It may not be the best time to ask this question, but: are you rich?
Your response to that question might have been yes or no. It might also have been an abundance of questions. Like, how do you mean that? This is a religious thing, right, so you mean “spiritually,” right? Or do you mean talents or skills? Or resources? Or, wait a minute, do you mean financially? Is this another one of those “church needs money” questions?
Your response might also be “none of your business.”
What I mean by the question is all those questions and, no, maybe it’s not any of my business. But it is yours and that’s what I’m asking you to think about because I think Jesus would like you to think about it, too.
I’ve often felt that Jesus talked about the rich the same way he talks about the Pharisees. He criticized the keepers of the law for blindly following the letter of the law for their own ends or, worse, abusing the law for their own gain, ignoring the spirit and intent of the law. Pharisees, corrupted by their power, were not living the way they ought. Likewise, the rich in money, material or power, acquired unfairly, at the expense of others or creation, hoarded greedily and kept selfishly.
The real issue, in other words, is us and having a desire to live well and do good that can be so easily swayed by power and material things. Things, after all, are only things until we engage them. But. once we do, happiness seems so much easier to find than joy, being comfortable more than being engaged, domination more than a mutual peace. Meeting more than our superficial needs is so much more work. What could possibly make it worthwhile?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)
What if we thought about life as if it were more than just “something to be treasured?” That it is the treasure, the very treasure Jesus talks about. If we put our hearts into that, wouldn’t we love and cherish, care and be kind, share and invest, respect and deal justly with each other?
I know, that sounds so idyllic. And simplistic. And idealistic. And utopian. And not likely.
But why? More than once in Luke’s gospel, Jesus reminds his listeners that the Kingdom of God is here, now, not some far off dream, but now. We don’t wait patiently for the kingdom to arrive, Jesus says, we should keep ourselves ready “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Luke 12:40) We usually hear these words in Advent to remind us to be prepared for the next coming of Jesus, but I wonder if here, in this moment, he didn’t mean “the kingdom is here, I’m here, are you ready for action? Are you ready to live as the treasure you are, as the treasure we all are?”
Because if we are, then we will begin with the treasure that is life in all, not just those we love or perceive to agree with us or be like us. We’ll see that those who bring us the greatest challenge, who disagree with us culturally, religiously, politically, socially and in a host of other ways, are equally the treasure we are and equally deserving of being treasured.
What has more value than life? Surely the greatest treasure requires the greatest effort. Surely the greatest treasure demands we give our hearts to it and live whole heartedly.