Treasure Hunting that Matters
When I was about eight years old, my parents rented a house on an apple orchard. My brother, cousins, and I loved to explore the orchard. One of our favorite activities (when mom was away) was an apple war. An apple war was a no-holds-barred, every man for himself, dodgeball style assault with apples used in place of soft rubber balls. We would scale the trees looking for artillery. The weapons of choice were “bruisers” (large unripe apples) or “stingers” (ping-pong-ball-sized baby apples). We would mercilessly rain fire (apples) down on opponents in destructive joy.
One thing we never did was climb fruitless trees. They were poor tactical selections. What good is an empty weapons stash? Furthermore, their fortifications were lacking. Those trees were generally dead and frail, and we were more likely to fall out of the tree. We would either be foiled by a broken branch or exposed to incoming fire in our leafless shelter. Even as a naïve eight-year-old, I recognized the difference between a healthy and diseased tree. One was flourishing and fruitful, while the other was destitute. There was a clear connection between fruit production and tree health.
Jesus used that same observation to teach his disciples the relationship between our hearts and our words/deeds. During his lesson, he described the ideal conduct of a disciple. A genuine disciple will love his enemies, emulate heavenly mercy, and show humility in his judgments. In Luke 6:45, our May memory verse, he summarized the principle this way:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Similar to the produce of a fruit tree, our words and deeds indicate a lot about what is ruling our hearts.
Checking Our Treasuries
Jesus says that these good or evil words come from the “treasure” of the heart. If you have ever seen a pirate or dragon movie, you get the image. The pirate hides his treasure in a chest and buries it down deep so no one else can find it. The dragon hides it in a cave and stands guard over it lest someone steal it. The picture is that of a storehouse filled with one’s most precious valuables. Such is the state of our hearts. Deep in their fortified walls, we hide our most precious treasures—our thoughts, intentions, desires, and values. Everything we say and do is in the interest of our treasure. Thus, if we cherish God and store his precepts in our hearts, we will inevitably do good. Likewise, the inverse is true. Consider these words from the psalter:
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.
Psalm 119: 158-159
I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
Cleansing Our Treasuries
The scriptural testimony is unquestionable. Hearts that treasure God command that their members do his will, while hearts that cherish other things command wicked actions. However, we must resist the urge to self-righteously judge others for their actions. That would miss Jesus’ point entirely. Instead, it gives us a framework for data gathering—first for ourselves and then with others.
When we dive deep into our hearts, we face a sobering reality. We all have filthy treasuries filled with evil desires. None of us love God perfectly. Often, we are hypocrites that scold our brother for his splinter, while casually overlooking our sequoia. Our treasuries need purifying. Our hearts need cleansing. Thankfully, God sent Jesus, whose saving work has made it possible for us to have transformed hearts. One day, he will totally cleanse our dirty storehouses. Until then, he walks alongside us as we stumble through life, trying to live like genuine disciples. In the meantime, we labor to be those who hear our savior’s words and do them.
How do we do this? We search our treasuries. Look into your life and ask yourself, when do my actions demonstrate that I am treasuring something other than God? Do not stop there. You will find that moments of surprise are the best tools for evaluation. C.S. Lewis aptly illustrated this truth,
On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
What are you treasuring? Ask God to help you find your cheap treasure and exchange it for the priceless jewel of knowing him.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 7, “Let’s Pretend.”