A Treasure to Behold!

Apart from the market jitters for those who pay attention to such things, fear is a persistent human emotion and something the gospel addresses again and again. From the “fear not” of the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Mary to this “fear not little flock” the gospel assures me there is something going on much more important and powerful than anything that can scare me. God is at work in the world. Therefore, I need not fear.

“Do not fear,” Jesus says, by way of encouragement, “for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” I wonder if the original text had the word “give” in italics for emphasis--a reminder God wants to give me the kingdom, not sell it to me.

The one thing that Jesus says is truly important to treasure, the Kingdom, is not available for money. I don’t need a loan in a credit-tight market in order to receive it. “Sell your possessions and give alms,” he says, and that is something truly requires me to overcome fear. What if I need that money? Then what? It is a fearful thing to give away my hard-earned $$. In the economy of scarcity, it puts me one down.

Jesus has a very different economy in mind when he says to sell possessions and give alms, that is, give to the poor, in order that I may have treasure in heaven.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The implication, of course, is that putting our treasure into alms is an investment in heaven, or an investment in the eternal residence of God.

Taking this seriously first requires an honest answer to the question, “What do you treasure?”

I treasure my husband, children, parents, grandparents (Grandma Bessie, picture on the right, is 94,) and friends--the people first of all

Then, the intangibles such as memories of good times in the past, my education, my health, my faith, the values inherent in my nation’s constitution--liberty and justice, order and decency

Then, the truly important material goods, a home, a photograph album, a family Bible, or a piece of jewelry or art inherited from an ancestor, the kind of things I would gather up first if the house was on fire and I could only get out with one armload of stuff.

And then what? What do you treasure?

I treasure my time. I treasure time with my loved ones, time pursuing the things that make us happy--whether art, music, sports, literature, or travel. I treasure experience, so I treasure time. And, whether I like it or not, in this society, in this economy, time is money. So, I treasure money--even if I ain't greedy miser--because with money I may buy time with my loved ones, healthcare for a longer, more comfortable life, and the freedom to pursue all those things that make me happy.

How can I not be afraid, then, when what I treasure is threatened? It is natural to circle the wagons, hunker down in my position, and defend what I treasure. Jesus’ antidote to our fear, then, is not what comes naturally. “Sell your possessions and give away the proceeds.” It sounds so unlikely, so impractical, and so ineffective. If I fear losing the treasure that gives me a sense of security, how can giving it away make me less fearful? It makes no sense in this world I live in. And yet, I have witnessed people do exactly what Jesus says and find that their entire lives shift from fear to joy when they embrace a life of service and discipleship.

Here’s the hard part for me. For all kinds of reasons, when I give time to help a person in need, it very often does not work out the way I planned. My attempt to help a homeless mom find an apartment and a job that will pay the rent fail to pour motivation into a depressed and defeated woman. Or, my attempt to help a struggling couple of friends mend their marriage, become better parents, and get their lives on track fail to have any effect. The couple separates and their children suffer.

What do I do when I put my treasure of time, energy, and money into the least of these God’s children, and I do not see the results I hoped for?

Here’s where the parable comes in. Jesus tells of a master who goes to a wedding feast, an occasion that can last for several days or a week, and his servants never know when he will come home. When he comes home at an hour they did not expect, he finds his servants awake and at work, ready to welcome their master as soon as he knocks. It is the Father’s pleasure to give me the kingdom. If it depended on me earning it by our success and effectiveness in my service, I would be up the creek without a paddle.

Jesus does not say “Blessed are those servants whom the Master finds who have finished all their work and put everything in perfect order.” Instead, he says, “Blessed are those whom the master finds alert when he comes, dressed for action, lamps lit.”

This saying of Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” is used as a bit of wisdom for fundraisers of all kinds. Fundraisers understand the truth of this--get people to give a bit of money to the church and their hearts will follow. College development officers know that if they can get that first contribution of a senior who is graduating and they will not only likely be donors for life, they will tell every 17-year-old they know how wonderful their college is and that they should consider applying.

Political candidates know, get someone to donate to their campaign and they’ll not only vote for their candidate, they’ll encourage their friends and family members to do the same.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” is a valuable bit of wisdom for those who want to strengthen churches and other organizations.

I think Jesus had something deeper in mind. Jesus was speaking to disciples and potential disciples when he said this. He was not talking about strengthening the church, though Jesus is in favor of that--here he was talking about strengthening disciples, teaching disciples how to get closer to God.

And that is where this passage finds me. If I want to overcome my fear of the future, my insecurity about our health or wealth, my children, anything I treasure, here’s what Jesus recommends: give stuff away. Whatever stuff I treasure, give it toward God’s purposes, and I will find my heart follows, and I will be closer to God. When I am close to God, I have nothing to fear, not even death itself.

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I have never known my grandparents. So, I treasure dh's grandparents who will be 89 and 90. The privilege of spending two days with them--visiting from Medford, OR--was no small blessing. It was the most precious gift we were blessed with this holiday season.

Trite though it may sound, it is helpful to realize, and more importantly accept, that their lives are dwindling down to memories of the past and their focus on the future is narrowing. They are closing in to themselves, both physically and emotionally. It is time for them to look backward and evaluate. They no longer want or need to look forward and plan. Besides hunting, fishing, berries/fruit picking, canning, crocheting tablecloth, they never cared about fancy clothes, house wares, electronics...any excess that doesn't fit into the daily essential category. I love spending time with them and listening to their stories. They live every day of their lives to the fullest--despite various medical challenges especially in recent months.

Grandpa Burton and Grandma Viola have been married for over seventy years. They still love each other as faithfully and with as much reverence as in their youth. During the short time I spent with them it seemed every hour grandpa would compliment his bride "Viola was the most beautiful gal in all of Oregon, and she's still the prettiest girl I've ever seen." Or, "I love her even more today than the day I married her." And, "She may not have the sharpest memory, but she's the best thing that's ever happened to me." They are my inspiration, my role models. They will always be treasured and remembered!

To realize the value of one year: Ask a student who failed a final exam.
To realize the value of one month: Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week: Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one hour: Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute: Ask the person who has missed the plane.
To realize the value of one second: Ask a person who has just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of one millisecond: Ask the person who has just won a silver medal in the Olympics.

0 encouragements:

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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