Storing up Treasure in Heaven:
The Four Labors of Wisdom
James Scott Trimm
19 Lay not up for yourselves stores upon earth, <where caterpillar> and moth devour,
and where thieves break through and steal,
20 But lay up for yourselves stores in heaven, where caterpillar and moth waste not,
and where thieves do not steal,
21 For just where your store is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21 HRV)
A similar teaching appears in the Talmud with very similar wording:
Our Rabbis taught: It is related of King Monobaz that he dissipated all his own hoards and the hoards of his fathers in years of scarcity. His brothers and his father's household came in a deputation to him and said to him, ‘Your father saved money and added to the treasures of his fathers, and you are squandering them.’ He replied: ‘My fathers stored up below and I am storing above, as it says, Truth springeth out of the earth and righteousness looketh down from heaven. My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with, as it says, Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of his throne. My fathers stored something which produces no fruits, but I have stored something which does produce fruits, as it is written, Say ye of the righteous [zaddik] that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat of the fruit of their doings. My fathers gathered treasures of money, but I have gathered treasures of souls, as it is written, The fruit of the righteous [zaddik] is a tree of life, and he that is wise winneth souls. My fathers gathered for others and I have gathered for myself, as it says, And for thee it shall be righteousness [zedakah]. My fathers gathered for this world, but I have gathered for the future world, as it says, Thy righteousness [zedakah] shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.’
(b.Baba Batra 11a)
The most valuable things we can acquire are things that cannot be taken away from us. There are things we can control and things we cannot control. As Yeshua said:
25 And therefore I tell you, be not anxious for your nefeshot, in what you will eat, or in
what you will drink, or for your bodies, with what you will be clothed. Is not the nefesh
more than food, and the body more than garment?
26 See the birds of the heavens, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into
their granaries; yet your Father which is in heaven feeds them. Are you not much better
27 And which of you by taking thought, can add even a single cubit unto his stature?
28 Why then, are you anxious about garments? Consider the lilies of the field, how they
grow: yet they toil not, neither do they spin.
29 Of a truth I tell you, that not even Shlomo in all his glory, was so arrayed like one of
30 Therefore, if Elohim so clothes the herb of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is
cast into the oven: how much more so you, of little trust?
31 Therefore be not anxious, saying, What will we eat? Or, What will we drink? Or,
What will we wear?
32 (For after all these things do Goyim seek) For your Father, which is in heaven, knows
that you have need of all things.
33 Therefore you seek, at the first, the dominion of Elohim, and all His righteousness,
and all things will be added unto you.
34 And be not anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient
to today, is the evil thereof.
(Matthew 6:25-34 HRV)
We cannot control other people, we cannot control the universe, in the end the only thing we can control is our own choices. The material things we acquire can be taken from us by thieves, by governments and by natural disasters. These things are ultimately out of our control. However there are four things we can acquire which cannot ever be taken from us.
We read in the Wisdom of Solomon:
5 If riches are a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?
6 And if understanding is effective,
who more than she is fashioner of what exists?
7 And if any one loves righteousness,
her labors are virtues;
for she teaches self-control and prudence,
justice and courage;
nothing in life is more profitable for men than these.
(Wisdom of Solomon 8:5-7 RSV)
The most profitable things we can have are these four labors of Wisdom:
The First Century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria writes of these four labors of Wisdom:
For there are four generic virtues: prudence, courage, self-control, and justice. And of these, every single one is a princess and a ruler; and he who has acquired them is, from the moment of the acquisition, a ruler and a king, even if he has no abundance of any kind of treasure;
(Philo; On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile; 128)
These four “labors of Wisdom” are also known as the “four virtues”. These for labors of wisdom are closely connected with the full armor of Elohim and are absolutely essential, not only to spiritual warfare, but to living a happy and fulfilled life.
We cannot make our lived better or happier by focusing on things that are out of our control. Money and material things cannot produce happiness because, in the end, they are out of our control. We may think we control them, but there are always factors we cannot control, and these factors lead to worry, and anxiety about the constantly looming possibility of their loss.
Now there is nothing wrong with having material things and enjoying them, but we must not focus our priorities on them, they must not be central to our happiness. If we have them then we have them, and if we lose them we lose them, and we can still be happy, because money and material things are ultimately not the things that make a meaningful life or a better person. The things that make a better person are self-control, prudence (rational thinking), justice and courage. Neither caterpillar nor moth can destroy these things and thieves cannot steal these things.
In coming days I will be writing more blogs about these Four Labors of Wisdom, how you can acquire them, and how they can improve your life!
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