A great way to give God our hearts is by offering our treasure as well
May 9, 2019
The spiritual disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting (in Matt. 6:1–6 and 16–18) are linked with the storing up of treasures (in 6:19–21). The passage warns that if these spiritual exercises are done only to impress people, without God, they lose their meaning and we become hypocrites.
All of us have things that we value highly, which we long for and our hearts cling to. Jesus takes this “fact” of treasures for granted and says that everyone stores them up either on Earth or in heaven. The consequence of storing up our treasures on Earth is that, either through natural consequences (moths or rust) or through human causes (thieves), treasures will be lost. But by storing our treasures with God, they will not be wasted.
In verse 21, Jesus teaches something profound about the relationship between our treasures and our hearts. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to calibrate our hearts, as if they are neutral instruments. If our hearts are primed just right, that thinking goes, we can be more effective, efficient, productive, happy and fulfilled. We use phrases like “my heart’s not in it,” “my heart’s not ready” or “I accept it wholeheartedly,” as if we have full control over what the heart will cling to. Jesus debunks this understanding by stating that hearts naturally attach themselves to that which we treasure. Our hearts are where our desires, longings, ambitions and investments are.
Hearts are not inert or neutral; hearts tend to cling to things. Hearts are drawn to those realities that are valuable to us. Jesus does not say that treasures are wrong or bad in themselves. They are what they are, a fact of life. But where we place our treasures can be the difference between life and death. When we detach our treasures — whether they are money, fame, relationships or spiritual disciplines — from God they will go bad or disappear.
When we place our treasures with God, our hearts will be with God as well: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verse 21). If we place our treasures with God, then our treasures will glorify God and thus our security will come from God and our treasures will be in a right ordered relationship with God.
We use “heart” language a lot in prayer and in worship. If it is true that our hearts are where our treasures are, what if we added “treasure” to where we find “heart” in our prayers and liturgy? “Lord, open our hearts and minds and our treasures by the power of the Holy Spirit,” “draw our hearts and our treasures to you,” “we have not loved you with our whole hearts and with our treasures,” “lift up your hearts and your treasures. …” We may be deceiving ourselves if we think that we can easily detach our hearts from our treasures and offer them to God. Maybe our hearts are so fused with our treasures that the only way to offer our hearts to God is to offer our treasures.
Ed Kiel, a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, witnessed a powerful example of this kind of offering at a young age. Ed was only about 6 years old when he immigrated to Denver from South Korea with his parents and his two older brothers in the early 1970s. His father, the Rev. Nathaniel Ung Nam Kiel, a Presbyterian pastor, sensed God’s calling to minister to Korean immigrants in America. Ed remembered clearly that their parents had only $40 with them when they arrived in their new country. At church on their first Sunday in America, Ed saw his mother place the $40, all the money they had in the world, in the offering plate. Ed carried this vivid memory with him as he grew up and it has shaped his understanding and practice of stewardship. Ed has been a longtime ruling elder and treasurer at his church and shared this story in a stewardship.
Dr. Kevin Park, Associate Dean for Advanced Professional Studies, Assistant Professor of Theology, and Interim Director of Korean American Ministries at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia
This stewardship lectionary preview originally appeared on the Presbyterian Foundation website.
Today’s Focus: Our Hearts
Let us join in prayer for:
Bethany Presbyterian Church Staff
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, each day we encounter your gifts and the joys of engaging with your world. Orient our service to meet the needs of your creation. Outfit us with your love and give us eyes to see that in serving we are most like Jesus, our brother and Savior, in whose name we offer this and every prayer. Amen.