Treasure and Dung

by Mike Ratliff

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB) 

The doctrine of imputation is under severe attack in our day. Those who have made the mistake of seeking a peace with those who desire to change or do away with this doctrine have erred egregiously. This doctrine must never be negotiated. Why? The changes certain people desire to make to this doctrine would change our justification from being according to faith alone to a combination of faith and works. According to Galatians 5:3, this would make us obligated to keep the whole law, which none of us can do. Only our Lord Jesus Christ kept the commandments perfectly, therefore, His righteousness is imputed to those who trust in His obedience to be justified. 

What has this got to do with treasure and dung? Carefully read the excerpt from our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, which I placed at the top of this post. Those who are resting in Christ’s righteousness are also the ones fully aware of their inability to earn or deserve this gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is why we must teach the doctrine of imputation to the sheep of the Lord’s hand. They must understand that they possess a gift of incredible value in light of which they must see that this life is simply the training ground for the believer not the goal.

Those things that God gives us in this life are blessings, but what we must learn to see and live by is the truth that all we have in this life is nothing in comparison to what awaits us in glory. Therefore, we should live and minister accordingly. We must do all we do with our eternity in mind. The word “treasures” in v19 translates the Greek noun θησαυροὺς (thēsaurous) the accusative plural masculine case of θησαυρός (thēsauros), which describes “wealth.” In this context, it would refer to the accumulation of the things the world values. Our Lord tells us to not put our focus on accumulating the world’s goods in this life, but instead, put it on what has eternal value. If we ignore this and pursue what the world values, including things like fame, recognition, et cetera, then we will make compromises in the truth in order to please the world so we will continue in our accumulation of our earthly treasures.

The doctrine of imputation is vital to true Christianity. If it is compromised then it opens the door to doctrines of demons which teach believers heretical things like a lack of the world’s goods or perceived “blessings” from God in this area means that we are not working hard enough to please God. We have fallen down on the job of keeping the whole law of God so we are being punished. This causes people to place their treasure in what can be seen in the here and now rather than trusting in the promises of God and seeing the truth through eyes of faith.

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Philippians 3:7 (NASB) 

7 [Ἀλλʼ] ἅτινα ἦν μοι κέρδη, ταῦτα ἥγημαι διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ζημίαν. Philippians 3:7 (NA28)

The gain, κέρδη (kerdē), Paul was referring to in this passage is the advancements he had made as Saul of Tarsus in the Jewish religious system as a Pharisee. This Greek noun κέρδη refers to gain such as money, lucre, or treasure, but Paul used it here to refer to his own earthly glory in the Jewish religious system. The word “counted” is the Greek verb ἥγημαι (hēgēmai). In this verse’s rendering it is translated usually as if it took place in the past, but the actual grammar structure here is present tense, infinitive mood, and passive voice. This describes continuous or repeated action without any reference to when the action takes place. I believe Paul is not telling us to simply look at all of the world’s goods we have and then for Christ’s sake we count it all as loss (ζημίαν). Instead, we have our answer in the words διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν, which are “because of the Christ.” The word δια is a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act. It could have been translated as “through” for instance. However, in this case we are to learn that the counting or considering of earthly gain as loss or detriment is because of Christ Himself and His work in us to change us or conform us unto Himself.

8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11 (NASB) 

8 ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα , ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω 9 καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ, μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει, 10 τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ, 11 εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. Philippians 3:8-11 (NA28)

Here we see the result of the work of God in the heart of His people. They value the gift of their salvation through Jesus Christ higher than everything else to the point that they understand that these worldly things are only distractions and detriments in their spiritual growth. In fact, this view is so extreme that they learn to count them as rubbish, σκύβαλα (skybala).  This word describes worthless things or stuff. It is refuse, dung, garbage, or rubbish. Dung seems very appropriate here in this contrast.

This is how we must view our earthly treasure in contrast with the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul tells us here that his disinheritance because of becoming a Christian was as if someone had taken away his σκύβαλα. Think of it. To be found having the righteousness of Christ through God’s imputation of it after persecuting the church and participating in the martyrdom of Stephen is a radical thing. It is beyond anything the unregenerate can comprehend. Even those in Christ become confused at times when they focus on the wrong things.

Where is your treasure my brethren? Are you gathering it here on this earth with your money and property and fame and reputation in the world or do you see all of that is merely God providing you with what you need here in order to serve Him according to His will where He puts you? If our treasure is in heaven as our Lord commands then we are able to do this only through the working of God in our hearts to view all gain here in this life as σκύβαλα in comparison to what we possess in Christ.

This year, 2020, has been a very difficult one for most of us. I am sure all reading this could share how the political divide in our country has caused much heartache as that put stresses on relationships between friends, coworkers, and family members. Then along came Covid-19 and the so-called pandemic. Some states in the U.S. have shutdown their economies so severely that local businesses are going bankrupt. Churches are shutdown and are forbidden to meet. Some states even restricted how many family members could come together on Thanksgiving to eat together. On top of all that we had the extremely contentious 2020 Election fiasco which is being played out in the courts as I write this. I wrote in posts in the Spring, Summer and Fall and on my Facebook page about how Christians should not be focused on all this and allow it to discourage us because our treasure is not here in the fallen world, but in Heaven. Most of my beloved brethren understood and we rejoiced together about that. However, I got unfriended by a few. Does that really matter though?

What counts is our standing before God and our obedience to His will in all things. When we walk before the face of God in this then we have no problem valuing what the world has to offer as nothing more than σκύβαλα while seeing where our real treasure is and that we received this salvation by the grace of God through the faith He gave us not according to any merit on our part. Where is your treasure my brethren?

Soli Deo Gloria!