For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:21)
A statement like this seems a little indefinite partly because of the symbolic language. It would be easier to take the expression ‘our treasure’ as the focus of our consciousness, or the dominating things that we are concentrating on in our everyday life - things that we value, if we are completely earnest. But when asked, most people present such things that they believe to be highly appreciated in their society. They do not admit that fancy things, travelling, and pleasure would fill most part of their own list. Some might say that a respected status among other people could be called a part of their treasure. Of course there are things that get their value right from the circumstances: if you are very hungry or thirsty, food and water are filling your entire mind.
The previous sentence may well express the meaning of the gospel: as long as we hunger for worldly things, our treasure is temporal in nature. The heart depicts the long-lasting or main direction of our consciousness or mind. It does not mean that people should entirely turn their backs to the world and other people, but that priority must be given to the most fundamental things. It is an obligation and a privilege to know what this life of ours is meant for – not just for easy living, but for revealing all richness and wisdom which is hidden in the depths of human existence.
Seek, and you will find, wrote Mathew, but unfortunately he did not show us the direction. But it is not difficult to see that the target of seeking could here be found in the inner world – by finding and knowing the real being of oneself. Philosopher Nietzsche said (in Zarathustra) that the last thing that people are searching or seeking is in fact really ones own closest thing – the inside essence of all. This does not mean that we should force ourselves to become totally strange to the world and other people, but that we should always try to see what is worth taking in and what is worth passing by. Usually we take care what kind of food we nourish our body with, but we should also give some consideration to the quality of our mental food.
In the Gospel of Thomas there is a parable of a wise fisherman who caught plenty of fish, but found only one large fish among them. He threw away all the small ones and kept only this large one (logion 8). This is a good example to show that we had better watch what kind of things we allow to make a permanent nest in our consciousness. It is by no means the question of avoiding the world which could easily lead to a very narrow understanding of life and other people.
Some people might think that it would be best to go to a desert or at least enter a monastery in order to become a good person. A peaceful place may well offer temporal help when a person needs to get some distance from daily things, but we must remember that goodness is not based just on an acceptable learned behavior, but on a constant quality of mind. Establishing that kind of state evidently requires a long and thorough experience with conflicting ideas, people and forms of real life.
Fixed ideas of goodness are but patterns with little value if they have no permanent roots in one’s character. A strictly limited understanding of goodness often leads to intolerance against all that seems or dares to go beyond those boundaries. It is a very old human discovery that goodness of a person must be well tested before we have a right to call him a really good person – not to talk about calling him a saint. It is quite sure that most of the figures that people call saints are not worthy of their high status. The signs of holiness are based on evidence that satisfy the practical needs of the Church – very seldom the requirements of the ultimate reality.
The saints must really “go marching in” – reach the ultimate inside essence of life and manage to bring it down to this world before they earn their high status. This would be the kind of miracle that had something to offer to all living things. Relics and remnants do not help us for all important things are present in this very moment. It is no use looking back (as the wife of Lot in Gen. 19:26) or forward, because the past is just a huge pile of memories and the future does not yet exist anywhere else but in one’s imagination.
Human beings have a peculiar habit of avoiding the present, or at least to give it only a minor portion of his consciousness. He thinks that his life is really beginning some day in the future, but very often he is afraid of the future, because the past has not gone well enough – so he projects his ideas of the past into his future – and the vicious circle is ready and active! Some people advise to break this circle by forcing oneself to think positively, but this does not work for very long. If one is trying to be good and expecting blessings one will sooner or later face serious troubles, and disappointments are often in proportion to one’s hopes and wishes. One would be better to concentrate on living fully at this moment without painting unrealistic fantasies for tomorrow. Of course there are things that need planning and preparing, but the most part of forthcoming things is just best to let them come. Life is not one’s enemy but a partner who is meant to make a human being strong and wise in the long run. So it is better to take even misery and pain as a possibility to grow beyond one’s former limits. Life without any challenges might seem like heaven, but usually it would not lead anywhere in the long journey of humanity towards its fulfillment.