Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:21a “For where your treasure is,. . .”
The Assyrians superstitiously believed if a demon saw itself in a mirror, it would fly away in fright. If some of us believers were to see ourselves as we really are in the mirror of our present text, I fear we would shudder at the revelation.
Socrates advised, “Know yourself.” This is good counsel, especially in light of the fact in nothing do people more grievously err than in their own self-appraisals (Spurgeon). We need to view self through the lens of Jesus’ words. He knows us, understands us perfectly, and when He speaks we feel it to the core of our being. I urge us to gaze in the mirror of our text and learn the truth about ourselves.
Many people misread our text, unconsciously doing a tricky feat of mental gymnastics which reverses the verse’s order. The text says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” but we often read, “where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” We want to believe the controlling factors in our lives are those things we in our heart say and think are important to us. Jesus, though, here indicates our inner musings and talks are often not only cheap, but also flat wrong.
The true measure of life is not what we think, but what we actually do. Our wonderful, wishful thoughts soothe our consciences, but our deeds prove what we really love. We may pretend in ourselves to have only casual interest in treasures of this world, but our actions often prove we love them. Where our treasure is, where we are investing our energies, what we are actually doing, there our heart is.
Thus, to know the true state of our heart, the command center of our personality, we must confront our deeds face to face and honestly ponder the question, how can we tell what our treasure is? I offer five tests for our consideration.
First, check our wallets. Are we faithful in the tithe? God does not need it, but we need the freeing it brings. It sets us free by teaching us the discipline of fiscal responsibility. The tithe we give to God will never hurt us. It is rather what we are spending for ourselves on the plastic credit cards that is killing us.
Second, evaluate our prayers. What do we pray about most for loved ones? Do we pray first and foremost about their spiritual well-being or are we more concerned about jobs, finances, etc.? What we pray about tells us what we treasure.
Third, weigh our thoughts. We think often of our treasures. Thoughts follow our treasure as sunflowers follow the sun. How often do our thoughts turn toward Christ each day? Does the mind fly to Him constantly? Maclaren quotes an old mystic, “If I can tell how often I have thought of God today, I have not thought of Him often enough.” If He is our treasure, our mind will turn toward Him often.
Fourth, evaluate our calendars. What are we deeming significant enough to place on our schedules? How many things of God are on our calendars? I fear if we did honest evaluation we would have to admit many spiritual things are falling off the edges of our calendars into oblivion, despite our claims to the contrary.
Fifth, check our ballots. What criteria do we use in deciding how we vote? In church our rhetoric is holy. We talk a good talk, saying righteousness is the most important factor in our nation’s well-being, but in the voting booth we Christians prove what we really believe is important. Which matters most to us in the ballot box, treasure of earth such as the economy and national defense, or treasure of heaven such as supporting life in the womb and among the elderly or sick, upholding sexual purity, and encouraging family values? Our views in the pew are not nearly as true a picture of our value system as are our votes in the ballot box. This is not a matter of politics, of choosing one party over another. It is an issue of much more importance, of making decisions today which will allow our grandchildren to still be able to freely choose a political party fifty years from now.
No matter what we claim, our treasure is where our wallets, our prayers, our thoughts, our calendars, and our ballots are. Our treasure is not what we think it is, what we say it is, or even what we think it ought to be. It is rather what we actually are doing with our money, prayers, minds, time, and ballots. The latter five betray our actual selves. Our truest interests are where our investments are.
It is essential that we pinpoint with precise accuracy exactly where our treasure truly is, for only then can we determine whether or not it is truly working for us. Our treasure is the thing of which we have decided, if we have it, we will be contented. What we treasure we deem our sum and substance of happiness, our delight, our refuge in trouble. We think of it, long for it, and believe it will help us feel better. Thus it behooves us to determine if our chosen treasure truly satisfies.
We all by nature want to be happy and fulfilled, and give ourselves to those things we decide will help us experience both. What we have convinced ourselves will bring us the highest joy, there we surround and confine our lives. What we deem our chief good will dominate our money, prayers, minds, time, and ballots.
Sadly, early in life we often choose the wrong path to happiness, opting for earthly, rather than heavenly, treasure. Though our selections never satisfy, we repeatedly try them, ever hoping they will give joy. A popular definition of insanity is, doing over and over again the same things, yet expecting different results.
Jesus’ words in our present text force us to take time to assess decisions we made long ago. We need to quit blindly repeating habits we unwisely began years ago. We keep chasing elusive dreams, things we wrongly decided long ago would bring us happiness–better jobs, more money, more free time, hobbies, sex, longer vacations. We keep lunging for the brass ring, grabbing without taking time to re-think and re-analyze choices made years before. We are making ourselves miserable, giving our money, prayers, minds, time, and ballots to treasures of earth while fooling ourselves into thinking we are giving our energies to treasures of heaven.
We spend our lives looking wistfully upward to a far-off door marked “contentment.” Climbing ladder after ladder, year after year, we seek to reach contentment-door, only to learn when we reach the top the door said “counterfeit” instead.
Get a grip, get real. Come to our senses, as the prodigal son did. End the insanity. Face the reality, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”