Matt. 6:19-34 – What Your Heart Treasures
In a world where one doesn’t know from year to year whether there will be enough, as it has been historically in the Middle East, the gathering and storing of goods became a cultural imperative. It started out as being a wise precaution, then a symbol of wisdom and the blessings of God, and eventually the thing that is most valued. It was a survival strategy that has been cut loose from its survival roots and to this day has become a mindless obsession.
In that the roots of our Western culture comes through the Middle East, it’s not too surprising that we still face this duality between our obsessions to horde and possess versus the things of real value in our lives. I think about how the Native Americans, when dealing with the first European explorers, spoke about the explorers having a particular “disease” that could only be cured by the acquisition of gold or silver or shiny things. We are indeed a culture primarily driven by this unfocused “need” for things.
Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter and asks what is it that we’re living for? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vs. 21). He uses the metaphor of the eye to express that where our eye goes, so goes our heart and that we cannot follow in two different directions. Jesus seems quite clear that you can’t chase after wealth and the kingdom of God.
He drives home the point when he calls into question our preoccupation with things that might seem to be basic survival concerns: what will we eat & drink, and what will we wear. In a very literal sense he seems to be saying that it’s pointless to obsess about these things. In a word these things are not worthy of our life’s energies or complete focus. He brings down its vaunted importance by comparing these concerns for raiment with the beauty of common field grass and obsession for food with the care and feeding of unimportant field fowl. These things are under God’s care and they seem to do quite nicely. Can we really expect to do better than that?
I think getting back to the first part of my observation, it isn’t a prohibition against making a living that Jesus is concerned about, but when making a living is all we value. I have to add that it’s interesting that the lord would compare us with blades of grass or birds because these organisms spend considerable energy and time gaining sustenance in order to survive. But what they don’t do is horde or to try to control the future by gathering more than we need. In fact what is really expressed here is the relationship between the creator and his creation and the fact that we are part of that equation.
In verse 24 we’re told that we cannot make money our life’s goal and expect to follow God too. In verses 25 and following we’re told that because of this relationship between the creator and his creation we won’t go without just because we choose to put God before acquiring wealth. In fact this obsession is powerless to add a day (or an inch) to our lives. If we seek God’s kingdom first we’re given the promise that God will take care of us. We’re instructed to approach the difficulties day by day and let the rest take care of itself. This would seem well and good for the type-B non-list-keepers, but is it really a prohibition against planning? Not necessarily. But the need for food and shelter is drawn back to it’s natural part in our lives and not the sole reason for living. JBB