This is a compilation of posts/devotions from my friend Casey Holland, which he entitled “A Treasure Map Given from the Words of Christ.”
￼I sit today in a very comfy cabin in the mountains of Tennessee. The place has two jacuzzis, a hot tub, LCD television, big porch with rocking chairs, and all the attractions I could possibly imagine just a few short miles down the road. However, as comfy as all of this is I am overwhelmed at the words of Christ in Matthew 6: 19-21. Christ of course proclaiming His sermon on the mount unto His disciples says this: “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wow powerful words from our Savior, words which I pray in the days ahead He will continue to impart His teaching and His wisdom.
Tool or treasure? That is the question I must continually be asking and consequentially answering in the realm of physical possessions. The difference between a tool and a treasure: the tool only has value in better seeking the treasure whereas the treasure has infinite, inherent value in and of itself. The tool is practical but the treasure is priceless. The true question that must be faced day unto day is how to cherish God’s blessings- especially those of relationships such as wife, children, etc..- without exalting them as the treasure which you are living for? Thus far God has taught me from the words of Christ an important principle: God is not mainly concerned with my possessions so much as my attitude toward those possessions. The thoughts of the mind, the attitude of the heart, and even the direction of the will is influenced in regard to possessions. THere are two views which appear to me quite visible in the passage: There are those who see possessions and money for what it is- a single minded purpose for glorifying God as our Treasure. On the other hand, the other group see money and possessions as a means of fulfillment of their pride- they are deceived by pride into cherishing gifts not the Giver. There is a grave danger in relation to possessions which is seen all throughout the Bible- that is idolatry.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼There is much seen in this passage concerning the sinful impulses that are by nature binding on every individual. Notice how Christ orders the affects of this misplaced treasure: the heart, the mind, the will. Experience itself as well as the Word of God teaches perhaps implicitly that sin upset the natural ruler of our selves. What I mean by that statement is that sin has transformed our emotions to be the fundamental controller of our beings rather than the mind which beautifully reflects our Maker. In creation man was ruled not by his heart but by his mind- this is the order which is clearly seen. Not only is the order in which we are ruled distorted but also that leads us to be blinded by our emotions. Because we are not governed in the natural man by the mind we are blinded to the destructive nature of sin. However, the gospel frees us to see clearly the truth about Who God is- His nature and His attributes. Today as i sat in Sunday School we discussed the passage of John 12:1-10. However, what caught my attention in this passage is how this is such a beautiful parallel to the teaching of Christ in Matthew 6. In John 12 Christ has raised Lazarus from the dead demonstrating the power of God to give life to the dead. Christ returns to Bethany some time later, though it is merely verses after the resurrection of Lazarus, and participates in a feast given for him by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. There were also many who had gathered during this feast to see Lazarus who had been raised to life and Christ who had raised him. Once more in this passage we see Martha serving, though it appears she has learned her lesson of the place of service and learning from the last time Christ ate there (Luke 10:38-40),and Mary is found once more at the feet of Jesus. However on this occasion we see that Mary comes not just to wonder but to worship. Notice the passage:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of
those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil-pure and expensive nard-anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), said, “Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” (John 12:1-8 HCSB)
So here is Mary with an alabaster box full of expensive ointment which she pours out on Christ. Now there is much to consider in this very statement which makes this passage such a beautiful picture of the teaching of Christ. First, culturally Mary would have been out of place to even approach the place where Christ was because women were viewed as unequals to the men. It would have been unacceptable in the eyes of the Pharisees especially to see this woman to come up to Jesus in a time when he was speaking to other men and interrupt them so to speak. Women were viewed as possessions or servants at the highest- something that was only made for a purpose of helping man not as an equal. Second, this alabaster box which Mary brought was not a shopping bag of goodies from Walmart- this was perhaps her most precious possession. The ointment was used at times even for the burial of a close family member perhaps as is evident from the text. The ointment would have been worth close to a year’s salary, once more seen in the text specifically the greedy words of Judas. Notice finally how that Mary then wipes away the ointment from Jesus’ feet with her own hair- an action that would be
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼considered so lowly as to be the task of a slave or some household servant. Certainly this humility is the character that Christ has imparted to her through the gospel- the attitude which he himself showed in washing the feet of his disciples. The amazing truth that I see in this passage is that it pictures how the Christian now has been freed by the gospel to pour out possessions which others treasure on Christ. Mary shouldn’t be the one exalted in this passage but Christ. Mary was saying to Christ “You are more valuable than this possession which many would count invaluable. You are my treasure not this possession.” Judas, like those which are yet blinded by sin, counts this use of a costly possession as utter foolishness. That is the case in our lives and it is the message which Christ proclaims to his disciples in Matthew 6. He proclaims that those whose heart is bound by Christ will be those whose “eye is healthy” while those who treasure earthly goods are ruled by darkness being deceived in their minds as to their relationship to possessions. What is the Christian to look like in handling the blessings which God has given, gives, and will give? We are to evidence that Christ is our treasure and not those possessions by pouring them out upon Him. The way we evidence the all-sufficiency of God is not by treasuring his gifts but by using those gifts in such a way as to say that God is the one who satisfies, not the gifts. The importance of noting our view of possessions is that it evidences who we serve. You need constant evaluation as to your view and use of possessions for it will reveal where your heart lies and who you are truly serving in mind and deed. Christ continues this message throughout the rest of the entire chapter. In the next section, however, deals with the aspect of worrying about possessions as a result of viewing them as treasure. The same issue of the heart, mind, and will are present yet the reveal themselves by way of a longing for possessions rather than hoarding them up. Christ in this dealing with the aspect of worry and anxiety continues to relate to our human frailty and weakness by supplying arguments and reasons for not worrying. Notice that Christ could very well have commanded His disciples and ,by implication, the rest of His followers including me not to worry or to face the judgment of God for sinning. However, God in His grace has given me clear reasons why I am not to worry. Christ first gives the principle of God’s giving in grand to small- if God has given us life and existence and a body will He not provide food and clothing? What an awesome thought- a principle that applies to all our physical needs. God has given us existence and sustains that existence- will He cease to provide for us now? Christ goes on to give an example of His provision for the lesser of His creation in contrast to His previous argument. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” If God provides food for the birds who merely fly about without having to work in the sweat of their brow as we do, will He not provide for His own chosen ones who are working for their food? “Are you not of more value than they?” He says. He goes on to ask us this question- one which should be considered daily especially in times when worry is most tempting: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Wow what a question! We as humans did not create ourselves, we cannot sustain ourselves, and we are not in control of when we die ultimately. So how do we think that our worry will in some way contribute life to us in anyway whatsoever? Christ now goes on to supply another object lesson this time in regard to clothing. He tells us to consider the lilies of the field- perhaps the common flowers of the day which the disciples would all have been familiar. These flowers are temporary, some perhaps
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼never even seen by human eyes, yet God Himself clothes them in that which is greater than the greatest of human clothing. Will God now forget to provide covering for His own children whom He has given eternal life? The flowers do not even knit together their clothes yet God provides for them- logically does is make sense that He would then forget us? The grass of the field- the flowers which He clothes- are cast into the oven- their lives are so short and still God clothes them. This practice of casting grass into an oven was common in His day- quite unheard of in our day. To give you a little background on what happened in this practice, the people of the day would go out into the field and gather grass and flowers locally. They would then carry the newly gathered grass into their house and place it in the oven. Their ovens were not electric of course like ours are today- but rather it would be a compartment that would hold in heat. Therefore, these people would set the grass and flowers on fire in their oven which would in turn emit great heat. The grass would then be removed from the oven after the heat had been emitted and the bread which had been prepared ahead of time would be placed in the oven to cook. Now that being explained, consider that God has clothed that grass- those flowers which are thrown into an oven and burned. Will God not clothe you His child who lives much longer with even greater functions? The whole problem with worry- the reason why I like many others, struggle with being anxious is that I do not think about Who God is and who I now am in light of the gospel. The gospel is not just something to think about for 15 minutes in the morning or when I’m at church but it is to be constantly in the flow of my thinking- transforming thoughts, words, and actions. Christ constantly refers back to the person of God to argue the foolishness of being divided into pieces about our needs. God provides for the birds and grass- He knows all things and thus knows the needs you have. God is to be seen as altogether priceless- the One Treasure which we are to be consumed with. When our lives are controlled by gospel-saturated thinking rather than our thoughts being controlled by life, we do not worry, there is no room for it.