Unwanted Treasure

This week’s theme in the Ancient Christian Devotional is Heavenly Treasure.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to read it.  I actually spent a couple of minutes tell my wife just that.

“This is just going to tell me to not worry about the things around me, and focus on heaven.  I don’t really want to hear that right now.”

I wasn’t kidding.  There are a lot of things frustrating me right now, and I feel justified in my frustration.  I don’t want to read about how I should focus on heaven.  That’s a good sign that this is precisely what I should read this week.  This was quickly confirmed with the first passage.

Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain!

those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles!

They could not care less

about their country going to ruin.

But here’s what’s really coming:

a forced march into exile.

They’ll leave the country whining,

a rag-tag bunch of good-for-nothings.

-Amos 6:5-7, The Message [1]

Why am I frustrated?  Because I’m uncomfortable.  I don’t feel good.  That first line hit me right in the face.  I’m addicted to feeling good.  My priority is my mood.  I want to be happy.  I don’t want discomfort.

The Patristic reflections were no relief.  They aren’t letting me out of this conviction.  Consider the following from Basil the Great:

That we should run about searching for anything not demanded by real necessity but calculated to provide a wretched delight and ruinous vainglory is not only shameful and out of keeping with our avowed purpose; it also causes harm of no mean gravity when they who spend their lives in sensual gratification and measure happiness in terms of pleasure for the appetite see us also taken up with the same preoccupations that keep them enthralled.

When we run about trying to make ourselves happy, harm is done to those outside of the faith who are in the same pursuit.  Why should they be concerned with our faith if we lack the same happiness they desire?  This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but there should be something different about us.  And I must admit, I’m not sure how often that is true of me.  I don’t know if I drive or live significantly different from those who are outside of the faith.

This realization is the heart of Christianity.  It’s what the early church called theosis in the East and deification in the West.  It doesn’t mean that we become God.  It means we are united to him, conformed to the image of his son (Romans 8:29).[2]  As we recognize our failings, we yield to the only one who can redeem them.

Gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, intelligence to understand you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate on you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Benedict of Nursia


[1] You may be surprised to see my usage of the Message here.  If you’re curious, here’s a guest post I wrote for my friend over at Little Bit Funky about using the Message.

[2] For a well written and easy to understand treatment of this issue, see this book.  For a more thorough treatment (which in fact inspired the aforementioned book), see this book.

One thought on “Unwanted Treasure

  1. Pingback: I’m not happy | Home-cooked Jesus

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