‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matt 6:21)
About 450 years ago the English reformer, Thomas Cranmer, wrote words to the effect: “what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” It was, and still is, an astute observation of the psychology of rationalising our desires and actions – and it’s a neat summary of what Jesus was teaching 2,000 years ago.
By trusting our heavenly Father for what cannot be taken away from us, the eternal, we are liberated and freed from anxiety and concerns over perishable, temporal things
Ancient peoples tried to stoically follow reason rather than passion, while today we’re told by society to ‘be true to yourself’ and ‘follow your heart’ – meaning that we should be led by our emotions and desires, even if that conflicts with what our brain tells us is best. Throughout God’s word, however, the heart is a metaphor for the centre of an individual’s being – encompassing emotions, reasons and will. What the Bible shows us is not only more balanced and nuanced than either of these viewpoints, but actually is in itself radical and revolutionary!
God knows every secret and every intention of the thoughts of our hearts (Ps. 44:21, Gen. 6:5) and that is why he looks not at the deceptive outward appearance but rather into the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). God also knows the deceit and sickness of sin that we can all be prone to within the deepest darkest privacy of our hearts (Jer. 17:9-10) and yet he still loves us.
He loves us so much, in fact, that he gave us his Son that we might be saved and thereafter be transformed. Jesus reinforces and shows us the greatest command with his attitudes and actions: ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart’ (Matt. 22:37).
In a sense then, we don’t explicitly choose what to desire, but instead what our heart loves implicitly ‘chooses’ that for us. Within our passage in Matthew 6:19-34, there are really two options (to lay up treasure on earth or in heaven) and three commands from Jesus:
1. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven;
2. Do not be anxious about your life;
3. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Throughout God’s word, however, the heart is a metaphor for the centre of an individual’s being – encompassing emotions, reasons and will
Therefore, if we truly place God above all else and concern ourselves with the things he cares about (3), we will learn to treasure what is valuable and lasting in life and in heaven (1). By trusting our heavenly Father for what cannot be taken away from us, the eternal, we are liberated and freed from anxiety and concerns over perishable, temporal things (2). That is counter-cultural, but what a relief it would be to not feel the continual, nibbling stress over what we cannot control. The solution is not found then in ‘choosing’ not to be anxious. The solution comes from our attitude of heart.
So let’s treasure God, his righteous characteristics and actions, as exemplified by the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s search our hearts for sin (Lam. 3:40) and let’s write God’s word on our hearts – to treasure, enjoy and share (Ps. 119:9-16).
Gareth Andrews, The Church of God in Belfast