Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Treasure

I've been thinking lately about what exactly Jesus meant when referred to "treasures in heaven" in Matthew 6:19-24. The obvious answer that jumps out to me is that the only thing you take from this earth to heaven is people, so the treasure would be people.

But are the treasures only people? Over the years, I've met Christians who take that so literally that they "evangelize" everyone they see, passing out tracts, witnessing to every unsuspecting waiter, waitress, cashier and banker they come in contact with, focusing on "converts" as treasures. It draws to mind the image of Scrooge McDuck from the old Donald Duck Cartoons. Whenever he'd see money, he'd get dollar signs in his eyes. These people, in my overactive imagination, get diamonds and rubies in their eyes when they see people. Instead of corporate greed, we get to see gospel greed.

At the same time, as we spent time in my daughter's orphanages, I became overwhelmed with the sense that those little children were treasures-in-heaven. I mean you can spend your money on a lot of things, but how often can you spend money on something (an adoption) and it lead to something eternal? Investing in missionaries, homeless shelters, food pantries, mentoring clubs -- they all have the potential to yield eternal treasures. Of course, treasures would still be people...

So, I want to store up these treasures in heaven and I don't want to spend my money on things that will be destroyed by moths and dust, or stolen by thieves. At the same time, I know that I can't sink every penny I have into adopting orphans, though we've done a pretty good job at that so far. Outside of the physical needs of me and my family, there are other desires as well. If all we do is sacrifice everything, then I know that, eventually, we'd become bitter angry old souls who feel isolated from life. I, personally, think that was the cause of Mother Theresa's controversial spiritual struggle. She sacrificed to the point where she actually denied herself even glimpses of God's treasures from here on earth.

So, I was thinking about what I should spend my "discretionary" income on. For my children, I can blow it all on silly things like Webkinz, dvds, trips to McDonalds, big birthday parties and big wardrobes, or I can use it to give them glimpses of God's treasures. I can take them on trips to places where we can see God's majesty, like the mountains or the oceans. I can purchase curriculum that not only develops their intellect but also stimulates their imagination, and helps them to develop intimacy with God and compassion for their fellow humans. I can also invest in lessons and activities that will give them skills to last their lifetime, giving them an outlet of joy as they minister in a world full of suffering.

For myself, wouldn't it be the same? I should invest in only the things that will bring me closer to God, give me an understanding of majesty and bring me lasting joy as I minister in a world full of suffering.

What I'm wondering, though, is if we confuse the tools we can use to get to God's treasures as God's treasure. Soccer, piano, scouting, duck farming, swimming -- these aren't God's treasures, but the joy that they can produce in us, and the relationships they can bring into our lives are. So, in confusion, we give too much time money and attention to them (we even expand them to things as silly as Circus Camp), and engage in far too many of them for our own good. Or we take something that would be good on a local level, and then extend it to the "select" level, spending our weekends travelling to other cities to compete, or spending thousands of dollars on the "perfect" instrument. Not that those things are always bad, or always bad choices, but that those things start to own us and our schedules, and then we miss the actual treasure that God had for us, the eternal part that can come from those things. We see the gift as the blessing, rather than the relationship with the Giver as the blessing. After all, when we get a gift, the real blessing is in that the giver loved us enough to give the gift.

Well, I have many more thoughts on this idea, but my 11 year old (Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy) is trying to make spaghetti sauce and my kitchen may not recover from his attempt if I don't go help him now.

1 comment:

Mrs. C said...

Hi Deb! I'm enjoying reading your older posts. I don't agree with everything you have to say, but this post sure resonates. I think there is a real balance there, too. But I guess I had always read that scripture to mean that your treasure is whatever you want it to be, and if it's money, that's where your heart is. (scary thought)