God is speaking to me again—I resist this message—about Being before Doing. I mix them up. I bet you do too. It is so “natural” to work (do) those extra hours in order to feel (be) successful; or to “do” the dishes in order to “be” considered a good spouse.
Despite knowing in my head that I need to “be” accepted first, I tend to believe in my heart that scripture is about my “doing” to get God to like me. It’s easy to read scripture like a Christian Aesop’s Fables, little stories that promote good behavior (doing). In other words, if I do these things I’ll be a good little boy (or girl).
This Aesop’s Fables view of scripture is so ingrained in my heart that any other interpretation of a passage feels heretical. Let’s look, for example, at the parable of the Treasure in a Field.
The treasure in a field
The kingdom of heaven is like great treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matt. 13: 44).
My default interpretation of this parable creates a whirlwind of hope in my heart. It’s Blackbeard’s booty in exchange for my piggy bank. It is the investor’s ultimate fantasy.
It’s something for me to do. All I have to “do” is give up everything.
My problem—and I bet your problem too—is that I need motivation to do anything. The joy of the treasure motivates the man’s “everything must go” garage sale. So what treasure motivates me to “do” the giving up?
My motivation is usually psychological or spiritual. Psychologically, I feel good about myself when I give money to a needy friend; “I’m the kind of guy who is generous.” Spiritually, I feel that God will like me when I befriend (or at least I’m nice to) the man who slanders me behind my back; “I’m the kind of guy who loves his enemies.”
My doing is self-serving. I need to be rid of that self-centered nature in the “doing” that makes me feel good about myself.
But those selfish motivations are what inspire me to give things up. How can I give up the very motivations that empower me to give something up? It’s like emptying my gas tank in order to go to the gas station for a fill-up.
I’m “doing” to “be,” caring for the poor to gain self-respect and loving the gossiper to gain God-respect. These “doings” are the very things that give me a sense of the being. I can’t’ give THEM up.
But what if…
The kingdom of heaven is like—I don’t know about you, but the kingdom of heaven is certainly not “like” how I sell all that I have. At least, I hope not.
But what if the kingdom is like Jesus? Because he is the only person who ever gave up everything, wealth (you know, heaven!), relationships (with his Father), reputation, comfort, career … everything! The kingdom cannot be how we sell everything; it can only be an illustration of how Jesus did.
If Jesus is the one selling everything, then we are his treasure, we are his joy. Hebrews says, “for the joy [that’s us!] set before him,” he gave up … everything (Heb. 12:2).
The bible is filled with these word-pictures of what we mean to God:
- The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut.7:6).
- They shall be Mine, says the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels. (Mal. 3:17).
- For the LORD’S portion is his people… (Deut. 32.9).
- We are the “riches of his glorious inheritance.” Eph. 1:18
Stop for a moment—yeah, right now—look away from the computer, and imagine being the Ultimate Being’s treasured possession (the thing he loves above all other possessions), his jewels, his portion, and his inheritance (the thing he longs to inherit).
It almost feels too good be true that we are his treasuer. Swirl that around in your mouth like a fine wine. Taste his joy in us his treasure. Doesn’t that fill that empty spot?
We are his treasure.
Admit with me, it seems heretical to believe that the Treasure in a Field is a picture of what Jesus did. No! Something inside wants to say the parable is about what I must do. I must deny myself; I must crucify the flesh; I must take up my cross. Me. Me. Me.
When I come to believe that God sees me as his treasure buried in a field (and yes, that treasure sure is buried under a bunch of dirt), then I don’t need to grasp for my self-justification. I already am a treasure and a joy. I don’t need to strive for it. I can “be.”
And now I can safely do
Once my heart believes God’s love for me—his delight and his joy in me—then I can safely give up all else, and now no longer out of selfishness. The joy in my motivation is gratitude and delight in his love. Now I can take up my cross with joy.
Shakespeare wrote, “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” He was wrong. Rather, “To Be, or to Do, that is the question.”
I’m learning to “be” his treasure, and therefore I can “do” giving up with joy.
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