Watching my daughter with her new cell phone has forced me to take a hard look at the way I value and connect myself to my own stuff. The image of Gollum comes to mind around the way I arrange my life around some of my "stuff". I'm back reading Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy again, digging into the sermon on the mount. This stuff has been sticking to me and I can't get it out of my head:
Our treasure focuses our heart (our heart being defined as our will, spirit and the enter of our being from which our life flows, giving orientation to everything we do). A heart rightly directed therefore brings health to and wholeness to the entire personality. "Your heart will be where your treasure is" Jesus tells us in Matt 6:21.
Jesus compares our "heartsight" to our eyesigiht. We know how our eyesight affects our body and it's environment. "The eye is the lamp of the body" he said. If the eye works well, then the body easily moves about it's environment. As Jesus puts it, "Our whole body is well directed" is "full of life" (Matt 6:23).
The person who treasures what lies within the kingdom sees everything in its true worth adn relationship. The person who treasures what is "on earth" by contrast sees everything from a perspective that distorts it and systematically misleads in practice. The relative importance of things is, in particular, mis-perceived. All else is seen only in its relation to the object and enjoyment of it.
Hence, Gollum. Based on the things I want in life (money, food, technology, etc) I can change how I value others and God to get what I need. The stuff I own ends up owning me. I spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy thinking about, repairing, replacing or expanding what I have. I end up serving this stuff. At the end of the day, I look at the return on investment of that energy and it seems like it never delivers (except maybe for the iPhone). Willard continues:
We cannot help but serve our treasures. We labor all day for them and think about them all night. They fill our dreams. But it is not uncommon for people to think that they can treasure this world and the invisible kingdom as well, that they can serve both. Perhaps we can make this work for a while. But there will come a time when one must be subordinate to the other. We simply cannot have two ultimate goals or points of reference for our actions. That is how life is, and no one escapes.These are hard, hard words for me. I feel like I straddle the line, trying to value both worlds, while in reality subordinating this to the other. When their requirements conflict, I sometimes make the right decision and others don't. I can't pursue both. I'm hoping that by focusing on fasting around not just food, but from buying stuff, I come to have a better sense of my prioritization of the kingdoms and dependence on God.
You cannot be the servant of both God and things "on earth" because their requirements conflict. Unless you have already put God first, for example, what you will have to do to be financially secure, impress other people or fulfill your desires will invariably lead you against God's wishes. That is why the first of the Ten Commandments, "You shall have no god who take priority over me" is the first of the Ten Commandments.