‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The words of Jesus present a stark challenge to the consumerism that drives modern society. We cannot dismiss these words as a counsel of perfection intended only for those called to vows of poverty within religious communities. Jesus recognised the fundamental insecurity that characterises sinful humanity.
We treasure anything that promises security in a fearful world. Our attitudes are frequently dominated by the desire to satisfy empty lives with the trappings of success. We crave possessions, influence and recognition as a distraction from a restlessness that can never be satisfied.
We cannot escape the challenge that Jesus presents. In the humility of prayer we are invited to discern the inclinations of the heart and, in a spirit of true poverty, to abandon everything that threatens our trust in God. Poverty of spirit does not come easily. We are reluctant to abandon even the most superficial props to an accustomed life style. Jesus made such demands only from the reassurance of what we already possess.
“There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.”
Only the kingdom of God answers the true longings of the heart. In that kingdom we are loved, understood and forgiven. In that kingdom we are freed from destructive selfishness so as to love each other with sincerity. It is for us to choose where our treasure lies, to repent of the many dependencies that take us away from that kingdom.
Our decision must become the attitude of a lifetime rather than the inclination of the moment. Jesus illustrated this with the parables of the servants waiting for the return of the bridegroom and the steward entrusted with the household during his master’s absence.
We tend to interpret these parables as a warning against a sudden and unprovided death. While we should not eliminate this dimension from these parables, we should acknowledge that they are directed at the attitudes that govern our daily lives.
We, to whom the Kingdom of the Father has already been entrusted, must live each moment of our lives in the grace of that kingdom. When we adopt one set of values for daily living, and another set of values for matters of faith, we are like the servants who forgot the bridegroom as soon as he departed, like the steward who neglected the household during his master’s absence. The truth is that God’s kingdom is present in every moment of our lives. Through our attitudes, we sometimes choose to ignore God’s presence.
The Letter to the Hebrews catalogues the great heroes of faith who chose to live every moment in the presence of God. Although Abraham was called from the security of familiar surroundings, he lived his life in the presence of God. He trusted that God, rather than the security of possessions, would become his salvation.
His wife Sarah, though advanced in years, trusted that God would enable her to become the mother of countless generations. We are all called to the poverty that is willing to surrender cherished hopes, to live every moment in the presence of a God who knows and redeems our true need.