“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Ten years ago, I didn’t care more about Honduras that any other American girl you might meet on the street (or in church). I could probably have located the country on a map, but I couldn’t name a single city there, much less tell you anything about its history. If pressed, I’m sure I would have told you that there were Christians in Honduras, but I certainly didn’t know any of them, and I was about as far removed from their lives as I could get. I knew nothing of this strikingly beautiful and strikingly poor country. That was about to change.
Jesus’ command about treasures comes in the middle of three chapters on obedient discipleship commonly known as “the sermon on the mount.” Taken seriously, the instructions in this sermon (covering everything from poverty to peacemaking to judgmental attitudes) have the power to transform individuals and communities of faith. And this directive is no different. I’d read this passage many times before I realized that it didn’t say “where your heart is, there your treasure will be” (although in many cases, this is true also). No, the words were clear—where your treasure is, there your heart (your “kardia”- the seat of thought and emotion) will be.
To be honest, I didn’t feel particularly passionate about Honduras when I received a “support letter” from a friend who was going to spend two weeks of her summer vacation serving people there. But I wanted to support my friend, so I wrote a check and sent it off in the mail with barely a second thought. A few months later I was sitting at my friend’s kitchen table, flipping through the hundreds of pictures that she had taken on her trip, listening to her stories, feeling a little overwhelmed by the intensity in her voice and her eyes.
I don’t know exactly when it happened for me… the change was quiet, almost imperceptible. The support letters kept coming, the photos and stories kept coming, I wrote a letter to little Lilyana and put her photo on my nightstand (my friend’s team still keeps in touch with her… she’s 18 now). I heard about the mamas walking around with donated clothes missing buttons and began buying up tiny sewing kits whenever I could find them. I started scouting and begging and bartering for beanie babies (they make the kids at the medical clinics smile). And when my friend’s team couldn’t get to Honduras last summer because of political unrest, I began to pray for peace and stability in that country as passionately as I have ever prayed for anything. All of a sudden, I realized that I cared.
Why? Why am I no longer content to write a check and send it off with barely a second thought? I argue that it’s because I’m now invested. My treasure is there, in Honduras, with Dolores and her babies and the orphans and the men and women of God who serve and love their neighbors every day in Copan and Santa Barbara. I’ve seen their faces and heard their stories, and I care. My heart (the seat of my thought and emotion) has been expanded to include these brothers and sisters that I have never met. Where I sent my treasure, my heart followed. Not in a moment, or a day, or even a year. But it did follow.
I think if we, as God’s people, took his command to store up treasure in heaven seriously, many of us would live (and give) differently than we do now. We’re not feeling particularly passionate about helping people who are homeless? Maybe we need to write a check to the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Need, drive down to the cold weather shelter, take a tour, and have a conversation.
We’re not feeling particularly passionate about middle school ministry? Maybe we need to sponsor a table at a Youth for Christ banquet. Listen to the story of a young missionary who works two other jobs to do what she really loves to do—share Jesus with middle school students.
We’re not feeling particularly passionate about God’s work in India or Thailand or the Central African Republic? Maybe we need to invest there. E-mail a missionary. Thank them for their commitment. Ask to be put on their mailing list. Pray for them. Pray for their kids and their ministry and the people in their community. Pray that God will expand our hearts to include these people, these places.
If we’re honest, I think we’ll also find that storing up treasure in heaven doesn’t just mean giving whatever we have left after we’ve spent all we want on ourselves and our families. Sometimes it means that we give up something (for me, maybe a bacon turkey bravo sandwich or a month’s worth of text messaging) in order to give to something that matters more to us (maybe rebuilding a school or hospital in Haiti). I don’t know what this command needs to look like in your life. But I believe that if we are serious about our allegiance to Jesus—this man who spoke and lived truth even when it was unpopular, it needs to happen for all of us.
Let your treasure follow your heart, sure. I worked for a year in Camden, NJ and I have a personal connection to the kids and the missionaries and the churches there. I’m passionate about helping those kids succeed in school and in life, so my heart is already there, and it’s not too hard to let my treasure follow. This is a valid and important kind of giving. But it’s not the only kind of giving. Let’s also be willing to take a risk, to invest in God’s people and his work somewhere new and unfamiliar. Let’s send our treasure there, and maybe one day we’ll wake up and realize that our consciousness has been raised, our heart has been enlarged and we really do care. Let’s let our heart follow our treasure. Let’s allow ourselves to be changed.