Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where Your Treasure Is (part 1)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Luke 12:34  (NET)

As is almost always the case, Jesus does not offer up these words as a disconnected aphorism.  Though it can be taken as a truth, it is only taken as such because of the context provided to it by Jesus and the Lukan narrative.  Though the overall movement of Luke’s Gospel will not be here touched upon, it would be entirely inappropriate to make an attempt to rightly comprehend a statement such as this without operating within a mental framework that is consistently cognizant that Luke is telling a story so as to communicate a particular point of view, and that every component of that story is serving a greater end. 

That greater end that would seem to be in Luke’s view is Jesus’ conception of the kingdom of heaven.  In fact, it is a reflection upon the kingdom of heaven that is the immediate precursor to the series of statements that concludes with “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  To this point, and prior to this telling statement, Jesus has said to “pursue His kingdom” (12:31) and that the “Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom” (12:32b). 

Before moving any further, one must take care to not make the serious mistake of thinking of the kingdom of heaven as something distant, whether that distance be a matter of time or space.  For a Jew such as Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was defined as the Creator God’s rule on earth---the realm of their God and His rule invading and occupying the realm of the beings that He had created as His image.  Heaven was not conceived of as the post-death eternally blessed attainment of a life well-lived, and as such, was not a motivating factor in living according to that which would be expected of a member of the covenant people.  It is incredibly important to establish such things, as it is incumbent upon observers to know what Jesus would have had in mind, along with what His hearers would have had in mind, knowing that they had to share a common verbal and mental vocabulary if Jesus was going to be understood. 

The idea of heaven, and the attached idea of an eternal realm to be occupied by disembodied souls, would have been foreign to the religious thought-world of the Israel of Jesus’ day.  There would almost certainly have been an awareness of such ways of thought, but thinking along those lines would likely have been heavily resisted, as an alien invader.  It was Greek thought, popularized by Plato, that divided the physical from the spiritual, positing that the physical world was only a shabby reflection of the spiritual world.  Essentially, for the Greeks and for those influenced by Greek thought, physical equaled bad, whereas spiritual equaled good.  This was antithetical to contemporary Jewish thought.  Now, this is not to say that because it was Greek, it was wrong, but rather, it would have been foreign to Jesus, and likely rejected by Him and the earliest of those that sought to convey His message to the world. 

So it needs to be reinforced that thinking of heaven or the kingdom of heaven in such a way would not have been the position of one of the covenant people of the Creator God.  They knew that their God had created a world that was very good, that the good world He had created had been corrupted, that His image-bearers had been marred, and that their God was eventually going to act to not only restore this world to its very good condition, but that His restoring, redeeming operation, which would occur within history and be brought to bear in this creation, was going to create a world even better than the one that had suffered a fall. 

No comments:

Post a Comment