Monday, July 23, 2007

Treasure seeking

The rich man wanted life. The poor man wants to be rich. Even in the first century everyone was looking for something. Augustine put it well: our hearts are restless. The advertising industry, for better or worse, is built upon highlighting this. It appeals to our restlessness with what we already have and offers the treasure we've been seeking, even though we weren't aware of it. We seek satisfaction and we will find it somewhere. Along the line we might drop our standards to reduce the risk of disappointment. We all treasure something. Whether comfort or possessions, family or fame.

Some questions. What do I treasure? Is it the best treasure I could acquire? Is there anything wrong with settling for less? Jesus says, where your treasure is there your heart is also. To find the condition of our hearts we don't need to go soul searching but treasure hunting. That which we treasure reveals our heart.

One day in a crowd an man stands out. He seeks a share of an inheritance that his brother has received. The adjudication he receives from Jesus is stunning. The story is told of a farmer who has a bumper year and so invests in bigger barns. This farmer is unaware that he's about to die, what use will his bigger barns be then? The man stands chided for wanting riches for himself but not being rich towards God.

What's wrong here? Isn't it prudent to make provision? Many proverbs say as much. What should the man rather have done? Jesus isn't saying to him that everything must be given to the church but rather that he should be rich towards God. He ought not just invest in barns but in eternity. He is a fool. He is a man who lives like there is no god. A practical atheist whether he would claim otherwise. The story is followed by further teaching. A warning against prudence naturally raises questions about future provision. But, those who are rich toward God need not be anxious. They will be provided for if they seek God's kingdom.

Life does not consist of possessions, food or clothing. Things that seem essential to us are trifles to God. Something is more important. The things of this world will rust and rot, be stolen and be left behind. So, let us invest in that which lasts forever. Let us seek treasure in heaven! Wait though! Does this mean we should be ascetics? Should we embrace possessionless poverty? Surely not. The issue is what our hearts treasure more than what we own. But the danger is that we start to be possessed by our possessions.

How do we develop a holy detachment from the many lesser treasures and rightly treasure God himself?

1. Be warned. Life doesn't last forever. We're in temporary accomodation in this creation and we'll move into the new creation. Don't get too comfy. Start presuming you'll be checking out sooner rather than later (Luke 12v19). As several parts of England lie under flood waters in the middle of summer, twelve months after a heatwave there is an unpleasant reminder of the passing nature of what we have here.
2. Be observant. Consider the birds and the fields. They are well fed and well clothed. How much more will we be kept by God? (Luke 12v24) - they survive on basics, so will we.
3. Be careful with your heart. Don't put your affections onto food, set them on God himself. Don't hoard the things of this life. Enjoy them as good gifts from God. And then don't worry about provision of physical things, rather trust that God will provide which he already has in so many ways. (Luke 12v29-31)

Know that your Father's pleasure is to give you his kingdom (Luke 12v32). He delights to give it. How? By revealing Jesus to us. It's his pleasure to make himself to known to us. He can satisfy us. And treasuring him is eternally satisfying.

To not do this is foolish. It's a moral rejection of God's delight in making himself known to his people. It's not just the lowering of our standards of satisfaction, it's atheism in action. And it's opposite is to humbly sit and listen to Jesus. To ask him not for more in this world but for the gift of eternal life. And then to celebrate and rejoice that we have eternal dwellings that far exceed those we have here.

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