What do we need to do to enter God’s kingdom, to live under God’s rule ? The answers are found in the collection of Jesus’s sayings called the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Mathew’s Gospel.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus asks his disciples not to focus on accumulating earthly wealth which is perishable, but to store up for themselves true treasures in heaven. “For where your wealth is, there is your heart too,” he tells them.
What kind of wealth existed in those times? Land, property and livestock, most obviously. But the examples Jesus chooses are more homely – fine and valuable clothing, which moths and insects could destroy; grain stored in great barns, which rats and other vermin could damage; and gold and silver hoarded at home, which thieves and burglars could break in and steal. All these earthly possessions are open to theft and destruction, unlike heavenly treasures.
And what are ‘heavenly treasures’? A good character, for one. A humble, good-fearing and compassionate character, as the teachings of the Law encouraged. A righteous character accompanies us through life and after death. Then there’s the generosity towards the poor and needy. Sharing one’s wealth with those who do not have enough has always been praised by religion.
The passage concludes with an interesting metaphor. The eye has often been seen as the window of the soul, that is, the way through which light enters into our whole being. If the window pane is clear and transparent, then the room within is filled with clarity and light. If the window pane is murky and opaque – filled with prejudices, resentment, fears and anxieties, addictions and conceit – then that inner part of ourselves, our ‘soul’, will be similarly distorted, dark and unhealthy. How important it is that the ‘lamp of the body’ — the eye — be a source of enlightenment to our whole being, not of darkness and ignorance.