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Where your treasure is

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Pentecost 9 – 2022 Luke 12:32-34 Marian Free

In the name of God, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver. Amen.

I have read Herbert and Harry by Pamela Allan so often that I almost know it by heart. It is a tale of two brothers who lived together, farmed together, and fished together until one day when fishing they pulled up a chest full of treasure. “It’s mine,” said Herbert, “I pulled it up.” “It’s mine,” said Harry, “I cast the net here”. Then Herbert pushed Harry and Harry fell – into the sea. Harry who was a strong swimmer, made it safely to shore while Henry rowed as hard as he could and as far as he could until he reached a lonely piece of shore. Then he started to walk. Herbert wanted to get as far away from Harry as he could. Finally, he lay down to sleep but even though it was dark, and he was very tired, he could not sleep. “What if Harry came and stole the treasure while he slept?” So, he pushed the treasure under the roots of a tree, but he still could not sleep: “What if someone had seen him put it there?”

So, Herbert decided to go far away to the highest mountain in the land and hide the treasure under some rocks, but still, he could not sleep. “What if someone had followed him?” So, he dug a hole deep into the mountain, pushed the treasure in and rolled a huge stone across the entrance. But still, he could not sleep. “What if someone forced him to tell where the treasure was?” He needed guns, lots of guns, but guns were not enough, he began to build a fort. All this took many, many years.

Now, Herbert and Harry are very old men. Herbert still guards his treasure on the top of the highest mountain in the land, but still, he cannot sleep. While Harry, who had no treasure has always been able to sleep.

“Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

We are all a bit like Herbert – anxious to hold on to what we have, worried that someone might take it from us, concerned that we will not get by without it. We try to separate ourselves from those who might have designs on our possessions. In places like Cape Town or Port Morseby those who have something to protect build high walls around their homes and top them with barbed wire. They employ armed guards to ensure that no one can get in and steal. Even in Australia where the threat is not so great, people are busy installing security lights, cameras, and alarms to deter anyone from coming in. Gated communities keep the right people in and the wrong people out. As the story illustrates, alarms, guns and walls are only temporary solutions. Ultimately they exaggerate, rather than diminish our anxiety. Walls and security guards are constant reminders of our what we have to lose, they are a visible symptom of our fear and insecurity. At the same time, they are an indication of how dependent we are on our belongings for our sense of security and well-being – they reassure us that we will have enough for tomorrow, they give us a means by which we can measure ourselves against others and sometimes they are a sign of how far we have come.

And to what end? – possessions can end up possessing us and walls designed to keep us safe hem us in. What is more, our physical treasures are finite and they are vulnerable to loss and decay. As recent events have reminded us, it does not matter what measures we put in place to protect what we own, nothing will keep them safe from fire or flood or other natural disaster. However high our barriers, however extensive our security – those who really want to breach our defences can find ways to do so. However long our life, it will come to an end and no matter how much we have amassed we cannot take it with us.

Thankfully there are treasures that cannot be measured, treasures that are free for the asking and which do not need walls to contain them, because they cannot be contained. Intangible treasures like love, joy, faith, generosity, selfless and hope are imperishable and are designed to endure for eternity. These treasures do not need walls. Indeed, walls would be wasted, because these treasures have no boundaries. They are limitless and they flow outward from those who possess them without being diminished no matter how widely they are shared.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In her children’s book, Pamela Allan, highlights Herbert’s wasted life. In his desire to protect his treasure he locks himself away, forgoing relationships and experiences which might have enriched his life. Harry, on the other hand, grows old on his farm with wife, children, and grandchildren. In the end, it is Harry – the one without the treasure – who is the richer of the two.

It is possible to spend an entire lifetime amassing wealth and possessions and in building bigger and “safer” fortresses to protect them but in so doing we become so focussed on ourselves and what we have and so anxious about losing it, that we miss out on the enjoyment we might have had from spreading our good fortune with others.

Immediately prior to today’s gospel Jesus has told his disciples: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Walls that keep others out also keep out God. Relying on our possessions prevents us from learning that we can place our trust in God. Prioritising our earthly treasures prevents us benefiting from heavenly treasures which are already ours for the asking and which nothing and no one can take from us.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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