‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Today we begin the season of Lent – we enter an ancient time of penitence and preparation. Today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew is the gospel always read on Ash Wednesday. And that last phrase – where your treasure is, there your heart will be also – asks us, or rather challenges us, to examine our priorities and reorder our lives. What do we treasure? What does God treasure? What do we need to change to bring our priorities in line with God’s?
What does God treasure?
God treasures human beings. God treasures us. What an appropriate idea for St. Valentine’s day! In John’s gospel Jesus says to Nicodemus, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him…’
Not to condemn, but to rescue, to redeem, to save us from ourselves and our small minds and hearts, from our failure to love. Our sins, our failures, our separation from God comes from a failure to love God, to love others, or love to ourselves. We do not treasure what God treasures. Often we try to overcome our failure to love with specific actions that ‘prove’ our respectability and faithfulness to God.
Jesus calls us on behavior that’s only skin deep – our Gospel is from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus warns us about looking pious. He’s challenges us to consider WHY we do what we do. Giving to others, praying for others, denying oursevles or fasting, especially in service to others – these are all wonderful Christian disciplines. And these actions help make the world a better place – closer to the Kingdom. Any of them will strengthen our spiritual muscles and draw us closer to God and to each other. But we always run the risk of doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Are we looking for our egos to be stroked through our righteous living? Or would we be fine if no one ever knew the good that we do? Are our actions fueled by love?
When a lawyer asks Jesus which of the commandments is the most important, Jesus replies, ‘”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ The Law of Love is the law by which we are judged. What does God treasure? Human beings. What ought we to treasure? Each other. It’s all about love.
The season of Lent gives us the chance to examine our lives and our priorities. It’s all about making sure that our relationships are in right order. Do we love God? Do we treasure our relationship with God? Do we have compassion for ourselves? Do we love others, even those who might not love us? Do we treasure our relationships? Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Amen.