I really enjoy perusing thrift shops.
Whether it be a Goodwill or a mom-n-pop antique store, I find it fun to dig through the interesting items for the home and innumerable articles of clothing. It's like a treasure-hunt. Unfortunately, it seems I can't walk into a thrift shop without leaving with something in my hands.
"This sweater is truly unique," I think to myself. Or, "I'd never find a cool old lamp like this in a department store...and it's only five bucks!" I find myself reasoning. It's most often an item that I really didn't need. I just wanted it, and it was inexpensive. Since I found it under piles and piles of junk, it feels like buried treasure to me. Unfortunately, my heart starts to take pride in the uniquities. I start to tighten my grip around these possessions, and they take on a silly emotional value. They are "mine" now! Then, a passage of Scripture like the following hits me like a Mack truck.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus speaking.
Ouch! Just like that, my pride is crushed. The uniquities become more common-type. Suddenly, my buried treasure seems much less valuable.
The eternal perspective that Jesus describes here has a way of wrecking and checking one's desires. I believe that humans have three basic desires: 1) For our physical needs to be met (having food, water, and shelter), 2) To feel safe or secure (mentally and emotionally), and 3) To feel like we belong (especially to another, whether an individual or a community). Professor Maslow would add two more levels to this hierarchy, if you can remember taking Psychology 101 back in the day.
For most of us, living in the American middle-class allows us the tremendous blessing of having desires 1 and 2 almost always met. But things get shaky at desire number 3. We all want to be a part of something. We want to feel like we belong somewhere, or to someone. Those who are just beginning their adulthood often long to feel "at home" in their new location. Those who are single often long to be in a relationship. Those who are lonely often long to be with friends. Those who feel left out often long to be brought in somehow. We humans will do whatever it takes to feel like we belong.
Maybe this longing for belonging is why I tighten my grip so much around my possessions. It's "my" groceries, "my" car, "my" apartment, "my" cool lamp, and "my" unique clothes. It's all "mine." These things make me feel like I belong in the communities I work in, live in, and socialize in. The more that I have, the more I might feel like I belong. So, the buried treasures start to pile up in my home, just like the piles in the thrift shop. Worse yet, these "treasures" start piling up in my very heart, preventing me for recognizing the following truths.
Truth 1) Everything we receive is from God, including the very breath in our lungs.
A little bit later in the passage quoted above, Jesus explains that we are very prone to worrying about these desires, and He reminds us to place our trust in God alone, rather than in our possesions (Matthew 6:25-34). God provides what we need. (Not always what we want!) Either way, this means that nothing is truly "mine." Since this is true, we must hold onto our things more loosely.
Truth 2) We belong to Jesus Christ.
God has secured our salvation from sin and death through Jesus. God has blessed us with belonging, both to Himself and to an eternal community. Because of His death and resurrection, we have access to His soul-cleansing blood. We have been baptized into a community of fellow followers of Jesus. God the Father adopted us as sons and daughters, creating inside us a new heart for the glory of His name. We belong to God through Jesus.
And yet, I am still so attracted to storing up things I don't need, things that are temporary and not eternal. I think the key verse in the passage above is verse 21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Treasure is more than just the cool lamp or unique sweater I found. Here, Jesus is speaking about anything or anyone that we allow our hearts to trust in. Whatever we allow our hearts to trust in, we are seeking belonging from. Quite frankly, if we are seeking belonging from anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ, we are seeking sin.
God gave Himself completely to us and completely for us. To trade Him for some lesser joy, even momentarily, is supremely foolish.
Famous Christian author C.S. Lewis said it this way in his book, The Weight of Glory, "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
So, we must ask ourselves. What does our heart truly treasure? In most cases, these things are not inherently sinful -- but become sinful when placed above our trust in Jesus.
Here are some possible examples:Good physical health
Friends, I assure you that none of these things will fulfill your sense of eternal belonging. Only Jesus Christ can do that for us. None of these things will give us the deep, soul-satisfying joy that our Savior and Shepherd can give us. These things all rust away -- we cannot take any of them with us when we die.
But Matthew 6:19-21 proves to us that there are indeed some things that are eternal. Things like providing for the poor, encouraging the hurting, serving our communities, forgiving our enemies, loving our neighbors, and sharing the Gospel. These are the beautiful things that we will someday see the result of in Heaven.
Here at IDES, we have the special priviledge of regularly interacting with brothers and sisters who very rarely have all three of their basic desires met. There are thousands of families around the world who don't have enough nutritious food, access to clean-water, dry shelter, warm clothes, needed medical care, or regular incomes. Usually, they are struggling to meet just the first two basic needs. But without fail, these families (some who believe already) continually exemplify a deep sense of trust in and belonging to Jesus Christ that we who are more comfortable have a hard time achieving.
I think we can learn more from them than they can from us. Praise God that we are blessed with the opportunity to serve them and be served by them together! I pray that before you go back to scrolling through your news feed today, or perhaps the next time you find your heart trusting in something or someone other than Jesus, that you will pray through and meditate upon the passage of Matthew 6:19-21. Ask God to reveal to you where your heart is, and He will also reveal what it is you are treasuring more than Him. Let us each continue to seek to find joy in Him above all else, for His glory!
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES