Make me a little less crooked, please!
"What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains." (Tennessee Williams) Williams sure hit that one square on the head, didn't he? The human heart is probably one of the most "un-straight" things in this world! Jesus said to his disciples one day as they were considering their heart's affections that the human heart can be found in the same locale as one's greatest treasures. "Some people store up treasures in their homes here on earth. This is a shortsighted practice—don’t undertake it. Moths and rust will eat up any treasure you may store here. Thieves may break into your homes and steal your precious trinkets. Instead, put up your treasures in heaven where moths do not attack, where rust does not corrode, and where thieves are barred at the door. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 VOICE) In considering the human heart, Jesus undertakes to explain a few things our hearts struggle with on a pretty regular basis. In considering these things this morning, let's just reflect upon how he develops this conversation with his disciples.
- No one can serve two masters. If you try, you will wind up loving the first master and hating the second, or vice versa. People try to serve both God and money—but you can’t. You must choose one or the other. (vs. 24) As he winds down the discussion about the "curvature of the human heart", Jesus reminds us of the tendency of the heart to think it can juggle more than one focus in this life. It is as though we think we can dabble a little in this or that, then stay on track with the path of righteousness we are asked to walk, but in reality there is but one focus we can truthfully maintain. We might keep a lot of stuff in our "periphery", but that should never be Jesus! Just sayin!
- But when you do these righteous acts, do not do them in front of spectators. (vs. 1) It was the custom of the religious of the day to make a "show" of giving to the poor, showing how much they gave in the offering at church, and the like. It was as though they wanted their "good works" to show as a sign of their "true devotion" - but all the while their heart was betraying them, revealing the underlying pride at the center of their actions. As Jesus begins this discussion, he reminds us how "curved" our heart can become toward taking center-stage. If left to our own devices, we might all just have to admit we want to be noticed when we do "good stuff", but as Jesus said, that "notice" we receive from our fellow man will become our only reward. God rewards in secret - when the heart connection is made between him and us, secretly showing us how very much he is pleased with us and drawing us even closer to him.
- Your prayers need not be labored or lengthy or grandiose—for your Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him. (vs. 8) When the heart is curved toward the wrong "bent" in life, our prayers can be anything from hollow to self-seeking. They can become a "chore" we undertake, rather than a place of connection with God himself. We may not know this, but our prayers reveal more about our heart's focus than we may actually realize. If our prayers are a burden and a laborious task we undertake, they may reveal we have wandered a little too far from the heart of Jesus. If they are "big and wordy and kind of lofty", they may reveal we either don't feel comfortable talking with Jesus, or that we are still struggling with a little bit of that pride thing. Our prayers are to be genuine, for God already knows the "bent" of our heart and he wants to "unbend" it in these times when we just get honest with him in sharing what is in that heart of ours!
- If you forgive people when they sin against you, then your Father will forgive you when you sin against Him and when you sin against your neighbor. But if you do not forgive your neighbors’ sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (vs. 14-15) The heart is also the place of relationship - the place where we either treasure up the good in others, or form the most awful batches of resentment and bitterness known to mankind. It is in forgiving others we find the path to forgiveness in our own lives. Jesus has no greater mission for us than to be agents of reconciliation on this earth. To store up all manner of unforgiveness is just not God's way, and it makes our heart tremendously "curved" toward all manner of evil intent and malicious action.