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No moth can destroy true treasure

In the ancient world, the moth was seen as a symbol for ruin and destruction. (Psalm 39:11). 

ZOE AUTOR 102/Antonio_Cruz TRADUCTOR Roger Marshall 14 DE ABRIL DE 2024 15:00 h
Photo: [link]Jian Xhin[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

“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. (Mt. 6:19-20; Lk. 12:33) 

The term “moth” appears in the Bible more than 10 times, both in the Old and New Testaments, and in each case it refers to the insect that destroys textiles and items of clothing.

There are two Hebrew words for the moth: one is ash, עָשׁ (Job 4:19) and the other is sas, סָס (Is. 51:8).

The meaning of the first term is uncertain as it can also mean woodworm, while the second can only refer to the moth which attacks clothing.

The second term is translated into Greek in the Septuagint as ses, σής, which is also used for the clothing moth in Matthew 6:19-20 and Luke 12:33, and into Latin in the Vulgate as tinea, with the same meaning. 

The different Bible verses mentioning this small nocturnal butterfly, very harmful for human clothing textiles, indicate certain characteristics of moths.

For example, they gnaw at clothing and feed on it (Job 13:28; Is. 51:8; Lk 12:33); they build a fragile house for themselves (Job 27:18), in fact, a sheath made of silk, textile fibres and soft material obtained from their surroundings; they destroy objects that can have great value for a human being (Psalm 39:11; James 5:2), which is why Jesus suggests building treasure in heaven as it is safe there from moths and vermin (Mattew 6:19-20); thus these insects cause garments to age (Is. 50:9), and God himself can be like a moth for his people (Hosea 5:12). 

In the ancient world, the moth was seen as a symbol for ruin and destruction. (Psalm 39:11).

Clothing moths are nocturnal butterflies the larvae of which devours clothing. While there are also moths that consume stored food (flour, potatoes, grapes or apples), and even paper.

By and large, the head of the clothing moth (Tinea pellionella) is covered with erect hairs, a short proboscis and long antennae as well as maxillary palps.

They have large black eyes, and ochre coloured and brown wings. Their caterpillars crawl along surfaces protected by their sheath made of material from their surroundings, such as wool fibres, silk and so on.

They usually measure 11 to 19 mm, as the female is larger than the male. 

The species is present everywhere in the world (cosmopolitan) and has accompanied human beings since their origin. Therefore they live in all the locations where human beings are present (houses, stores, stables, factories, etc.).

Plagues of them often appear in abandoned houses in which the conditions have become unhygienic.

They breed throughout the year as the environment inside homes enables continuous biological cycles. The females attract males by means of sexual pheromones which constitute scented aerial pathways. 

The text in Matthew at the top of this article poses the human challenge of deciding what the meaning and value of life is.

In such a materialistic society as we are living in now, we can all too easily fall into the error of accumulating more than we need to live.

We are constantly being bombarded with information about objects which will supposedly make us happier if only we can get them. But it’s a neverending search, for no sooner have we acquired one product than another appears which is even better, and we are besieged by publicity about it. 

 The Lord Jesus was already warning people some two thousand years ago against this honey trap of exaggerated consumerism. Succumbing to it is foolish because all the needless objects that we accumulate are perishable and will sooner or later be lost, just like the expensive suits of clothing that are consumed by moths.

Besides, piling up material goods can compromise our loyalty to the Lord and generate all kinds of anxiety.

By contrast, if our wealth is immaterial it cannot be lost, it will strengthen our loyalty to God and will free us from emotional tension and stress. What is beyond all doubt is that wherever our treasure is, there will our heart be also.




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