“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
Growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch the TV show The Simpsons and for good reason, but there was a clip that I had seen one time that always stuck with me and my siblings. In the scene, the hopelessly clueless little boy named Ralph gets his one and only Valentine in his second grade class from Lisa Simpson who gives him the card out of sheer pity. The card had a picture of a train that was surrounded by hearts and said “I Choo Choo Choose You.” Ralph was smitten at this thought and carried that card around like an indelible promise.
That scene has become a long running joke in my family, to the point where we each try and find one of those cards on Valentine’s Day to send to one another. But when I got older and actually watched the full episode there was, of course, a moral to the story. Essentially, Lisa learned she couldn’t just say something was a priority when it really wasn’t.
This is something I am confronted with on a regular basis in my wedding photography business. People often tell me they can’t afford me and then when they publish photos from their wedding, their spending simply shows they had other priorities. It’s not a bad thing, people choose what they want but it hurts a little to feel lied to because the truth is, they chose not to afford me. However, without honestly looking at their priorities they were also lying to themselves.
We do this all the time with our lives and our faith. When people ask us to write down the top priorities in our lives we know exactly what we should write down. The list often looks like this: “God, family, work, relaxation, reading, exercise…” But for many of us if we broke down a list of how we spend both our time and money the list would look much different. For me it would probably look like “Work, coffee, sleep, Netflix, family, TV, money, money, money…”
A few weeks ago, Noah spoke on the need for honest, sober self-assessment in our churches so we can be honest about what we’re bad at so we can work on those things. However somewhere along the line we have agreed to believe the lie that we aren’t allowed to be bad at anything, ever. We have bought into the culture that says you can succeed at anything you put your mind (and money and time and self-esteem) to. Friends, we cannot afford, literally and figuratively, to give in to the idea that if you’re good at one thing you must be good at everything.
Once we can agree that we will never be master of everything, we can begin to understand how our choices affect our priorities and we can stop lying to ourselves and others about what we do or do not have the time, money or energy for. When the curtains of marketing and marginalization have been pulled back I cannot honestly say I don’t have time to read the Bible, or spend time in prayer or devotion. I choose not to spend my time with the Lord. I have no excuse, no feasible defense but thank God I have a defender who bids me come despite my lack of justification.
In 1835 Charlotte Elliot wrote down the following hymn:
Just as I am, without one plea But still Thy blood was shed for me And that Thou bidst me come to Thee O Lamb of God, I come, I come
The invitation is always to abandon the burden of always needing an excuse and instead, without one plea, to simply come. Christ taught his followers that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, if you treasure time or money or influence, the way you spend those things will be evidence of your priorities. If you, honestly, treasure the presence and Word of the Creator of the Universe, your priority list will be easy and probably won’t include binge watching Orange is the New Black.
Ali can be reached via email here.