It’s springtime in America, the season when flowers begin to bloom, trees begin to bud, and the world looks more optimistic. But just when we had begun to enjoy the refreshing new scenery, “tax forms” popped up to wreck the view. And for some, the few weeks’ reprieve granted on the filing deadline only allows more time than usual to think about the stark, sometimes shocking, difference between what we’ve earned and what we’re allowed to keep. Tax time reminds us again that the government is waiting with its hand out every time we get paid, but it also forces us to open our family’s financial journals and take stock of the contents. Dealing with the IRS may sometimes be the stuff of nightmares, but taking a hard look at those things we value and that represent our financial security can also be a good thing.
Treasures Come in Different Forms ~
Things we consider to be our treasures aren’t always defined in terms of the money we deposit in financial institutions. Treasures come in different shapes, sizes, forms, and materials and can range from tiny things measured in carats, to documents stored in boxes, to investment portfolios, to cyber currency, to vehicles, or vast property holdings. Treasures don’t even have to be physical. They can be titles, achievements, positions, relationships, or reputations. Treasures can also be priceless moments that are forever sanctified and locked away in the memory vault of our minds — but regardless of the form or substance of the things we value most, we cling to them. Whatever their nature, we protect and defend them. Whatever their function, we adjust our lives to accommodate the things we treasure. Our lifestyle becomes in many ways a behavioral exhibition of the contents of the “Treasury Department” of our heart.
Because we ascribe value to them, “things” become treasures, and their value, especially in monetary terms, is relative, variable, and often unpredictable. A couple of examples of that phenomenon come to mind . . . One is from my early teen years and has to do with one of my favorite countermeasures to “random attacks of boredom.” We didn’t have video games back then . . . but what we did have was a collection of comic books.
Major Inflation ~
I have no idea how many Superman or Batman comic books I bought or read during that time, but I’m sure none of them cost much more than a dollar, if even that much. But a few of them were apparently hit with some incredible, crazy inflation rate. Someone actually paid $3.2 million for a “first edition” Superman comic book! Another wealthy idiot (‘scuse me … meant to say “collector”) snatched up a Batman edition for a little over $1 million . . . and Spiderman went for slightly less — a real deal, right? Treasures can emerge from the most unlikely places, but as we’ve seen even in our own family recently, they can just as easily vanish.
During her lifetime, a relative of ours, who was an avid collector, accumulated an impressive array of cultural and historical memorabilia in a variety of different categories. She invested quite a bit in acquiring her collections, and almost everyone who knew her would have considered them to be worth a considerable sum. But treasures can be fickle. Those who inherited her treasured collectibles soon discovered that no one wanted them anymore. There were no excited collectors waiting with their checkbooks open and ready to pay extravagant prices for them. Their value not only had not increased, it disappeared completely. Even when offered for free, takers couldn’t be found. What was once a treasure wasn’t even worth sacrificing storage space to hang onto them.
Wealth Isn’t Neutral ~
God has made it clear throughout history that wealth is almost never neutral in its influence. Money doesn’t establish a moral or spiritual foundation for our lives, but it always reveals what that foundation is. Dealing with money is an unavoidable reality in our lives, and the drive to accumulate wealth is endemic in our culture. Because of that, Jesus’ teaching is especially relevant today and has profound implications for all of us. He delivered an admonition about dealing with treasure that includes a warning and a guiding principle with powerful potential. He said,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21 NKJV)
There is more here to be processed than we can do in this space, but a couple of issues are prominent. When it comes to our treasure, the “where” question is vital because it establishes guidance and determines the direction our lives will take. But there’s another important question regarding our treasure that we mustn’t overlook. That is the “what” question. Taken together, they identify both the nature and substance of things that will govern our lives. If we place our confidence and trust in money or its equivalent, then we will focus our energies and direct our efforts on accumulating it. If public acclaim or popularity is what we value most, then doing things to attract attention and gain the highest approval from the widest audience will drive every important decision. If we live for physical pleasure, then every endeavor and every relationship will include either an overt or covert quest for sensation. Those things are obvious, but there’s a vitally important principle here that isn’t stated directly. That is that hearts aren’t designed to lead. They’re designed to follow.
A Powerful Distribution Center ~
That part of us that God refers to as our “heart” was created to be the “distribution center” for some of our most powerful capabilities. Passion flows from it, commitment arises within it, hearts give faith a voice, and perseverance gives the power to hang on. Hearts drive the most courageous acts human beings ever display. Hearts are incredible. They make heroes out of nobodies, warriors out of weaklings, and leaders out of the unknown and ordinary. Hearts contribute to displays of talent and ability that leave us astounded and enable physical accomplishments that leave us breathless.
But lest we become naive and think that our hearts are always beneficial, Jesus also revealed the other side of the coin:
So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man. (Matthew 15:16–20 NKJV)
A Passionate Encouragement ~
Our heart can either empower us to be the best we can be — or the worst. Ultimately, it will focus the most powerful elements in our life toward acquiring, applying, and preserving whatever we desire most and value most highly. Jesus said we would either serve God or the world’s value system, but never both. The Apostle Paul’s pen seems to fairly explode with praise as he encourages us to strive for the treasure he pursued:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33 NKJV)
When our heart pursues the riches that come with a personal relationship with the Son of God, it will propel us toward fulfilling all that we were designed to be and do. The wealth waiting for us in that quest may not show up on our balance sheet here on earth, but that’s okay. Its value will never diminish, its security is guaranteed, and its profits are eternally “tax exempt.”
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “God has made it clear throughout history that wealth is almost never neutral in its influence. Money doesn’t establish a moral or spiritual foundation for our lives, but it always reveals what that foundation is.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Hearts drive the most courageous acts human beings ever display. They make heroes out of nobodies, warriors out of weaklings, & leaders out of the unknown & ordinary. Hearts contribute to displays of talent & ability that leave us astounded.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Ultimately, our heart will focus the most powerful elements in our life toward acquiring, applying, and preserving whatever we desire most and value most highly. Jesus said we would either serve God or the world’s value system, but never both.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When our heart pursues the riches that come with a personal relationship with Jesus, it will propel us toward fulfilling all that we were designed to be and do. Its value will never diminish, and its security is guaranteed.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2021 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Praying for a heart for Jesus and His guidance in following Him in all ways. Thank you for an inspiring message.
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Thanks so much, Katherine, our response is encouraging, and I think God has answered your prayers. Your heart for Jesus is certainly evident in the way you apply the gifts He has given you in ministering to others. May God grant us all the kind of heart that doesn’t melt in the face of challenges, and that finds rejoicing in Him regardless of the circumstances surrounding us.
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Beautifully expressed, Ron! May our treasures be in Heaven while we are here on earth.
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Thanks, Martha– you’re a walking dispensary of encouragement. I just commented on your backgammon piece and really enjoyed the refreshing reminder of simple joys I don’t explore often enough. Thank you for faithfully applying God’s truth to real life.
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