Monday, December 2, 2013

Where Your Treasure Is (part 4 of 4)

Shortly thereafter, Jesus can be heard saying “So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things… your father knows that you need them” (Luke 12:29,30b).  The rich man in the parable had taken this to the opposite extreme, which should have been obvious to Jesus’ audience.  Jesus then brings the story back to His primary concern, which was the rule of the Creator God (the coming together of heaven and earth) exercised through His covenant people, saying “pursue His kingdom, and these things,” food, drink, clothing (12:28), “will be given to you as well” (12:31). Clearly, the man in the parable was not in pursuit of the kingdom of heaven (the rule of God/the coming together of heaven and earth). 

With this, Jesus has outlined a portion of His vision of the service of the kingdom of heaven.  He says, “Do not be afraid, little flock,” positioning Himself as the shepherd-King of the kingdom, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom” (12:32).  The kingdom of heaven (the Creator God’s rule), Jesus says, is not unattainable.  Though it will eventually take a direct action on His part to accomplish a final and grand consummation, the Creator God intends to work through His people to make manifest His rule as a foretaste of what is to come. 

The Creator God’s constant desire has been to move through His people in a way that will cause them to provide witness to the world that He is ultimately Sovereign.  To this end, Jesus’ ministry has been marked by His going “through towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God” (8:1b).  Indeed, the larger witness of the Gospel records are that Jesus was insistent that the kingdom of God was at hand. 

Jesus then goes on to fill out His thoughts about the appearance that will be taken when the rule of the Creator God on earth was made manifest, by saying, in contradiction to storing up one’s abundance for oneself, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (12:33a).  This firmly connects these words with the earlier parable, which Jesus introduced by saying “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (12:15b).  In this selling, Jesus’ listeners are informed that they will “Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out---a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (12:33b). 

Because Jesus’ use of “heaven” is here framed by His reference to “the kingdom,” one should not imagine a place somewhere off in space.  Rather, along with His and Luke’s hearers, the call is to imagine the rule of Israel’s God on earth, a time in which death has lost its sting, in which the grave has no victory, and where corruption and decay are no more.  Jesus’ words fit squarely into the vision of a restored creation, which was part and parcel of the conception of the full manifestation of the kingdom of heaven.  It is then that there will be no wearing out, no decrease, no thieves, no moths, and no destruction. 

To this is then added, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (12:34).  The location of the treasure is firmly ensconced within the vision of the kingdom of heaven.  Selling possessions and giving to the poor, and doing so in recognition of Jesus’ claim of Lordship and of His God’s claim on all things, becomes an operation that causes an overlap of heaven and earth.  The treasure, ultimately, because of the selling of possessions, ends up with the poor. 

This, of course, in a way that should be of massive interest to anyone that claims an allegiance to Jesus as Lord, is where Jesus was and is to be found.  Though it is not to be found in Luke’s narrative, a substantial component of the Jesus tradition that would have been in the air at the time of Luke’s writing is “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:34b-36,40b). 

One is not left to wonder at what is implied by these oh so important words.  In providing for the poor, the location of one’s treasure and heart is revealed, and in so doing, one is able to stand with Jesus in acknowledgment of His rule and of the presence of God’s kingdom.              

No comments:

Post a Comment