Monday, February 8, 2016

Golf, Time, and Treasure

So the guy says, “Hey, you’re here every year aren’t you?  Where do you play golf?”

“We don’t play golf.”

“You don’t play golf!?  What do you do if you don’t play golf!?”

So I told him that we swim, take long walks, go to galleries, are involved a local church, visit with friends, read, whale watch, mess around Up Country, stuff like that.  He just looked at me as if he doubted that such a waste of time was even possible.

Jesus said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  I think its normal to think it has something to do with money.  In fact I remember someone saying that a look at your check book would show where your heart is.  My checkbook, or its modern electronic version, would put my heart close to the dry cleaners, lawn service, grocery store, favorite restaurants, and travel adventures.  Not very informative.  Maybe the golfer was on to something.  Tell me where you spend your time, and I’ll tell you where your heart is.

Several popular personality surveys do that.  They ask would you rather do this or that?  Are you more comfortable here or there?  How do you learn to do a new thing?  Would you rather be with lots of people or by yourself?  It’s all about the ways in which you invest your time, and, according to them, it reveals something about your true self, it reveals where your heart is.  Pastoral counseling heads in the same direction.  To make sense of the presenting issue, we need to know something about life events in which time has been invested that have led up to it. 

Our treasure is not the money we have, it is the time we have, and where we spend it will reveal where our hearts are.  Maybe that’s one reason Jesus was so concerned with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.  Their time was spent on survival.  Their hearts, as it were, were so absorbed in what was needed to get through the day at hand that there was little room for anything else.  No room for abundant life here and now, and no room for consideration of whatever the next life might offer.  It might also explain why he was so tough on those with resources that gave them the time for other things that they invested it in:  the pursuit of power at the expense of others, the pursuit of righteousness that condemned others, and the maintenance of conditions that preserved their privileges while denying them to others. 

If time is our treasure, then we are to do something with it that is somehow connected with the kingdom of God where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matt. 6.19)  That’s a dandy idea, but what on earth would that look like?  I think that’s what the entire Sermon on the Mount is about.  It’s about what, on earth, that would look like.  It’s not about how you spend your money, it’s about how and on what you spend your time.  In the life of the church it was once believed the only way to invest one’s time in storing up treasures in heaven was to become a monk or nun, or, perhaps, if one was fortunate, through acts of supererogation.  How else would one have the time to do that?  I think Jesus was interested in the more ordinary ways of life.  One of the legends surrounding the famous management expert, W. Edwards Deming, is that his theories of excellence in management were inspired by the Sermon on the Mount.  Taking that at face value, one might observe that a manager investing time in the success of his or her employees was contributing to the possibility of abundance of life for others.  In other words, Christians are called to invest their time, even in their secular pursuits, in such a way that they are ever mindful about whether and how it reflects what Christ has taught.  It also means being intentional about remembering God’s desire for the abundance of life for all persons, regardless of whether they claim the name of Christ.  Most especially in means being intentional about remembering God’s special concern for those who do not have the resources needed for abundance of life to be possible.

I think about that now and then when I reflect on my life in which I have the resources that allow me to live without worry about getting through the day, that allow me to make elaborate plans for tomorrow, and that permit me to spend time in ways I choose, not in ways forced on me.    

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