The poor in the gospel of Luke (iv)

This is the fourth part of a series looking at how Luke deals with the subjects of the poor and poverty.

“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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

The last sentence has been on my mind for a few days, but some general thoughts on the passage before I get to it.

The verse on the poor comes in the middle of a section of teaching by Jesus. He has been teaching about hypocrisy, remaining faithful to him in the midst of persecution, through words and actions. Jesus has also warned about greed (it comes just after Jesus was asked to arbitrate in a family argument over inheritance). His response it to think of heavenly security rather than earthly security. Therefore his hearers are not to worry about material security in this life as God will provide (they’ve already been promised the kingdom). Instead he says, sell your possessions and give to the poor. This is the ultimate sign of dependence and trust in God. Make your priorities the same as God’s, which includes caring for the poor. Priorities like this result in treasure that will not perish.

However, the emphasis in this passage seems to be on the attitudes of the giver, rather than the poor who will receive.

As I said, verse 34 has been on my mind for a few days (it is also in Matthew 6), even before it came up in my study notes – where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I have read it many times, but have read it in the way that if you look to see where your money/time/treasure is going, you can see where the true motives of your heart are. i.e. the location of your treasure explains where your heart is.

However, I think you can also read it the other way around. the verse says ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. So, the action of putting your treasure in certain places influences the direction of you heart. I suppose an investment is going to be looked after and followed. So investing in places such as, say, the poor, or in Christian mission then means you are more likely to follow what is going on in those areas. The interest is sparked by the investment. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

So, I could argue that if you want to be more passionate about the poor, give (time or money) to charities that serve the poor. If you want to be more passionate about Christian mission, give to Christian mission, if you want to be more passionate about changing God’s church, give to it and get involved. Most people want to se a return on your investment. Your heart will be invested in it.

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