For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:34)
We probably don’t use the word treasure all that often. When we do, we might imagine Johnny Depp absconding with some fictitious artifact while chased by eye-patched vagabonds in pirate gear. More apt in our culture is the word value. Our treasure is just that – what we value. In Luke 12, Jesus teaches that there is an ironclad link between what we value and our joy.
Fear not, he tells his disciples, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (12:32). We should fight fear and anxiety by focusing on the good character and purpose of our Father. He doesn’t give us his kingdom begrudgingly or under compulsion, but because it is his good pleasure. He gives it the way a good father gives his child a Christmas gift – because he delights in his child.
Because we have this good Father, Jesus continues, we can sell [our] possessions, and give to the needy (12:33). We can let go of worldly treasures, in other words. And we can pursue eternal treasures, which cannot be lost, stolen, or destroyed. The treasure we pursue, Jesus says, reveals where our heart really is. If we treasure our possessions, or our security, or our reputation, earthly things that can (and do!) get lost, stolen, or destroyed, then we reveal that our treasure is on earth. If we let go of our possessions, our security, our reputation, and other earthly things, we reveal that what we value most is in heaven. What we treasure reveals the shape of our heart.
But how does our joy enter this conversation? Joy is ultimately what Jesus is pointing to when he talks about our heart. In the Bible, the human heart isn’t (exclusively) an organ that pumps blood through the body. The Bible views the human heart as the center of a person’s loves, as the thing that defines what we delight in and enjoy. Thus, when Jesus says, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, he is saying, whatever you value in life will determine the joy you experience in life.
This is how Jesus exposes the empty fragility that trust in worldly things produces. Worldly things aren’t intrinsically bad, according to Jesus. (Notice, he doesn’t say destroy your possessions, in verse 33, he says sell your possessions. Jesus wouldn’t instruct you to foist upon someone else something that was inherently evil.) Trust in worldly things is the problem, a problem that robs us of joy. Earthly things are vulnerable. They can be lost, and stolen, and destroyed. If what you trust in or value is vulnerable, then your joy will be vulnerable, as well. If what you trust in or value can be lost, stolen, or destroyed, then your joy will always be equally susceptible to those same afflictions. But if your treasure is secure, your joy will be secure, as well. If what you value is eternal, if it is held in moneybags that do not grow old or where no thief approaches and no moth destroys, then your joy will be, as 1 Peter says, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:3).
What a good father we have! Through the perfect, finished work of Christ, he has given us his kingdom. At his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Let us treasure those gifts above all else. They will lead us into a joy that can never be shaken.