Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves to do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Matthew 6: 19-21
I am not sure how many times I have read, quoted or listened to these teachings of Jesus’ from the Sermon on the Mount. I am guessing well over a hundred times, at least. And yet, even with all those chances, I failed to grasp the point. I guess I am just a slow learner. A couple of days ago it finally hit me what Jesus was trying to teach, and since I might not be the only one missing the obvious, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on this scripture.
You see, I always interpreted this scripture as meaning that if your heart was right, you would naturally use your treasure (money, time, and talents) righteously. And yet, that is not what the scripture says at all. Jesus doesn’t say that your treasure will follow your heart, he says that your heart will follow your treasure.
The way to change your heart is not by trying to change your heart, but by learning to control your treasure. Treasure clearly leads the way, and the heart follows. If you want to change your heart, move your treasure. Your treasure holds the key to your heart.
If you doubt this principle, take a look at the way you spent your money or time last month. Did your spending match the priorities of your heart? If you are anything like me, probably not. Treasure has a mind of its own, and will go its own way regardless of the desires of your heart unless you watch it constantly. Your heart, on the other hand, is much more loyal, and will eventually follow where your treasure leads it.
This is both frightening and encouraging. It is scary to think that our treasure is more powerful than our heart. We like to believe that our heart is in charge, and that our treasure will follow its dictates, but that generally isn’t true.
This also gives hope because it provides a game plan for changing hearts. Heart changing is a tricky business and it is often difficult to even grasp where to begin. Controlling our treasure, on the other hand, is more straightforward. It takes a plan (a budget), and some discipline, but it is at least easy to identify what needs to be done. Simply pick what type of heart you want, and then move your treasure in that direction. The promise is that your heart will follow.
Let me illustrate with some examples. What type of heart do you desire?
If you want a:
- Selfish Heart: Spend your treasure on yourself.
- Materialistic Heart: Use your treasure to acquire “shiny objects” and possessions.
- Fearful Heart: Dwell on past failures and allow them to prevent you from trying new things.
- Heavy Heart: Focus on your problems and don’t share your burdens with those who love you.
- Giving Heart: Direct more of your treasure to helping others. Establish an account just for giving and move some of your treasure into it.
- Secure Heart: Use some of your treasure to establish an emergency fund and save at least 10 percent for retirement.
- Educated Heart: Make lifelong learning a priority and develop a plan to study a topic you want to learn more about.
- Happy Heart: Spend your time and money in ways that promote happiness. These include building relationships, buying experiences, buying time, and investing in others. The book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending is a great resource.
- Serving Heart: Use more of your money, time and talents to serve the needs of others.
- Healthy Heart: Spend money to buy healthy food and schedule time to regularly exercise.
- Soft or Spiritual Heart: Spend more of your time praying, pondering, meditating, and studying the scriptures.
- Compassionate Heart: Look for those who are suffering and spend time and money to provide relief.
- Loving Heart: Use your resources of time and money to build strong relationships with those you love. Plan meaningful activities and establish traditions to bind you together.
- Grateful Heart: Spend more time counting your blessings than counting your money. Keep a gratitude journal and express your gratitude to others.
- Humble Heart: Realize that you can’t accomplish anything by yourself. Recognize your reliance on God and others and express gratitude for those that have helped you.
- Hopeful Heart: Recognize your problems but look to the future with faith and hope. Develop a plan to make things better.
February is the month of love, and the symbol of love is the heart. To celebrate, let’s perform some heart surgery. Pick one type of heart you would like to develop this month, either from the list above or one of your own, and then make a plan to direct your treasure in ways that will lead your heart in the direction you want it to go. Concentrate not on changing your heart, but on controlling your treasure, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Remember, your treasure holds the key to your heart. Move your treasure and your heart will surely follow.