Matthew 6:19 and 6:20 are the nineteenth and twentieth verses of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. These verses open the discussion of wealth. These verses are paralleled in Luke 12:33.
- 19: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth
- and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
- 20: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
- rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- 19: “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth
- and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal;
- 20: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
- rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal;
This verse marks a change in subject matter from the first half of this chapter. The first half was a description of proper procedure for worship, and an attack on those who made public display of their piety. This verse begins a discussion of wealth and material goods, and why they are not useful.
The author of Matthew likes the word treasures, it can refer to a treasure box or store house, or their contents. The reference to moths is a clear one to the destruction of fabrics and clothing. In this era pieces of clothing were a major investment. What is meant by rust, brosis in the Greek, is less certain. The word means "eating" and it could refer to the oxidization that eats away metals, but the verse could also be referring to vermin, such as the mice that might consume a supply of grain, the worms that eat through wood, or the aforementioned moths. "Break through" literally translates as "dig through" and refers to the common method of entry of thieves into mud brick houses.
By contrast to all of those material things that can be destroyed or stolen, investments in heaven cannot be threatened by others. Thus Jesus suggests this is the most secure form of investment. This is a very rational and economic argument for piety, somewhat similar to Pascal's Wager. The idea of heaven as a storehouse for spiritual treasures existed before Jesus, being found in several Jewish works of the period and having an analogue in the Hindu theory of karma. France notes that the verse may specifically be an encouragement to alms giving, an argument that one should spend money on alms rather than luxuries. It contains very similar wording to Matthew 19:1, which is specifically on alms.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985. pg. 138
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
- Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992.
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