Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
What does it mean to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven? First of all, we must understand that our treasure is not from God, our treasure is God; and we can only treasure God in proportion to our dependence upon God. So if God is our treasure, how do we go about growing that investment? Certainly we cannot grow God! However, we can grow our realistic reliance upon God. In other words, to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven means to perpetually be putting down deposits of dependence on God. One of the most primary and practical ways we put down deposits of dependence on God is through our tithes and offerings. It is beyond easy, and perhaps more than intuitive for us, to attempt to find our security and satisfaction in material wealth. God graciously reveals to us the vanity of our efforts to rest and rely upon earthly things (Ecc. 2:1-11), and He lovingly leads us to Himself, wherein we shall find true rest and stability. An indispensable part of this process is God’s gracious command to tithe. For in the tithe we are invited to test God, in order that we might witness God proving Himself to be the only ultimate worthy investment.
As we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we shall come to see the wisdom and goodness of this investment strategy. But we must understand that the wisdom and goodness of this investment is not the result of our astuteness, nor is it beneficial to us as self-absorbed materialists. God gives us the ambition to invest in this way, in order that He might take every deposit of dependence and convert it into Christlikeness. The more clearly and thoroughly a person sees their desperate need for God’s grace, the more they will depend upon God for more grace to become more like God! As John Piper says, “Good deeds do not pay back grace; they borrow more grace.” In other words, our dependence debt only and always gets bigger, and God delights in this! Moreover, the extent to which a person realizes their desperate dependence upon God, is the extent to which they will say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:10)
We must interpret and understand this verse in its relationship with the over-arching Biblical narrative. Both in the larger Biblical story, and in the immediate context of Malachi, God’s people are being accused of robbing God. What is God being robbed of? What is God’s fundamental focus when charging His people with this crime? God is NOT primarily concerned with “getting resources” from His people, but rather He is insistent upon getting His people to glorify Him; and so long as God’s people look to material goods and physical resources to find their security and satisfaction they won’t even remotely be in a position to glorify, or sincerely enjoy, God; and to deny God His glory is to destroy ourselves. So as we come to Malachi 3:10 we must understand that God is inviting people to test Him in such a way that they might see and savor the fact that HE alone is worthy of their quest for security and satisfaction. The pouring down of blessing is not about the blessing so much as it is about God’s worthiness to be worshipped. God’s invitation to test Him is all about us becoming more and more impressed with God, as opposed to becoming more and more cozy with, and confident in, the blessings He provides.
We must always be on guard against the idea that God endorses our pursuit to find our identity, worth, security, and/or satisfaction in material wealth. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). Our treasure is not from God, our treasure is God.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33)
Seeking first the Kingdom of God involves things like tithing. The people of God are explicitly, and repeatedly, commanded to bring their firstfruits to the Lord as a tithe and offering (Deut. 26:1-4). God has no physical need of these resources, but He delights in His people when they bring the full tithe because it brings Him glory …and God’s glory is synonymous with our good! Giving God real things, and watching Him do what He does with those real things, will help you believe that God is real and glorious …and this will do you more good than you can fully comprehend!
God is not real to us, because we so often refuse to engage God with what’s real. There are few things more real to us than “our money”, and/or “our material wealth.” We are stressed, anxious, tense, and worried because we can’t quite make the leap from God as concept to God as reality.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)