In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes was able to sneak himself into the house of Irene Adler to find a picture of her with the king of Bohemia.
To find the picture, which poses a risk of scandal for the king, Sherlock instructs Watson to throw a smoke bomb through the window, prompting the warning call of “fire!” Irene Adler exposes the hidden place of the picture since she runs to the exact place where the picture is kept.
In this way, Holmes was able to discover the location of the hidden picture since “when a woman thinks that her house is on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most” (Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia).
People will inevitably reveal what they value most by their actions. Irene Adler’s most valuable possession was the picture of her with the king of Bohemia, which was linked to her safety and reputation.
Other people may value money more than anything and will go to great lengths to secure and gain more riches. For many people, their success or family is the most valued treasure of their lives, which is revealed in how they spend their time and energy.
A person’s heart is tied to what they value most in life. Jesus spoke of this truth when He stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV). Instead of valuing and building treasure on earth, Christ urged His followers to store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
The Meaning of Matthew 6:21
For instance, Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees’ way of praying, where they make a public spectacle of their religiosity (Matthew 6:5).
Wanting to appear spiritual, the Pharisees also would exaggerate their pain during fasting so that everyone would know they were performing a religious act (Matthew 6:16).
Not surprisingly, the Pharisees also placed a high emphasis on richly treasure as a sign of God’s blessing on their lives. Luke records the fact that the Pharisees, as a group, were “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14, ESV).
In providing the contrast of the Pharisees, Jesus was able to show the true way of honoring God in one’s actions. In talking about money and earthly riches, which the Pharisees were so keen on collecting, Jesus exposes the heart of the matter.
As He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV).
Jesus revealed the truth that what a person values most is where their “heart is at.” A person’s time, attention, actions, and energy will be focused on whatever they value above all else. For the Pharisees, they valued man’s opinion and money above God.
Their treasure was found in earthly riches, which revealed that their heart was focused on pride and greed instead of serving God. Hence, the phrase “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” demonstrates that what a person values will affect their behavior and how they live.
Warning Against 'Where Your Treasure Is'
Although many people spend their time building up treasures on earth, Jesus wants His followers to store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20). If a person chooses to build up earthly goods, then their devotion will be to earthly riches.
Jesus explained the foolishness of accumulating earthly treasure since those things will rust, unravel, and eventually fade away (Matthew 6:19). Having a heart for earthly treasure is ultimately foolish because the world is passing away and will be destroyed.
As 1 John 2:17 states, “The world is passing away, along with its desires; but whoever does the will of God remains forever” (BSB).
If a believer’s heart is set on things on earth, then it will hinder them from adequately living for God. Jesus compared the dilemma to a servant who tries to serve two masters. The servant will love one master and hate the other.
Such a servant’s devotion would be divided. Thus, a believer cannot live for both God and money (Matthew 6:24). This analogy also applies to anything that a person may begin to cherish in their heart more than the Lord.
Believers may think they can have both earthly and heavenly treasure, but Jesus’ analogy of the servant proves otherwise.
As Ellicott states in his commentary, “Men may try to persuade themselves that they will have a treasure on earth and a treasure in heaven also, but in the long-run, one or the other will assert its claim to be the treasure, and will claim the no longer divided allegiance of the heart” (Charles Ellicott, “Matthew 6:21,” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Bible Hub).
The heart of a person cannot be completely set both on God and an idol in their life.
A Heart Set on Christ
Since a person’s treasure is where their heart is, believers should have their heart set on Christ. Those who value Christ above all else will live for Him and seek to bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
The Bible repeatedly urges believers to have a correct perspective, by having one’s mind focused on things above (Colossians 3:2), fixing one’s eyes on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:18), and being singularly focused on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Having one’s heart set on eternity will enable the believer to wholly devote themselves to the Lord with all their actions, plans, and desires rooted in Jesus.
A heart that treasures Christ will be revealed in how a person is living. An undivided allegiance to the Lord enables the believer to keep a loose grasp on material possessions and earthly ambitions.
Worldly wealth seems dull in comparison to the riches of knowing Jesus (Ephesians 3:8). Gaining power and prominence appears prideful and futile to the Christian who knows that the attitude of a servant is what honors God (Matthew 23:11; Luke 22:26).
Using time and resources for selfish reasons or frivolity is exposed as foolishness since believers whose hearts are set on Christ know that they will one day give an account to their Lord and Savior (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). If Christ is the focus and treasure of a person’s life, then they will want to glorify Him in all they do.
Living for Eternity
Therefore, Jesus’ statement that “where your treasure is there your heart is also” means that what a person values and loves the most in life will influence how they live.
A person with a heart set on worldly pleasures and riches will live in pursuit of earthly treasure while the person who values Christ above all else will stay focused on eternity and store up treasures in Heaven.
Christians cannot love both the world and God, which is why undivided loyalty to the Lord is needed if a believer will live a God-glorifying life.
To live for earthly treasure is foolish and a waste of precious life. Instead, believers who have their hearts set on Christ will joyfully live for Jesus on earth and impact eternity.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.