Treasures and Trust

New World UMCPastor's Blog

On the dollar bill, we find the statement “In God We Trust.” That is quite a declaration, even more so, as it conjures a kind of hope that is beyond our grasps of understanding.

In general, this is a very positive thought, but we need to ask who God is and why do we trust him. As Christians, for example, we believe in a God that is merciful and gracious, always willing to show us his love and make his dwelling with and in us. Moreover, God gives us hope because he has promised us the resurrection from the dead and eternal life if we believe and follow him. For this reason, we trust him.

Now, one would think that in a nation with many people professing the Christian faith, the statement of “In God We Trust” would help us remember who we trust and why we trust him—mainly since we exchanged the currency every day all lifelong. However, I would argue that it does not make much difference. That statement has become so conventional that it does not have the power to elicit hope in those that read it. It may be a reminder, but does it have the power to make us live in such a manner, that is, trusting God? Does it make a difference in how we choose to live?

A way for us to know whether we trust God or not is by practically exploring the question by asking: What is important to me? What do I treasure?

I believe that knowing what we treasured can help us explain what we trust. Some may answer, “I treasure my family; therefore, I trust them.” Others may say, “I treasure my intelligence; therefore, I trust my knowledge.” And some others, “I treasure my money; therefore, I trust my wealth.” There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of these, but the issue is whether what we trust is our ultimate trust, that is, the only purpose or hope we have in life. We can say all day long, “In God I Trust,” but if our treasure is somewhere else but God, our words are meaningless.

So, to know who or what we trust, we need to know what we treasure first. Jesus offers us the wisdom we need to explore these questions. He said in Matthew 6:19-21,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In this whole chapter, Jesus is teaching about our relationship with our heavenly Father. He mentioned the term “Father” 11 times, showing the significance and importance of that relationship (verses: 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32). What Jesus wants us to know is that our relationship to the Father is the most remarkable and incredible treasure. Life itself is, in the end, inconsequential without the knowledge and relationship of God. This relationship is what gives us hope beyond this life and explains the purpose and meaning of our existence beyond family, intelligence, and wealth.

Hence, according to Jesus, the greatest wealth of life is seeing and conceiving ourselves as children of our heavenly Father and as created and cared for by the God of life.

This is extraordinary, and it is the key to talk about treasures. Jesus is telling us that we can only direct our deepest longings in the right direction, towards what are real treasures, lasting and secured in heaven where they will not be “destroyed by any moth or stolen by any thief,” if we seek them in and from a healthy relationship with God. In other words, when we relate to the world, people, and all the stuff around us as children of God, then we see all of it has been given to us by God. So, for example, when we see our family, friends, neighbors, wealth, and anything else as a gift from God, we trust not the gifts but the one who gives them, and we enjoy and celebrate the blessings as treasures as we share them with others.

As you can see, often, the challenge is not that we have the “wrong” stuff but that are not good stewards of what we have.

Think about this for a moment and ask yourself: How different would I relate to people and stuff if I thought of them as gifts from God rather than entitlements or possessions I earned and deserved? I can tell you one thing that for sure would happen: you would appreciate them much more and become grateful for them. And because of that, the “treasures on earth” become “treasures in heaven” when we understand and treat them as blessings from God.

For this reason, Jesus is warning us against the dangers of being consumed by a greedy earthly life that spoils our gifts, the real treasures, and pulls us away from the significance of our relationship with God by constantly competing for our affection.

What competes for your affection for God and the people you love? What pulls us away from God and spoils the relationships and stuff we have?

This contender and force that pulls us away from God is what is described by Rudyard Kipling in his novel (KIM) as the “Wheel of Things.” This “Wheel of Things” is the pursuit to satisfy our ambitions, vanity, greed, and the sort of things that keep us trapped in dreams bound to earthly life— “where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal.” Everyone is born into the Wheel of Things. No one can escape it from the beginning, but many are able to break it and be free from it by changing what and in whom they trust.

When Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” we can look at that question and honestly asked if our treasures are the kind of what makes and empowers the Wheel of Things. If so, no wonder we live in a repetitive cycle, entrapped in a land of spoiled treasures, unable to find hope for beyond this life.

An example of this is found in Matthew 19: 16-22. Here, there is a story of Jesus and a rich young man that came to him seeking answers regarding eternal life. The story goes like this,

[Paraphrased] The rich young man asked Jesus how he might have eternal life. Jesus answered him by telling him that he needed to obey the commandments, and the rich young ruler responded, “Which ones?” Jesus responded, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young ruler then said that he had kept all these things and asked, “What do I still lack?” To which Jesus then replied, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor” and “follow Me.” But the young man could not do it and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

This young man was rich and also a decent person. But he was missing something that caused him to doubt himself. Neither all his wealth nor his good citizenship were giving him the trust in knowing that his life was safe in heaven. In this context, the question he asked at the end is powerful, “What do I still lack?”

I read this text similar to how God tested Abraham when he asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. We know that God did not want Isaac dead but was testing Abraham’s trust. In the end, Abraham proved his trust in God and was stopped from killing his son.

Perhaps, this story of the young rich man is a similar case but with a different outcome. The young rich man did not trust God enough to sacrifice his wealth to save his life. Wealth was not the problem but trusting wealth more than God. Jesus knew he was trying to earn his way to heaven, but he was not willing to sacrifice his earthly treasure for the one in heaven. He could have been a sort of “Abraham” in the New Testament, but he fell short of trusting God more than his wealth.

Maybe a different outcome could have been him saying, “Absolutely, I will give my wealth away!” And Jesus would have said, “Because you trust God more than your riches, now you will be even richer to help people out of poverty.” But that did not happen; instead, the Wheel of Things held him captive.

For this reason, the way Jesus answered the question of “Why do I still lack?” is key to our initial questions of “What are our treasures? And “Who do we trust?”

The young rich man did not lack wealth or family or friends; he seemed to have a fulfilling life along those lines. What he was lacking was something no one on earth could give, nor could he buy. He lacked the peace of knowing he was loved and the hope of trusting that God was able to take care of him.

My friends, this is where we need to be honest about the things that are important to us, our treasures, and assess where we are and how that affects us. And it all comes down to what and who we trust. Therefore, the question of, “What do I still lack?” can be answered, “Because you can’t trust.”

This is not only about our eternal life but also about the way we choose to live right now, the decisions we make, the priorities we set, and the goals we pursue. As Jesus said, whatever is our treasure, that is where our heart is and that is what is going to direct and control our lives. This means that if we are hopeful about our future and trust God with our lives, that will show in the way we live today, including our relationships and the choices we make.

This is a lesson we have to learn and remember every day. Otherwise, we will become ungrateful and wasteful, poor and broken in more than one way, and we will end up spoiling our relationships with others, including our family and friends, and everything else we may have or pursue.

The invitation today is to remember this one thing: our life is given and possible only in the God of life. Life is always a gift and none of us should take it for granted to be here. Let our treasures be informed and defined by our relationship with the God of life.

Let us trust in God. For real. And let us honor God in life in everything we do, in every relationship we have, in every business decision we make, in every social media interaction we get involved. It is not about how much we have or what kind of stuff we have, but to who we are entrusting it—including our lives, dreams, and affections.

Let us store up treasures in heaven. Amen.