Here it is:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So, like many older people I’ve got some savings in the bank, which I won’t spend because they are to be kept to pay for any care which my wife and I may need before we get the last bus. There is no doubt that is this respect the state is finding it increasingly difficult to provide, even in this blessed land of Scotland where free personal care is promised to those who need it. It seems obvious to me therefore that those who are able to do so, should put as much of their own money as possible into making provision for themselves. I realise also that I wouldn’t have as much saved as I do, were it not for a legacy from my late uncle.
There it is, in the bank, earning hardly any interest, kept safe for a rainy day. I am in no way obsessed with it, but as a naturally anxious person, with a strong desire to look after my wife, it comforts me. Yes, I know this is a comfort that many people cannot enjoy, and I am committed politically to a more equal society, but I feel justified in holding on to this loot.
Now here comes Jesus talking about how God will give me his kingdom, whatever that is, and I’ll have treasure in heaven! I do wish he’d been more careful about promises which seem to have no factual basis! What about the genuinely poor Christian pensioners who have to choose between heating and food? Does treasure in heaven do them much good, as they starve and shiver?
But when I start protesting that my heart bleeds for these victims of our system, Jesus tells me that actually my heart is where my treasure is: heart and treasure, go together. He suggests that my “heartfelt” concern for the poor is hogwash, and that my commitment to God’s kingdom of justice, is vitiated by my commitment to comfort in old age. Of course I want to say that it all depends on my attitude to our savings. I am not a mean spirited person, but rather generous to people in need from the Big Issue seller outside the supermarket, to a slew of local and international charities. The things I love are not material, but social, like The Green Party, cultural, like poetry, natural, like mountains and spiritual, like the church. Jesus doesn’t argue with all that, but simply repeats that where my treasure is, there my heart will be also.
I protest that politics, art, and mountains, not to mention my church community, are my treasures. Jesus just asks, “And your savings, they’re not treasure and your heart is not with them?” Then I say he’s being unreasonable for I can truly say that I would much prefer to pay more tax so that the state could provide properly for all elderly people including us. “Ah yes, “ he says, ‘but we cannot wait until the state becomes just. We can build communities of heaven within the world as it is. That’s what I asked my disciples to do, and they did it. I don’t like telling you to read the Bible, but try Acts chapter 2, for a description of a church where nobody went without, because everybody shared. Whose fault is it that you cannot trust your church to do the same?”
I realise that Jesus was always more concerned with the possession of wealth, than with the attitudes people said they had towards it. This is so different from any other view of wealth, that I can be confident few of my fellow believers will condemn me for my old-age savings. Still, it niggles, as perhaps Jesus meant it to do:
Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.