Where Your Treasure is…
by Timothy J. Mooney
Someone asks Jesus to settle a family dispute about sharing the inheritance. Jesus warns: be on your guard against greed. Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Then Jesus does a very Jesus-like thing. He tells a story. The land of a rich man produced abundantly. Where should he put it all? He tore down the old barns and built bigger ones. Now he could sit back, relax, eat, drink, and be merry the rest of his days. But the rest of his days did not amount to even one day. He died that night. He was rich, but not rich towards God. What does it mean to be rich toward God?
Then Jesus says, “Therefore.” In other words, here’s what it means to be rich toward God. And then Jesus offers these very helpful and practical words: “Do not worry.”
“Do not worry.” Let’s try an experiment: notice what you’re worried about. Now: don’t worry about it. How do we not worry?! It’s humanly impossible! Worry is one of the things most of us do as soon as we wake up in the morning! It’s why coffee was invented, so we could worry with intensity, worry more effectively! I woke up this morning worrying about a sermon about “Do not worry! Worry is a human art form! If you don’t worry, you’re not human, you’re a robot!
“Do not worry.” This same advice is offered by Jesus to Martha in Luke 10:40-41, and by Paul in Philippians 4:6 when he says, “Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” So, I’m sorry to report, this “Do not worry” thing, is not just a one-time outburst from Jesus that can be written off as some scribe’s copying error! “Do not worry” is a core part of Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus, then, expands on this teaching. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” Life, Food, Clothing, and let’s add in just for good measure, housing, health care, and a good job so you can pay for your kids’ college education! Don’t worry about any of this. Really? This is what takes up 99% of our energy, our consciousness! And then Jesus says, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” I feel better, don’t you? Not!!!
But Jesus knew the crowd, you and me, needed more; something to take us beyond the exasperation of the seemingly impossible “Do not worry.” He says, “Consider the ravens, the lilies.” The ravens have no barns, but God supplies, feeds them. The lilies don’t toil, they just grow; they are more beautifully clothed than Solomon in all his glory. It’s nothing specifically to do with ravens or lilies. Look at a tree. No matter what happens, it grows toward the light. On many hikes, I see trees a boulder rolled on top of, when the tree was but a sapling. The tree did not worry; it went toward the light, which meant bending around the boulder. The tree is now 50 feet tall and it holds the boulder like a baby with its bent trunk.
Jesus says we are more valuable than the birds and flowers. That’s not to denigrate nature, but nature teaches us to trust, to trust in God’s love, God’s care for us, God’s provision for us. God knows we need these things and will provide. It frees us to seek God’s kingdom. And Jesus says that it is God’s good pleasure, to give us the kingdom, “an unfailing treasure.” Astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, the 6th person to walk on the moon, on the trip home, had a mystical experience. “As we rotated, I saw the earth, the sun, the moon, and a 360 degree panorama of the heavens. The magnificence of all of this triggered my visioning. In the ancient Sanskrit, it’s called Samadhi – you see things the way they are, you experience them viscerally and internally as a unity and a oneness accompanied by ecstasy.” This experience led him to a new sense of treasure – he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, “to broaden the knowledge of the nature and potentials of mind and consciousness and to apply that knowledge to the enhancement of human well-being and the quality of life on this planet.” Sounds like the Lord’s Prayer: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!
In all kinds of stories, myths, and parables, a treasure is always buried, hidden. This points to the need to go deep, to go into the dark, the not-knowing, in order to discover the treasure that is within us, but buried. We are also asked to sell everything in order to have this treasure. What might this mean?
This is what it means to sell all we have in order to purchase the treasure buried in the field. It’s letting go of the attachment to our ideas and notions of God, in order to experience God more fully.
When we come to God, we come with our ideas, concepts, and images of God. These ideas were given to us as youth, learned in Sunday school, worship, learned as adults. These are wonderful things, but I want to suggest they are things. They are not God in God’s self, God’s reality, God’s fullness. We come with our hands full of our ideas and experiences of God, but Jesus says, “Your hands are so full. You must let these things go, sell it all, that you might have a fuller experience, a fuller knowing of God.” Edgar Mitchell describes letting go of his scientific world-view: “I realized that the story of ourselves as told by science – our cosmology, our religion – was incomplete and likely flawed. I recognized that the Newtonian idea of separate, independent, discreet things in the universe wasn’t a fully accurate description. What was needed was a new story of who we are and what we are capable of becoming.”
“Mindfulness” is very popular right now. It’s a way of describing prayer, a consciousness aware of itself, and of the presence of God. It’s aware of the worry and fear that fills our minds. By stepping back, watching our worry and fear, mindfulness gives us a little more freedom from the very worry and fear we experience. Matthew Fox says, “Mindfulness cannot happen if we are not empty, if we are filled with projects, projections, ideas. We need time and space for emptying, for being.” This is what it means to sell all we have in order to purchase the treasure buried in the field. It’s letting go of the attachment to our ideas and notions of God, in order to experience God more fully.
Then Jesus offers these words: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What is your treasure, where is it? Yourself, family, country, identity, possessions, relationships, the world? Here’s some questions to help. What do you think about most? Spend your time doing the most? Where does most of your money go? What takes up most of your energy? The biggest budgeted item in our world is weapons and their deployment. The second biggest budgeted item is advertising. Victor Lebow says, “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate…If economic growth automatically generated well-being, we would now be living in paradise. We are in fact going down the road to hell.”
In Jesus’ time, the heart of Judaism was the temple, where God dwelled. But when Jesus, with a whip, overturned the money-changer’s tables, it was an amazing act meant to show his people where their treasure was: money, wealth. Is this not true for our country, our world? Howard Thurman: “The individual must have a sense of kinship to life that transcends and goes beyond the immediate kinship of family or the organized kinship that binds him or her ethnically or racially or nationally…As a human being, then, he or she belongs to life, the whole kingdom of life.” The Kingdom of God.
Thomas Moore writes about our treasure: “You think you want a person. You get him or her, and you aren’t satisfied. You think you want to be in a particular place. You get there, and you aren’t as happy as you thought you’d be. You think you want money. You get it and your hunger is only greater. And so it goes. Desire takes you on and on until you realize that there is nothing in this world that will calm it completely. Then you find deep religion and learn that the ultimate object of desire, which isn’t an object at all, is God, the divine, the mysterious and un-nameable.” Where our treasure is. And from that place we can hear, and begin to practice, “Do not worry.” Amen.