One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is Matthew 6:19-33.
Jesus covers so many important principles that I could probably prepare an extensive sermon series on these few verses alone. In fact, I’ve recently covered this passage with Articles like 3 Treasure Principles and The Exclusivity of Treasure Pursuit.
Today I’m returning to Matthew 6 to write about earth-bound treasures, with a specific application to parenting.
Jesus says, “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.” (vv. 19-20).
What are earth-bound treasures? In essence, these treasures – people, places, physical possessions, or ideas – are all about the comfort and pleasure of the individual in the here and now. On the contrary, heavenly treasures are all about the Kingdom of God and often come with physical sacrifice and delay for the individual.
Your parenting is no different; it will always be guided and motivated by either earth-bound treasures or heavenly treasures. I said last week that there isn’t any middle ground; it's spiritually impossible to pursue the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of self simultaneously.
That means, parents, that every word you say, every reaction you have, and every decision you make is guided and motivated by an earth-bound treasure or a heavenly treasure. That’s a scary thought, and an impossible standard, but I’ll touch on that at the conclusion of this Article.
My 16-year-old son Justin came to me and asked if he could spend the weekend at a friend’s house. It was a friend from church and we knew the family well, so I trusted his request. It turned out, however, that Justin deceived me; he wasn’t where he told me was. The environment of his choosing was a foolish one, one that dad would have never permitted.
When I found out, I was immediately enraged. “How dare he do this to me! Who does he think he is? When he gets home, I’ll be sure to let him have it! Does he recognize all I do for him?” That’s when my wife, Luella, told me to pray; not for Justin, but for my heart.
I didn’t know it, but my reaction was guided and motivated by earth-bound treasure. I wanted to be respected; I wanted to be in charge. This act of rebellion challenged my idols of identity and control. Sure, I had a fatherly concern for Justin and I didn’t want him to get hurt, but that’s not what motivated my reaction in the moment.
A Heavenly Response
After I calmed down and began to pray, the Lord got a hold of my hard heart and opened my dim eyes so I could recognize the beauty of this moment. God allowed Justin to be discovered, not so I could rip into him, but so he could be shown a better way. And God was choosing me, broken and impatient as I was, to be an instrument of heart-change in the life of my son.
As a parent, you’ll always have a choice. In the little moments of your mundane life, you’ll be guided and motivated by earth-bound treasures that prioritize your comfort, or you’ll be guided and motivated by heavenly treasures that prioritize the Kingdom of God.
Earth-bound treasures are appealing in parenting because they appear to diffuse the situation and quickly return your life to comfortable normalcy. Heavenly treasures, on the other hand, often require sacrifice and energy, and let’s be honest: we don’t always want what God says is best!
You Don’t Have A Chance
I have to say this: you’ll never have a perfect parenting record. In fact, if left to your own willpower and “righteousness”, you would choose earth-bound parenting 10 times out of 10.
But don’t be discouraged by that statistic; the God who is speaking these words in Matthew 6 is speaking them with two feet on the ground. He left Heaven and came to earth to die for selfish, impatient and idolatrous parents like you and me.
You and I can be completely hopeless in our own parenting because abundant grace enables our heart to be guided and motivated by the Kingdom of God. Free-flowing grace gives us the patience we need to be godly parents, day in and day out.
Be encouraged: grace is available for all parents. He lives inside your heart at this moment.
For extensive resources on parenting, check out my curriculum Getting to the Heart of Parenting and my book Age of Opportunity.
Below is a roundtable discussion on parenting with my good friend Elyse Fitzpatrick.