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About laying up eternal treasures

A predilection for riches strongly interferes with a person’s ability to become virtuous. In His teachings and parables, the Lord Jesus Christ often warned people about having an excessive attachment to worldly goods. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord directly forbids a Christian to become rich, saying:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [i.e.,riches]" (Mat. 6:19-24).

This admonition, of course, does not apply to the effort that is necessary for feeding oneself and one’s family. It is forbidden here to indulge in excessive and oppressive troubles for the sake of becoming rich. The Holy Scriptures speak thus about the necessity of work: "If any would not work, neither should he eat!" (2 Thes. 3:10).

In order to avert people from an excessive attachment to material goods, the Lord reminds us that they are not permanent but mortal: they can be ruined by rust, moths and all sorts of unfortunate events; they can be taken by malicious persons and stolen by thieves; finally, a person has to leave them behind on earth when he dies. For this reason, instead of using all of one’s strength to gather fleeting blessings, a person would be better off attending to storing up internal riches, which are truly valuable and which will be his eternal inheritance.

The internal wealth of a person includes his so-called "talents"the mental and spiritual abilities given to him by the Creator for development and perfecting. First and foremost, the spiritual wealth of a person must include the virtues, for example, faith, courage, abstinence, patience, constancy, hope in God, compassion, magnanimity, love and others. These spiritual riches should be acquired through a righteous life and good deeds. The most valuable spiritual wealth is the moral purity and holiness which are given to a virtuous person by the Holy Spirit. A person must zealously ask God for this wealth. Upon receiving it, he must painstakingly guard it in his heart. The Lord summons people to the acquisition of this many-faceted internal wealth in His Sermon on the Mount.

To the same degree that spiritual riches illumine a person's soul, oppressive cares about worldly, material goods cloud his mind, weaken his faith and fill his soul with tormenting confusion. Speaking of this metaphorically, the Lord compares the mind of a person with an eye, which must serve as a conduit for spiritual light: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single [undamaged], thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." In other words, like an injured eye which deprives a person of the ability to see light, a soul dulled with excessively worldly cares is not in the condition to accept spiritual light; it cannot understand the spiritual essence of events and its purpose in life. For this reason, to be a lover of wealth is identical to being a blind man. In the parables of the foolish rich man, and of the rich man and Lazarus, the Lord portrays clearly the spiritual darkness and ruin of two rich people, who in other ways, apparently, were not bad people (Lk. 12:13-21; 16:14-31).

Is it possible to have both spiritual and material wealth? The Lord explains that it is as impossible as serving two demanding masters at the same time: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon!" In ancient times, Mammon was the pagan patron god of wealth. In mentioning this idol, the Lord compares the miser to an idolator, and thus shows how mean this passion is. The Gospel tale of the rich young man shows how a person attached to wealth is not always capable of parting with it, even if he sincerely desires to serve God. His attachment to his wealth suppresses all his good intentions, and he has more trust in his own money than in help from on high. That is why it is said: "How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:24)" Here it should be clarified that the people who sin by loving wealth are not only those who are rich, but those who consistently dream of wealth and see their happiness in it.

In concluding this part of His sermon, the Lord explains that everything good that is necessary for life does not come so much from our efforts as from the mercy of God, Who, as a kind Father, perpetually cares for us.

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mat. 6:25-33).

Truly, the gift of life and the amazing composition of our bodies, the earth with its natural wealth of flowers, fruits and various grains, sunlight and warmth, air and water, seasons of the year and all the external conditions necessary for our existence — all this is given to us by our merciful Creator. For this reason, most animals — birds, fish and other creatures — do not work at all, unlike people, but only gather for themselves already prepared food, because Nature provides them with dwellings and shelter also.

A person with little faith must learn to trust more in God than in his own strength. The Lord does not call us to idleness; He desires to liberate us from the agonizing worries and excessive efforts made for passing things, in order to give us an opportunity to prepare for eternity. The Lord promises that if we will first and foremost work toward the salvation of our soul, He will provide us with every other necessity: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

This part of the Sermon on the Mount thus far calls a person to avoid greed, to be content with necessities and, most of all, to take care for spiritual riches and eternal life.

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