What does it mean that 'where your treasure is there will your heart be also' (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34)?

Matthew 6:21 records Jesus' words, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (see also Luke 12:34). Most simply, this means that the things we give our money, time, and attention to are the things our hearts will care about. Practically, we know this is true. When we invest in something, it begins to matter to us; and we invest in the things that matter to us. As always, to best understand any passage of Scripture, it is helpful to look at the surrounding context as well as related Scripture.

Jesus' statement in Matthew 6 that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" comes in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. After His warning not to fast for the accolades of others but instead unto God, "and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:18), Jesus says: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure 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). Jesus' larger point is that our focus should not be on earthly things, which are fleeting, but on things of eternal value. We should have a heavenly perspective, aiming to honor the Lord, including with our earthly treasures.

Jesus goes on to say, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24). If our focus is on amassing worldly wealth for ourselves and our sense of security, we will be hindered from serving God. Jesus illustrates this in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13–21), who built larger barns to store the abundance of his crops and said to himself, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry" (Luke 12:19). "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20–21). Earthly goods are temporary; they will not follow us into the afterlife. And, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 6, they can also be easily lost. So rather than spend ourselves on that which does not last, we are to spend ourselves on that which does last (John 15:1–17; 1 Corinthians 3:11–15; 10:31; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 6:10; 11:6; James 4:14).

None of this is to say that money is evil, nor is it to suggest that we should not save or should not invest time or efforts into "earthly" things. From a biblical perspective, our earthly treasures are tools. Ultimately, they all belong to God and we are to steward them wisely (Luke 16:10–13).

In both Matthew 6, after Jesus has said to lay up treasures in heaven, and in Luke 12, after Jesus has told of the rich fool, the following text records Jesus' assurance to His disciples. He says, "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).

In the Luke 12 passage, after Jesus' assurance about anxiety and His counsel to seek God's kingdom, we read, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:32–34). The concepts of seeking God's kingdom, resting in His provision, and directing our treasures toward heavenly things are linked.

Often, our impulse to store up vast amounts of earthly treasure, or to seek out earthly accolades, is founded in fear. But when our trust is in God, we can view our finances, time, and abilities as gifts from Him entrusted to us for His glory. We can rest secure in His love and care for us, trusting in Him rather than in fleeting things. As our hearts are inclined to God, so, too, will our treasures be directed toward things that He values.

Galatians 6:7–9 encourages, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Jesus also said, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:37–38). When we treasure the things God treasures, our hearts are knit to His and we reap much joy, both in this life and for eternity.

Related Truth:

What does it mean that you cannot serve two masters in Matthew 6:24?

How can I seek first the kingdom of God?

What does it mean to exercise good biblical stewardship?

What did Jesus mean about making friends by worldly wealth in Luke 16:9?

How does someone love God?

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