Follow your heart?

So on Wednesday I was listening to my daughter doing her school reader, a stimulating text called All Fairies Can Fly. In it, a wise old frog tells the sad fairy a widely-held truth. “You know what is right for you,” he says, “just listen to within.” And that, of course, fixed everything. Follow your heart! Follow your dreams! You know what is right for you! Listen to yourself! All of us hear these messages every day of the week, in advertising, on Facebook, on tea towels, at school, at work, even, at times, from the pulpit.

We live in a society which places enormous trust in the impulses of our hearts. And so we believe that, if we only do what our hearts tell us, if we just tune in to that inner voice, we will find our treasure: satisfaction, well-being, meaning, vocation, whatever. And when we don’t find treasure, when we find ourselves feeling empty and restless and longing for something more, we think it’s because we haven’t listened well enough to our hearts, and we try even harder to tune into our own selves.
This approach is so common that I think many of us might have heard Jesus’ words through that lens: Where your heart is, there you will find your treasure. But this is not what he said. What Jesus said was the reverse: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Because Jesus knew that our hearts are fickle, and they are easily led. If our treasure is self-fulfilment, that is where our heart will be, and all our efforts will be put into trying to satisfy ourselves. If our treasure is keeping up with the neighbours, then that is where our heart will be, and all our money will be poured into what other people value and want for themselves. If our treasure is our career, then we will pour most of our time and energy into work. And so on. And sometimes what we treasure is good, and work itself can be very good. Even so, our hearts often mislead us. And so we spend our lives pouring all our time and energy into things which do not ultimately satisfy.

Into this world—our world—Jesus’s words are alive with hope. Because if our hearts are so easily led, then we can decide where our treasure is, and our hearts will follow.

We can treasure wealth and beauty and health and success, and our hearts will follow, and our lives will be built around seeking these things, and they will possess us. Or we can make our treasure the things of heaven, and our hearts will follow, and our lives will be built around seeking God’s values, and they will possess us. We choose.

So, what are God’s values? The reading from Isaiah sets it out clearly: “Stop doing evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” In other words, seek justice for indigenous people, locked up in jails and youth detention centres across this country. Release asylum seekers from detention. Support single parents. Care for kids whose parents are not able to care for them. Do good in the ways you shop, cook, eat, work, and raise children; be fair in times of conflict; choose peace; and choose God’s culture again and again.

When you do this, when you make God’s culture your treasure, your heart will follow. God’s culture will possess you, and Jesus will be your guide and master. And the astonishing thing about Jesus is that, unlike every other master—pursuit of health and wealth; pursuit of power, success and happiness—Jesus will not drive you to exhaustion. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Not only that, but when this master finds you awake and alert and doing what is required of you, he will care for you. He will roll up his sleeves, pull out a chair, and ask you to sit down and dine; and he will serve you.

When will this happen? Well, here we are, a group of people who seek to make God’s culture our treasure. We gather together to listen to the Word; we gather together to break bread and share wine; we gather together to be encouraged in our service to the world. Little flock, it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom: a world in which God’s will is done, and you receive everything that you really need. And heaven starts here, around this table. For this is where Christ serves you. In serving him, in pouring everything you have into God’s culture, you are given an identity that is bursting with life; you are served with living water that quenches your deepest thirst, and bread that truly satisfies.

So don’t follow your heart. It is fickle, and untrustworthy, and too easily led by what others value. Instead, seek your treasure in the body of Christ, and in God’s culture, and let your heart follow. For heaven starts here, and the kingdom beckons now. Amen. Ω

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