The second half of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6, addresses our relationship with the material world. Is this all there is? Jesus says that if we keep our eyes on our destiny we’ll discover that Heaven is our true treasure. because the things of earth will be consumed by rust, decay, moths and even thieves. So why do we invest so much concern, anxiety and time in that which doesn’t last? Remember, as a kid, going to the movies and trying to figure out what candy you could buy with your limited resources? I always got a Sugar Daddy! Some one must have taught me to value what lasts. Somewhere that wisdom gets lost in “I want” vs “I need”.
Jesus talked about our relationship with money. Basically both money and God cannot hold primacy of place in our lives. One of them has to be #2. What we value most gets a greater investment of thought, plans, time, attention and even our social networking! “Where your treasure is there is your heart.” (Mt. 6:21) If we are always scheming ways to amass more money, more possessions, more connections, more status, more stuff, then there is little left for God or family. These wouldn’t seem to be my treasures or what holds primacy in my life.
St. Lawrence, a deacon, in the early church was ordered by a very greedy Roman Prefect to present before him all the treasures of the young church. Lawrence had spent his life alleviating the needs of Rome’s poor and so he went through the streets and gathered up all the poor he could find. He brought them before the Prefect saying, “These are the Church’s treasure!”. It would seem the greedy Prefect didn’t like that response and had Lawrence roasted alive on a gridiron over and open fire! What an example! As my granddaughter often says, “People are more important than things.”
America’s idols appear to be greed, self-indulgence and any sin that will increase power, wealth or fame. Children never seem to be content with what they have and gifts are quickly discarded for the newest fad. More, more, more. One hundred dolls is not enough!
In Mt 6:25 Jesus tell us to depend on God for our needs. That’s radical. To modern materialistic America that concept is an absurdity. Yet Jesus clearly says, “Don’t worry about your life; what you’ll eat or drink, nor about your body and what you’ll wear”. Our culture is obsessed with appearances, clothes, make up, style. Our bodies have become an idol to be adorned and adored. So much so that anorexia and bulimia are rampant addictions plaguing women and young girls.
Can we really trust God to provide for our needs? From my own experience money came through when we didn’t have the full deposit for a rental apartment after our bankruptcy. Due to serious illness we had lost our lovely condo. Because of that small check we ended up with an even lovelier, larger apartment. When we were hit by a scam that wiped out our savings and some retirement funds, we were again relieved by the help of others to get through that month’s bills. Most recently our medical insurance provides limited coverage for a very expensive medication. It isn’t settled yet and the bills add up but we have no doubt that it is in God’s hands and He will take care of it.
There is so much more to life than its exterior care, adornments, physical needs or even nourishment. We’ve been through periods of very simple meals but never went hungry. The people of Haiti are the poorest people on earth and are constantly bombarded by natural disasters yet they are known for their joy. They find joy in family, friends, life, God. This life is temporary. Joy is eternal.
In this chapter of Matthew Jesus repeatedly reminds us to trust His Father, depend on Him not on yourself. Rich friends abandon you when you fall on hard times. They were never really there for you. All we need to do is ask, Ask the Father! He will always provide what is good for you, just as good parents do for their own children. God is a good parent and often protects us from what is harmful. We’ve all heard of folks who missed a flight and were angry, only to find out that it had crashed. Next time, ask what God has planned for you because of the delay.
Sometimes we are not such obedient children. We long for all the shiny baubles and spend our hard earned money on momentary pleasures that will be tossed aside and forgotten. Jesus even called us pagans when we go after all that is perishable. PAGANS! We are a throw away society; both of things and of people.
Rather, the Lord says, seek the things that won’t be destroyed by the elements, the ravages of time nor misuse. Invest in people, family, good works. Invest in the poor--not just with temporary handouts that are only temporary bandages but on solutions to the endemic problems of poor education, healthcare, food security. Make system changes if you have the means, in things that will last for generations.
The elderly, the sick, the disabled, the poor are the treasures of the Catholic Church. How so? Because Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me!” (Mt 25:70) You cannot say you are Christian or that you truly love God if you do not put people first (after God, of course.) Time spent with family, friends, coworkers, your church community is time invested in loving others, witnessing, teaching being a good example. We shall not be judged on how successful, rich, powerful, or famous we have been. The final judgement is on how well we have loved. Gifts are nice and are a token of love but the they are a poor substitute for real love. Remember that song, “I wanna know what love is.” Ask God to teach you. I think it’s time together, noticing, paying attention, giving recognition, expressing appreciation. Love is not about stuff. It’s sacrificing yourself, your wants, your time in order to be present to others.
A child constantly says, Look at me! Watch me! Come see what I made! Why? Because attention is an affirmation of their worth. While sitting on the beach one day, I could clearly hear one family’s interactions. The husband spoke rudely to the wife, put down the kids and use crude language. Then a five year old girl politely asked over and over, “Could someone help me?” No one responded. What did she just learn?
I began this essay with Jesus teaching us to worry less. and trust God more. As in any family the more we build relationship with God and come to know how deeply He love us, our confidence in His providence will grow. As I said previously, God came through for us when we didn’t have a deposit. He came through for a family that needed gas money to drive their son to a speciality hospital two states away. God came through with a no interest loan to a neighbor who had just lost a job and had a young family. These stories are true. I know these people. They have steadfast faith and trust. Before curing someone, Jesus often asked if they believed he could do it. That’s the crux. Believing and trusting. Faith.
Play it often, play it loud, Don’t worry....
Store up for yourself treasure in Heaven....... (Lk32-48)