True Treasure
Friday after Holy Trinity
16 June 2017
When temporal disaster strikes we cannot help but question the providence of God, especially when we suffer material damage; such as when a home is destroyed, a business washed away in a flood, or investments wiped out by a downturn in the financial markets. When such things happen we are tempted to gripe at God. When things go evilly for us we are quick to blame God and when things are going well we are swift to commend ourselves for our wisdom and good planning.
 
So it was at the time of the sack of Rome in A.D. 410. People lamented their poor fortune saying that they had lost everything when the Goths ravaged the so-called eternal city. For pagans whose hearts were set upon the gods of this world this was a correct description of their plight. They did lose everything that was important to them. They were also certain of the reason why they had suffered this. Those pernicious Christians invited this disaster.
 
The Christian view of such a temporal disaster is quite different. It is not possible to say that those whose treasure is Christ have lost everything when they have lost all their temporal goods and even life itself. For Christ is never lost to those who are under the shadow of His wings. What earthly power can separate the faithful from Christ? How could any sword sever the Head from His body, the church? How could nakedness strip from us the robe of righteousness? How could famine deprive us of the bread of life? What trial would rob us of the divine verdict of not guilty? What slaughter would take away from us the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world? No, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us (Rm 8:35).
 
What has been lost in disaster are just the goods of this world. On these things we do not depend. In these things we do not live. We have them as a gift from the God who sees to it that the sun rises and sets on both the wicked and righteous alike. On them our hearts are not set. Our true treasure is hidden in a way that nothing could snatch it from us. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
 
"These are the considerations which one must keep in view, that he may answer the question whether any evil happens to the faithful and godly that cannot be beneficial. Or shall we say that the question is needless, and that the apostle is just gassing when he says, 'We know that for those who love God all things work together for good' (Rm 8:28)?
 
"They lost all they had. Their faith? Their godliness? The possessions of the hidden man of the heart, which in the sight of God are very precious (1Pt 3:4)? Did they lose these? For these are the wealth of Christians, to whom the wealthy apostle said, 'There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs' (1Ti 6:6-10).
 
"Those who lost their worldly all in the sack of Rome, if they owned their possessions as they had been taught by the apostle, who himself was poor without, but rich within, that is to say, if they used the world as not using it (1Co 7:29-30), could say in the words of Job, heavily tried, but not overcome: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). Like a good servant, Job counted the will of his Lord his great possession, by obedience to which his soul was enriched; nor did it grieve him to lose, while yet living, those goods which he must shortly leave at his death.
 
"As to those weaker spirits who, though they cannot be said to prefer earthly possessions to Christ, who yet cling to them with a somewhat immoderate attachment, have discovered by the pain of losing these things how much they were sinning in loving them. For their grief is of their own making. In the words of the apostle quoted above, 'they pierced themselves with many pangs.' For it was well that they who had so long despised these verbal admonitions should receive the teaching of experience. For when the apostle says, 'Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation,' and so on, what he blames on riches is not the possession of them, but the desire for them.
 
"For elsewhere he says, 'As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life' (1Ti 6:17-19). They who were making such a use of their property have been consoled for light losses by great gains, and have had more pleasure in those possessions which they have securely laid up, by freely giving them away, than grief for those things which they entirely lost by an anxious and selfish hoarding of them. For nothing could perish on earth save what they would be ashamed to carry away from earth. Our Lord's injunction runs, 'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Mt 6:19-21). Those who have listened to this injunction have proved in the time of tribulation how well they were advised in not despising this most trustworthy teacher, and most faithful and mighty guardian of their treasure. For if many were glad that their treasure was stored in places which the enemy could not find, how much better founded was the joy of those who, by the counsel of their God, had fled with their treasure to a citadel which no enemy can possibly reach!"

Augustine, The City of God, 1.10
Job 1

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed , 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you." Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You are our sure defense in times of trouble and disaster. No temporal power or calamity could ever snatch You from us. Watch over us in good times and in bad. Help us to set our hearts upon You, our true joy. Amen.
 
For all those who are oppressed by slavery to the things of this world, that they might be rescued to the freedom for which Christ has freed them
 
For all those who are traveling during the summer, that they might be kept safe and that their homecomings would be joyful
 
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that God the Lord would strengthen them in their holy calling to be teachers of the church
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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