.
(1) He owns the Source of his prosperity (see Deuteronomy 8:17, 18).
(2) He confesses that God could instantly reverse the tide of his success.
(3) He never says, "I can do what I like with my own."
2. He accepts his maintenance from God.
(1) He is entitled to his food, raiment, and habitation, for himself and those depending upon him.
(2) He is, moreover, entitled to a provision against sickness and old age.
(3) He is authorized in giving his family an education and a start in life.
(4) God will himself add to all this the spiritual rewards of well-doing.
3. With the rest his problem is to secure the maximum of good.
(1) To this end he will study the needs of men. This may be troublesome; but it is the business of the steward. God will not approve a slovenly disbursement of his money.
(2) He will also study the best means of meeting the needs of men. The merits and claims of the great evangelical and philanthropical societies will have due consideration.
(3) He will cultivate the spirit of Christ, so that he may relieve the needs of men without wounding their sensibilities or injuring their self-respect.
(4) In all things he will seek direction from God in prayer. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: