The things not found in things

We’re three days into my daily series from the book of the Bible called ‘Matthew’ (named after the guy who wrote it), on what you and I can learn from Jesus’ life of simplicity. Jesus drew away to study and pray, then came down the mountain to build a team. We saw the willingness of his new students to drop everything and follow him, rejecting possessions, career, and family.

In today’s passage, Jesus is teaching. We call his first and largest lesson the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ It can be found in chapters 5-7 of the book of Matthew. If you read nothing else of Jesus’ words, please, I beg you, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

These chapters contain the entire message of Christianity but moreover, they outline Jesus’ plan for living an awesome life. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ magnum opus. I beg you, read Matt 5-7. Today, though, I’m only going to talk about one verse, one quote from Jesus’ sermon—it happens to be his opening statement:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)

I wrote an in-depth study of Matthew 5:3 several weeks ago. I won’t reblog the whole thing here, but let me share a couple of ideas from that post. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The word ‘blessed’ means ‘happy’ in Jesus’ language. Jesus is saying, “You’ll be happy when you recognize you need God.” As someone might be financially broke, Jesus says we can be spiritually broke. Only, Jesus recommends spiritual poverty to us in a way that no financial advisor might recommend bankruptcy—Jesus says that it is better to be spiritually humbled and empty than full of the wrong things in your heart.

We know from the Apostle Paul that a healthy spirit produces the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How can we be full of those good things when our hearts are so full of the opposite? of hate, resentment, violence, impatience, spitefulness, meanness, laziness, abusiveness, and greed? To be poor in spirit is to empty oneself of those awful traits and in humility reject them.

As we’ll see throughout the book of Matthew, Jesus often refers to the kingdom of God as a precious treasure. Jesus urges us to see that our current treasures—our homes, cars, jewelry, wristwatches, rare collectibles, our granite countertops, and all the latest gadgets—are all fleeting. They have no value to us after we die.

He says in Matthew 6 that we should store up treasures where thieves cannot break in and steal them and where moths cannot destroy them. Heavenly treasures. We can’t do this without first recognizing that apart from God we are nothing and have nothing.

More than any possession on earth, I’d like lasting and abiding joy. A deep sense of well-being that isn't unseated by circumstance. Peace with God. Peace in my home. Freedom from restlessness and anxiety. Those are things that aren’t found in things.

You know this by now—the car will break down. It loses value the moment you drive it off the lot. The watch scratches. Its hands slowly tick with less and less accuracy as years go by. It tarnishes, the shine fades. Houses slowly fall apart. The granite countertops you coveted last year are out of season now and everyone's buying marble. Even financial security can be gone in an instant—look at 1931. Look at 2008. Look at the bitcoin burst.

The kingdom of God is something we can aspire to that won’t depreciate, won’t fade, won’t wear or scratch. Thieves can’t steal treasures we lay up there. The treasures of God’s kingdom are unseen treasures. They're loving relationships, whole families, warm and welcoming friendships.

It's a happy home, an abiding joy, peacefulness and calm instead of restlessness and anxiety, acts of kindness, patience in the painful circumstances, gentleness with those in our care, self-control in frustration or in temptation to sin. Those are the treasures of heaven.

There are passages of Scripture that suggest that these unseen things might even be our currency in the life to come. Don’t you want to be rich in those things?