Wednesday, August 3, 2016
No Bank I Know
The gospel lesson this Sunday (Luke 12:32-40) bounces from one theme to another. It never says quite as clearly or beautifully or, in my opinion, powerfully what other gospel accounts say when dealing with the same topics, but there's one line that cuts through as clearly as it is anywhere: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke may not explain what this means as clearly as Matthew does, but the line is the same, and its punch is as strong. Wherever it is that you store up your riches, that's the place where your heart will belong.
But where is that? How is that accomplished? How does one store up treasure in heaven? There are investment options that consider the social capital of its investments and investment practices, but what does it really mean to deposit one's treasure in heaven? When it's time to ask a congregation to make a pledge, the preacher will use this line to urge the congregation to store up those treasures by giving them away to God's work in the world. But is that what Jesus has in mind? He does say "sell your possessions, and give alms," but is that what it means to have treasure in heaven?
Like Monday, I return again to the line "Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out." There's no such thing, of course. No matter how carefully my children take care of their backpacks and no matter how sturdily those backpacks are made, eventually they will wear out. They will need another bag. Our purses and wallets will fail us. There is no such thing as a purse that will not wear out--not in this life. The instruction, therefore, isn't to find a particular place to store up our treasure that is worthy of the kingdom. It's to live with no attachment to treasure at all. Does that mean we have to sell everything and take a vow of poverty? Maybe. If that's what it takes to have no attachment to money and the life it provides, then yes. But I don't think Jesus is telling us necessarily to sell all that we've got, but he is warning us that the treasure we hold onto in this life distracts us from the kingdom.
Take a look at the whole crazy passage: Do not be afraid. It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions. Make purses that don't wear out. Where you treasure is, your heart will also be. Be dressed and ready for action. Keep watch for the master. If the owner knew when the thief was coming, he wouldn't have fallen asleep. Be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
What is all of that about? What holds it all together? It's about living in the kingdom. Those are images or metaphors of the kingdom life. Those who live as recipients of the kingdom are those who have detached themselves from earthly goods. They are those who are dressed and ready. They are those who keep watch and wait for the Son of Man. Jesus isn't telling us to become poor because he likes poor people. He's telling us to live for the kingdom, and he recognizes that earthly treasure gets in the way of kingdom life.
Again, it's a message of live for the kingdom. Isn't that always the message?