Captain Jack Sparrow is not only a surprisingly clever pirate; he’s also a surprising judge of character. He tells young William Turner that he’s on his way to being a pirate because he, among other things, is “completely obsessed with treasure.” Will balks at this, only to have Jack wisely respond, “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.”
The truth is we’re all completely obsessed with treasure. We’re actually wired that way. God designed us to be active worshipers, and treasure is simply shorthand for the object of our worship. Since our hearts are always actively worshiping something, they’re not neutral; nor do they accidentally stumble into worship. They choose it. And, as Captain Jack points out, treasure is far more than just material wealth. For this reason, the Sage of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) Likewise, Jesus warns that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The question I want you to think about today is, Where is your treasure? To answer, carefully ponder three questions and invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.
- What makes you happy?
Think about the times when you are the happiest. Or, perhaps, what you look forward to the most. When are you the most content and peaceful? What automatically brings a smile to your face? What events or occasions are non-negotiable in your life? What is your favorite part of your day? Don’t feel guilty if every single answer wasn’t Jesus. James tells us that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” God, the Giver of the gifts you enjoy, gives them to us for our delight. However, because our hearts have been perverted by sin, we often take the good gifts from our loving Father and make them objects of our worship rather than reasons to worship the Giver. To assess whether these good gifts have become your treasure, we’re going to need a couple more questions.
- What makes you angry?
I’m not just talking about times when you’ve blown your stack (though those would certainly qualify). What frustrates you during the day? When do you find yourself muttering under your breath or rolling your eyes? What circumstances find you biting your tongue? Or when do you forget to bite it and say exactly what you were thinking? When do you need to “vent” to a friend?
It’s typically pretty easy to justify our angry responses. We can almost always find a way to call our anything-but-righteous anger “righteous.” You might excuse your verbal outburst because the person at whom you lashed out sinned against you first. That’s possible, but are you angry at the sin? Or are you angry because your treasure was touched? Did they violate your agenda? Did they upset your “me time”? Did they interrupt your nice quiet drive to work? Did they touch your pride? Did they inconvenience you? I know from personal experience that my anger almost always stems from my treasure being violated, not from righteous indignation over an offense against God.
Anger leads us straight to our treasure. Jesus’ brother James explains it this way:
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:1-2)
These verses teach us that when our “lusts” (deep desires, or, treasures) are not obtained or are in jeopardy, we get angry. So, if you want to find your treasure, follow your anger. As you think about scenarios in which you’ve gotten angry recently, you may see a pattern emerge. Perhaps you tend toward anger every time your plans go awry, or maybe it’s when your finances are touched in an unforeseen way. Or maybe it’s when you don’t get the attention or approval you think you deserve. The pattern you see is pointing you straight to your treasure.
3. What do you fear?
I’m not necessarily talking about snakes, spiders, or clowns here. Maybe another way to ask the question is, What do you worry about? Or, What would you do anything to avoid? You see, we’re all a bit neurotic when it comes to our treasures. We do whatever it takes to keep them safe. We manipulate circumstances to the best of our ability to ensure that our treasure isn’t touched, and if (when) our illusion of control is shattered—we get angry. (See question 2.) Our worst nightmares are likely good indicators of our treasure. Now, you may be thinking, “But my worst nightmare is something happening to one of my kids. That’s not sinful, is it?” Well, first let me say, I hope not because that’s one of my fears as well. Maybe an illustration will help us here.
A few weeks ago, as my husband was showering after getting home late and I was getting ready for bed, our 8-month-old son woke up, struggling to breathe. I raced into his room and got him calmed down and tried to decide whether to take him to the ER. Since he had caught his breath and seemed to be doing fine, we decided not to take him in. We eventually got some Vicks wafting through the air, and our baby was sleeping (and breathing) just fine—though a bit snottily. I went to bed, but I was nervous to go to sleep. What if he cried, and I slept through it, or he stopped breathing and I wasn’t in there? I checked on him one more time, and eventually had to recognize that I was no more in control that night than the nights when I eagerly lay my head on the pillow. My fears certainly reveal my treasure—my adorable baby boy. However, when I was able to surrender my fear to my heavenly Father, I also submitted my treasure to Him; and, in that moment at least, my heart chose to worship the sovereign God rather than gift He’s graciously given me.
The answer, then, is to think about what you do with your fears. Can you submit them to the One who is really in control? Or do you stubbornly grip your illusory control, thinking you know best? Your response to fear indicates whether what you love is also what you worship.
Treasure occupies your heart. I hope you’ve allowed the Spirit of God to search your heart through these questions and reveal patterns of worship in your life that must be expelled. Now what? In answer, I’ll leave you with a few more verses from James, an inspired text on how to deal with the idolatrous treasure in our hearts:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)