Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Important Stuff!

Almost every week, I receive a piece or two of unsolicited mail from companies who have found secret caches of silver or gold that went down in some ship from the 1700s or a stash of uncirculated money that is suddenly available to the general public. The appeal is that you can own a part of this "unique" piece of history, but hurry, because time is running out. I get a chuckle out of that kind of urgent appeal when the coins have been "lost" for 300 years. But I know the appeal is to the nature of humankind that we want what others do not have; we want more of it than anyone else has; and we are willing to spend our treasure to achieve the desire of our hearts. Maybe I should say that we are willing to spend our treasure on what we perceive to be a greater treasure. The glitter of those ads and the lure of owning something so unique can easily cause us to pull out a credit card. (Don't worry. My collection budget prohibits participation in these promotions.)

Why do I care whether people buy rare coins or spend their treasure on dust collectors for the already crowded home? Because it is a spiritual problem. We are a society with 9.1 percent unemployment, yet we have more stuff than we can use or find places for. If you question that, count the number of self-storage facilities that have popped up in our area in recent years. I even have people seeking financial assistance from the church to store their belongings. While that is not a good use of our limited resources, it probably is a better reason than some of us have. Think about it: You store things you don't use and don't have room for so you can go out an buy more stuff you won't use and don't have room for that you will put in the new, larger storage unit next year. And we think our leaders are making bad decisions?!

The answer to the world's economic - indeed all of our problems is in the condition of the heart. In our scripture for this Sunday, Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Luke 12:34). That sounds so wrong! My heart is not in those old coins nor is it in stored away goods that I never see and therefore never use! But that's what Jesus said. Ouch. How many hungry people could be fed with what we spend on the false desires of our hearts? How many mosquito nets could be bought at $10 or less each to save the children of Africa from Malaria if we did not spend so much so foolishly on ourselves?

We remember the alleged words of Queen Marie Antoinette who reputedly said, "Let them eat cake." A telling reminder that the royals in France had no clue how the common people lived nor did they care to find out. We never put ourselves in the same sentence with those who are so arrogant, unconcerned, and so unfeeling, but I must ask, "How are we different?" I'm not talking about formal outreach programs where everyone gives a token amount or product; our conscience is eased; and we go back to our habits of spending far more than we should to give glory to ourselves, our homes, our yards - while families who have really tried go to bed hungry every night with no way to explain to their hungry children why no one cares.

My heart hurts at the pain we inflict on others by our indifference. Now, you are about to get me a crying towel and shake me back to reality. Right? Jim, there are those who are just trying to abuse our good nature and generous spirit. Sometimes, without a doubt that is true, and nothing makes me more angry. But that is also the dark side of our nature giving us a convenient excuse for disobeying the words of Jesus. I'm talking about the real suffering of the world that we won't look at on the way to work; The real depravity in our community that we are content to lock the front door and ignore. Our response reveals the condition of the heart. Sometimes I worry that the hearts of those calling themselves Christian is as bankrupt as the US Treasury. The interest rate in our hearts is not high enough to change lives, and it needs to be.

Old coins or new, they must not be hoarded. The treasures in the Kingdom of God are the people. People are precious. They are precious to God and should be precious to us. We need a heart for God's people and a desire to use the treasures and riches God uses to bless us to enrich the lives of others in substantial ways. Dear Lord, let it be so.

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