Grace to You; John MacArthur – Handling Possessions Properly
“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth’” (Matthew 6:19).
A true believer is not to hoard earthly possessions.
You may remember this old adage: “The miser says coins are flat that they may rest in stacks; the spendthrift says they are round that they may roll.” In Matthew 6:9 Jesus is specifically talking about the miser. The Greek verb translated “lay up” is thesaurizete, from which we get the word thesaurus—a treasury of words. Jesus is using a play on words by saying, “Do not treasure up treasures for yourselves.” The context of the passage shows that He is referring to stockpiling or hoarding.
The Greek also conveys the idea of stacking or placing something horizontally, as one stacks coins. When something is stacked, it is not being used—it is in a passive condition. Conversely, whenever the Greek has the idea of a vertical sense, it speaks of an active use—being invested for some worthwhile purpose or goal. Jesus is here referring to wealth that is being placed in stacks—simply being stored for safekeeping; it is stored that way to make a show of wealth or to create an environment of lazy indulgence (cf.
It’s clear from this passage, as well as from many others in Scripture, that Jesus is not advocating poverty as a means to spirituality. He only once told a person to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). In that particular case, the young man’s wealth was a barrier between him and the lordship of Christ. It was a test to see if he was fully committed to turning over the control of his life to Christ. His response proved he was not (v. 22).
Unlike the rich young man, you are a follower of Christ and are to be fully committed to Him, no matter what it may cost you. If you have that kind of commitment, you will seek God’s kingdom first instead of hoarding earthly possessions (cf. Matt. 6:33).
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to help you live unselfishly, not hoarding earthly possessions.
For Further Study
Read Proverbs 3:9, 13-15; 8:10, 19; 16:16. What virtues are better than temporal riches?