Where Your Treasure Is

by Jeff Ritchie

This week our grandsons, Alex and Matthew, taught us a lesson in giving. They collected all the money in their possession and asked “Grammy” and “Grandpa” to take them to a store where they could get birthday presents for their “Mommy.” They carried their dollar bills and coins in a bright red wallet and a plastic sandwich bag.

Seven year-old Alex had in mind to buy his mother a “necklace with a gem,” and so we pored over everything in the jewelry section of Kohl’s that could be bought for $23. As you can see from the photo, we found something to Alex’s satisfaction and so he proceeded to count out all his dollars for the sales clerk. He was happy that he could shower his Mommy with love on her birthday! Three year-old Matthew settled on a bottle of nail polish, and he was pleased to provide his Mommy with a gift in such a shiny package.

Seeing the joy on the faces of both of our grandsons showed Megan and me the truth of Jesus’ saying, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Their mother is certainly their treasure; she is the focus of the kind of affection that empties their pockets for a necklace and nail polish. The next day I reflected on what we had learned from our “grands” on their shopping expedition.

What kind of treasure prompts a heart investment? While there are many which can claim our hearts, some treasures have priority for disciples of Jesus. Our Lord said, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). If we do that, he assured us that other claims on our heart – our treasures – have their proper place.

Seeking God’s kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven” is another way of talking about mission broadly understood. If we align the pattern of our lives in 2017 around our participation in God’s mission, what might that look like?

Let’s go back to Alex and Matthew and how they treasure their mother. First of all, our grandsons want to spend time with her when she is not at work as a pilot. They want to be with her. Then they express their love for her by drawing pictures and creating cards out of construction paper. They want to do things for her. Finally, they live out the line of an old hymn, “Take my silver and my gold. Not a mite would I withhold.” Their love for their mother extends deeply into their pockets.

The kingdom of God is first of all a kingdom of right relationships. The first and greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If God is our treasure, then part of our alignment with God and God’s purposes is to look at how much time we spend with our Lord in personal devotion and corporate worship.

The kingdom of right relationships also extends to those who are neighbors. Jesus says that we show how much we love God by how much we love our neighbor. Do we want God’s love to be manifest in and rule throughout our relationships – our family, our local community, our global community? If so, God will call us to actions and “investments” in 2017: investments of time and listening; costlier investments of seeking reconciliation and forgiveness; investments of prayer for God to touch those who are beyond our immediate circles but who are not beyond God’s reach.

God’s kingdom is also a kingdom of right actions. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” If living in alignment with his ways is our treasure, we will seek ways to act which demonstrate what the kingdom looks like through such things as a weekly commitment to tutor a child, a monthly evening at a church hosting homeless people overnight, regular involvement with local refugee resettlement ministries, doing things with our immediate neighbors to “spruce up” our street and the like. Where will the call to demonstrate the kingdom with right actions lead each of us in 2017?

Finally, the word “treasure” eventually leads us back to money. As we watched the joy on our grandsons’ faces as they took their presents home from the store, the reality of Jesus’ saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:38), sank in very personally. We experience God as our treasure especially when we feel the same joy that God enjoys. God enjoys giving good gifts to his children. Therefore, when we align our lives around God’s priorities, we too will find the same joy in making a difference in the world through our giving for kingdom purposes.

May the new year be for each of us a year of abundant living with God and extravagant giving of our time, talents, and resources for God’s purposes.

Jeff Ritchie
Associate Director for Mission

The Outreach Foundation