Do Not Store Up Treasures on Earth

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples not to “store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”

As I’ve said, I’m at St. Benedict’s this week working on my book that adapts Tibetan Buddhist meditations for Chrisians. One of the meditations I was working on yesterday is a meditation on death. The meditation aims at the helping us develop a mindset that helps us internalize the message Jesus is trying to convey to his disciples.

Although we “know” that our human life is only a blip in eternity, we live under the illusion that our life will last a long time. That is an illusion that has consequences. In Jesus’ words, it tempts us to have an inflated concern with storing up treasures on earth. In Tibetan Buddhist terms, it makes it easy for us to focus only on obtaining happiness and avoiding the sufferings of this life. Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, my root teacher during the time I was a Buddhist explained,

We have the hallucination that this life will last a long time, that oneself having human body, friends, comforts, enjoyments will last. By trusting the appearance that life will last a long time, the complete hallucination, we spend this life in anger and attachment. We regard happiness of this life as most important. With that mind, nothing gets done.

Even though we know we all will die, that future seems so far off. And so we always believe there will be enough time to prepare later, and thus worry more about storing up treasures on earth than in heaven.

Christian or Buddhist the message is the same: this life is not all there is…and we have no idea how long it will last. Our longer term future happiness (for Christians – with God; for Buddhists – in the next life and, ultimately, the ability to attain enlightenment) depends on what we devote ourselves to during this life. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”