Where Is Your Heart?
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
There is a joke I heard a couple of years ago which you may or may not find funny. If you find it funny, you’re welcome. If not, please remember that it’s not my joke. Here it goes:
On his death bed, a wealthy man wants to find out if it’s really true that you can’t take anything with you when you die. So he tells his friends to bury him with a bag full of gold bricks. When the man wakes up in heaven, he is happy to see that indeed the bag of gold is now in his hand. And so with a lot of effort and straining and time, he’s drag this incredibly heavy bag up to the pearly gates.
There, St. Peter is standing, ready to welcome him in. But before he does, Peter notices he has a bag in his hand. “What do you have there with you?” he asks the man.
The man proudly answers, “Well, you know how they say you can’t take it with you. I wanted to see if that is true. So I brought my finest treasure with me.”
Peter, excited to see what this great treasure is, responds back, “Well, let’s see what you have in the bag.” So Peter walks over, opens it up, and looks inside. Then he lifts his head up, looking confused. The man sees St. Peter glance back through the pearly gates at the streets of heaven lined with gold, just like the gold in this man’s bag.
Then Peter grabs a gold bar out of the bag. And holding it in front of the man, he says, “So let me get this straight. You dragged this bag all over heaven and earth. It’s heavy and burdensome. It’s made you late for getting into heaven. And out of everything you could have brought up to heaven with you, you decided to bring more street pavement!”
Okay, that may not be the funniest joke in the world. But I like it because it completely reverses what we think of as true treasure. In God’s kingdom, gold is nothing more than street pavement. True treasure lies elsewhere.
Jesus knew that, and he spoke of it often. He knew that in our world we think of treasure as personal wealth, personal accumulation. The one who has the most toys when they die wins. We are going to see that very soon with those awful Lexus commercials, with the cars with the giant bows on top, telling us we’re not really celebrating Christmas, Jesus’ birth, God becoming flesh, until we get a brand new luxury car in our driveway. That is where the world tells us we can find safety, peace, and joy.
But Jesus tells us something radically different. He tells us not to place our treasure in clothing that moths can eat up, in cars that can be consumed by rust, or in banks and storehouses where people can break in.
According to Jesus, the way to peace, the way to joy, the way to fullness of life is in giving, not keeping. As he said to the young man, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
This is a hard and challenging message. Giving, especially giving money is not easy. It at least doesn’t come easy to me. And it is the furthest thing from coming naturally. It’s human nature to think that money and resources are safer or better off in my pocket or my hands. It’s hard trusting that those resources will continue to be cared for outside of my control.
It involves a lot of sacrifice and a lot of faith – faith that God will continue to watch over us, and faith that God will be at work in our generosity, using our gifts well, guiding others as well as ourselves to be good stewards.
Jesus also says to us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I have to admit that if that is true, my heart is far too often at Taco Bell, putting down nachos and crunchwrap supremes. And as any doctor will tell you, that is not good for your heart.
But there is a better way. One of the biggest impacts you will have on this world is how you use your money. How you spend it. How you share it. What that money goes to support.
And instead of spending it on whatever seems pleasing in the moment, Jesus asks us to pause and consider, “Where is your heart? What do you care about? What is the change you want to see in this world?”
A friend of mine gives each and every year to the church camp she grew up in. I am sure it is not easy on her budget, but she gives because she knows that this is a place where lives are changed. This is a place where young men and women, some for the first time in their lives, meet God’s amazing, unconditional love.
Last weekend I was out camping with my in-laws, and my father in law was really excited. He was telling me how their home church has been giving to the Young Adult Volunteer program in our denomination. Because of their giving, young people in their twenties have been able to serve for an entire year somewhere in the world. And he was telling me how he heard back from these young people a year or two later, and how many of them have found their calling in life. One young woman discovered her incredible gift of caring for the elderly, and the way she is able to bring laughter, joy, and friendship. Another discovered from his year a calling to ministry and is in seminary right now because of that year as YAV. And as he was sharing these, I could tell just how much joy this was bringing him. Because while this may have dipped into his pocket and his budget, he was seeing people discover their gifts, their purpose, and their calling in life. He was seeing the world being changed.
His heart, instead of being at Taco Bell or a Lexus dealership was across the world, seeing lives transformed for good.
For me, the hardest part of giving has always been that first step. It’s easy to say, “I’ll give once I’ve got everything together.” But Jesus calls us to give even when we aren’t perfect. He calls his disciples from imperfect places. And the good news is that when we take that step, Jesus is with us, molding us and our hearts closer to him each and every day. And within giving there is joy, there is love, there is new life. When we take that risk and join in God’s giving, we find health, we find wholeness. We find a purpose and fulfillment greater than anything we could buy at the store. Our hearts find healing. Through giving beautiful transformations occur.
I believe that this church is a community of transformation. It is a place where children are taught and loved and grow. It is a place where the hungry can find food and the sick are given blood. It is a place where God’s love is proclaimed. It is a place where we know we are not alone, and where we are reminded we all have gifts, we all have callings, and we all have dignity and value. I hope that as we take in pledges next week that this is a place where you want your heart to be.
But I also believe that we are called to give outside the church too. As you are planning on the end of the year and next winter, I invite you to consider where else in the world you want your heart to be, where you want to be making a difference in this world. For Hannah and myself, one place we have wanted our hearts is to be with refugees seeking a way to survive and create new lives. For some of you, it may be medical care for neighbors who can’t afford it. For others, it may be making sure every child has clothes and school supplies. For others, it may be rebuilding in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. For others, it may be seeing someone close to you gain just a little bit of help in realizing their own dreams and calling in life.
Whatever it is, I believe that God is going to use your gift. God will bless it. And through your giving, you may see more transformation, more world change, more joy and wonder and awe than you ever thought you could make happen.
God has given each one of us treasure to use, to share, to join in God’s work of healing and love. The question we face is, “Where do we want our hearts to be? Where do we want to be changing the world?” Amen.