If you start with the story of a guy who can never remember where he puts things…like his house keys…you might come to one conclusion.
“Come on, dude…again…where is your head?”
If you start with the story of a guy who wrote a masterpiece symphony while he was deaf…you might come to a different conclusion.
“Wow, what a genius…what a mind!”
But it is the same person…Beethoven…who wrote his 9th Symphony while he was deaf…and frequently misplaced common things like his house keys.
There is a well-documented thinking trap called “anchoring.”
For instance, if you ask a group of people if Gandhi was more than 114 when he died, they will consistently guess a higher number than if you ask another group of people if he was more than 35 when he died.
You can anchor people’s thinking…and in so doing, influence their conclusions.
By the way he was 70.
We tend to believe that we are completely “free and rational” in our choices…but this is way too much self-confidence.
There is a huge amount of solid evidence that we are all susceptible to bad thinking…which can lead to mental, relational, spiritual, and physical problems.
Things none of us want for ourselves…or our children or friends.
There are a number of documented thinking traps or errors…but the most serious, and often overlooked one is sin.
Our thinking has been affected by human rebellion against God.
We can hold on to the illusion that all our thoughts are correct…few of them are influenced by media, selfish desires, current perceptions of past experience.
We will continually have problems….if we embrace what Proverbs call “folly”…or too much “self-trust”
But what are we to do if we conclude, rightly…that we are not as objective, or rational, or smart as we think we are?
We can do what Proverbs repeatedly encourages us to do…be humble, be teachable, and turn continually to God’s word and others for correction and direction in our thinking, feeling, believing, and living.
When we do this…life goes better for us.
That’s the question Proverbs asks us… “Do you want life to go better?”
You would think that all people would answer… “of course I do!”
And in fact, virtually all people would answer that question in the affirmative.
But Proverbs asks a follow -on question…
“Then who will you trust…yourself or God (his wisdom)?”
That is where humanity breaks onto different paths…God’s path (wisdom), another path human(folly).
The current events that we face are of huge importance…COVID, social unrest, political decisions.
But this has always been the case…current events are always of great importance to humans alive during those events.
We tend to believe that OUR current issues are always the most important, the most impactful in all of human history.
Lewis called this “chronological snobbery.”
The challenge is to continually turn our minds to eternal things even as we try to live faithfully in the midst of current events.
So…let’s let God’s word reframe our thinking once again…let us anchor us in truth.
Let’s turn our attention from current events (as important as they are) to eternal realities…which when rightly understood and embraced…directly impact our ability to wisely relate to current events.
I said last week that Proverbs (the Bible at large) is designed to reframe our thinking, feeling, speaking, believing, and living.
We are often seeing life, ourselves, God, and others in one way.
Then God speaks through his word and we see those things in a completely different…and correct way.
Or at least we can if we will.
So, Jesus frequently said “For him who has ears to hear.”
He was not, of course, referring to ear drums being able to respond to sound waves…but hearts being open to responding to the truth.
Look at Proverbs 11:4…a single, powerful, reframing verse.
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 11:4
The day of wrath here means the day of our death.
Wealth is worthless when the day of death comes.
Righteousness is infinitely valuable on that day…therefore, it is of greatest value on every other day of our lives.
Here we see a compare and contrast…the importance of wealth vs righteousness
It is a reframing what is of real value.
What matters most at the end matters most now.
At the end of your life…wealth won’t matter most…in fact it will be worthless
Righteousness (relationship with God) will…it will be preference
So, the inference is…wealth doesn’t matter most now…relationship with God does.
Wealth is not just referring to what we would call the “wealthy”
The word “Wealth” used here can also mean “sufficiency”…resources of any kind.
What we use to trade for the things we want is “wealth”
Wealth is the power to do things, buy things…make certain things happen in life.
Wealth can buy influence, pleasure, certain kinds of security, certain kinds of freedom.
But it is worthless to keep us from death…and it is worthless in the day of death.
Look at Proverbs 12:28…a similar verse without the negative parallelism.
“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” 12:28
There are three different words used for “path” here.
So literally it would read. “The path of the righteous is life…and the path of that pathway is not death.”
Here’s the point… “This is the ultimate way of life…the journey of all journeys.”
What is promised to the righteous is eternal life with God.
This is what all humans would want if they only understood their true heart’s desires and real need.
This the path of all paths….like a huge spotlight and a sign…WALK HERE!
So back to 11:4
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 11:4
Wealth/power/intelligence…none of these resources will keep you from death…or take you through death.
The Pharaohs and others were buried with riches to pay their way through the afterlife…the treasure did not travel with them.
A president of a large corporation once jokingly said of my dad about a CEO… “You can’t take it with you but Roger will bring it to him.”
He was joking but he shouldn’t have been…he wasn’t taking the reality seriously with his words or his life.
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath.
But righteousness (right standing before God) will deliver you from (through) death.
Righteousness alone has the power to take us through death to life.
Let’s go the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12…listen to Jesus masterfully reframe perspective
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”.
-“I don’t know the facts of your situation…my role is not to decide civic cases”-
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
-Tragically these brothers were fighting over an inheritance…and Jesus went for the heart of the issue…not who was entitled to what…but the utter foolishness of trading relationship with God and others for “stuff.”
Trading what matters most for what won’t matter at all in the end…
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! (fool is a description of this man, not a verbal put down) This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
-So, the guy is planning his retirement strategy (nothing wrong with that)…except he had planned God out of all it….he had made life all about himself….
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
-That is Proverbs 11:4, Jesus style… “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
Then he went it deeper with his students, his disciples.
He followed the parable, story with a point…with a compelling reframing of a right vision of life…a challenge to wrap their hearts around the kingdom of God.
Before I read…the kingdom of God in the NT is the “reign of Jesus in the hearts of his people.”
His rule in our hearts is reflected in how we live our lives…it is reflected in our thinking, speaking, spending, relationships…every aspect of our lives.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore(in light of this) I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
– His first direct application…stop worrying about your life…STOP DOING THAT.
Worry is seen in our running(mentally, emotionally, actually) FROM the things we fear and running TO the things we think we must have to really live.
-If we run from the same things that non-believers run from
-And if we run towards the same things that non-believers run towards.
*Then something is out of order inside our hearts.
“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
-Pagan world is not derogatory but descriptive term…the people who do not know the living God personally.
-How can God’s people run from and run after the very things that those who don’t know God run from and after?
“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
-As you read the gospels and the rest of the NT…you see that this is not a command for Jesus’ followers to sell everything and give it away
It is a challenge to be ready to do so…if the Lord gives the order…it is about a heart free from the love of stuff…and full of love God for God and others.
All of this…is reframing what is valuable…
Started with a man who thought it made sense to fight with his own family over some inheritance….Jesus is addressing how twisted his heart had become.
How far from the path of life he was traveling.
Then the classic life reframing verse…
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 12:34
This is a subtle verbal shift…switching the place of two words.
Not “where your heart is, there your treasure will be”
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be”
But it’s not just semantics…word games…the difference in practice changes everything in how we live our lives.
In weddings I commonly contrast a fickle point of reference (cultural perspective) with a biblical fixed point of reference.
To navigate life, you need points of reference and these must be fixed to be useful.
One of these contrasts (which is an attempt to reframe) is between the commonly believed idea that “Love keeps commitment alive”
And the truth that “Commitment keeps love alive”
Those who focus on their love (not their commitment)…are much more likely to break their commitment…and lose their love.
Those who focus on their commitment are much more likely to grow in their love and stay committed.
In particular a commitment focus allows couples to endure temporary tough patches(when they are not “feeling” the love)…and move to new and higher levels of love and relationship.
These couples…who keep their commitment…record very high levels of personal satisfaction with their marriage relationship over time.
A “love” focus rather than a “commitment” focus…often defines love down to “feelings”…and when those feelings fail the love is gone
If you nurture your commitment then you nurture your love.
Back to Luke 12:34. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus is saying…you get to choose who or what you have a heart for by choosing who or what you invest in.
It is true that “I invest in who and what I have a heart for.”
We do pour money, time, effort into the things and people we love.
But how do we come to love those people or things?
By pouring investment into them in the first place.
So, as an example… “A man invests in a woman…then he gets a heart for her…then he invests in her because he has heart for her.”
Heart follows investment…then investment follows heart.
Then for a variety of reasons he begins to invest in another woman and gets a heart for her…and starts making his best investments there…now his heart is fully gone to her.
If you ask him, and I have before “Why did you do this?”
He will say “I didn’t mean for it happen, I couldn’t help it, I just fell out of love and into love.”
No, you fall into folly…you move decisively into wisdom.
I’ve said in response… “No ,you changed your investments (gave her your time, thoughts, emotions)…and now your heart has followed…you can change again if you would choose to.”
Do you want a heart for the things that matter most? God and people.
Then invest your life in those things (life meaning…treasure, resources)
Your heart will follow your investment.
If you want a heart for things, career, applause of people, money…then make sure your best efforts, energy, thoughts…go to those things.
If you want a heart for self-preservation, for self-justification, for self period…then make sure your best investments go to yourself.
YOUR HEART WILL OBEY YOUR INVESTMENTS.
You get to decide where your heart goes…because God has given you a will that can choose your investments.
This is why people can come to love sports more than their kids, video games more than life itself, money more than relationships…safety more than impact.
There are some biological/brain realities in play in all this…but none the less…we can choose our investments…so we can choose who or what we learn to love.
It is no accident or random occurrence that determines the things that matter the most to us.
What has come to be most valuable to me, to you, to everyone…is directly in line with what we have invested our time, treasure, talents…our thoughts, emotions, efforts in.
Back to the brother at the start of this passage…he wanted Jesus to lend his considerable wisdom and authority to make the case that his brother should “give up some of that money!”
That brother was in a fight with his brother over money because he had allowed his heart to fall in love with money…more than his own brother.
Now that brother lived in a fully upside-down world…a world where some inheritance was worth more than relationship with his family…that, Jesus would say…is CRAZY.
Jesus didn’t ask… “Tell me the situation, what are the facts of the case and I’ll offer my opinion.”
He said, in essence… “I don’t care about that and neither should you…your heart is upside down.”
Back to Proverbs with this gospel perspective:
“Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death”
Let’s take this eternal reframing and get a perspective on our lives now:
What matters most at the end matters most now
-What will matter most at the end will be relationship with God and others…righteousness.
-Working, saving, planning…all this is good and encouraged in Proverbs as signs of the wise life.
-But working, saving, planning is all to be done on the foundation of the “Fear of the Lord”
-We are plan God into all of it…we are to plan love for others into all of it.
The rich man in the parable was not wrong for being rich…he was wrong because he was ONLY rich in stuff and not “rich towards God.”
He did not have stuff…stuff had him.
God’s people can have stuff…Proverbs says accumulation of resources follows godly wisdom.
But God, not stuff, HAS his people’s hearts.
“Terry…this isn’t practical…what do I do with all this?”
It is enormously practical.
Nothing is more practical than guarding your heart…choosing what you allow your own heart to love and value.
Two people…externally making the same choices…internally going different directions…over time…two very different kinds of people will emerge.
And over time…external choices will diverge as well…as the inside starts showing up on the outside.
You may very well do the exact things you are doing now if God were to fully capture your affections…but the result in what happens to your life over time would be totally different than if he had not.
Above all else guard your heart…is the well spring of all of life.
Wisdom is not just doing things…wisdom is becoming something…we are being shaped, formed inside out…by our heart and life choices.
I have opinions about COVID, social unrest, political choices…but I have convictions about how we are to treat one another in all of it.
I have core convictions about what our relationships with others should look like.
I have core convictions about what I want my own heart to become and to love as I grow older…and someday…die.
Seek first the Kingdom (in all your current events)
Where your treasure is your heart will be also (no matter what is happening around you…you can decide where your heart is moving)
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
(what matters most at the end, matters most now)
Let the Word of God reframe your thinking and living.