THE GOSPELS 53
WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS
Jesus closes His prayer and immediately stresses the importance of forgiveness. This again underlines the major concern the Father has with our relationship to our fellowman. The whole of a Christian’s faith is bound up in his relationship to God and to his fellowman. Our obvious concerns with correct rules for the church, proper rituals to be observed and regulations for our physical actions obscure the spiritual aspects of proper relationships with God and man.
Because we live in this physical world we pay attention to the things we experience with our five senses. These are things we can see and touch. As a result, we tend to pay little attention to the unseen world of the spirit. It is in this world that we encounter God, and it is our attention to the development of our personal characteristics in this world that makes us who we are and whether or not we are acceptable to Him. The inner self, where our feelings and motivations lie, is our spiritual self and, because God is Spirit, that is where we must encounter and please Him.
It is quite evident in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that He is telling us that God is only interested in our actions as they reflect the condition of our heart and mind. The way we treat our fellowman is not governed by a set of rules of conduct, but by the kind of person we are, and the condition of our heart. Just so, the depth and reality of our worship of God is not a matter of which rituals we observe but of where our mind and heart are during the process. Paul insisted that in his worship he sang and prayed with “the spirit and the understanding”(I Cor.14).
I mention this because in the next phase of His sermon Jesus is placing great emphasis on the difference between God’s world of the spirit and the world of mammon which we experience with our five senses and where our animal desires and motivations lie. He is urging us to pay attention to the things of the spirit rather than the things of the flesh. Going to church is not the same as going into the presence of God. You may physically attend church with your body, but if you do not bring your dedicated spirit with you, no worship can take place. It is this truth that Jesus is elaborating on here.
The first subject Jesus mentions after the end of the prayer is forgiveness. He tells us that God will only forgive those who forgive their fellowman. Forgiveness, like all other blessings God gives, is based upon our attitude and spirit, and it is extended only if we ask Him for it. He leaves us free to choose, and will not impose even blessings upon us if we do not ask for them. Luke makes it clear that we forgive our brother when he is penitent and asks for forgiveness (Luke 14). But, in order to forgive, we must have an attitude of Christian love, even for those who have wronged us.
Jesus then addresses the subject of fasting. This is not a common practice among Christians today, but the principle Jesus is making is the same. We should not parade our piety before the world to be seen of men. God sees the secret person within us, and that person is distorted and unacceptable if it is false and self-centered. Our singing and our prayers should never be for the ears and entertainment of any audience except God.
When He talks about treasure, Jesus is referring to the things which are most important to us. It is to these things that we give the most of our energy and time. It is in this area that the division between body and mind is clearest. As Edith Hamilton said of the Greek culture, “The Greek kept his religion in one section of his life and everything that really mattered to him in another”. In the words of Jesus, “Where your treasure is that is where your heart is also”. It clearly defines whether we are truly interested in our spiritual life, or, is it the physical life which we enjoy. God is in one but not the other, for Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and Mammon”.
In our next essay we want to begin to talk about the characteristics of this spiritual self and how we can develop them, even in the very present physical world where we live. It is not an impossible task but it is one to which we give too little attention in the fast moving world of every day activity and peer pressure.