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Friday, October 24, 2008

What about the desires of our heart?


It's been a while since I last picked up this series that was provoked by this post but self-discipline requires me to plough on and finish what I started.

The heart is a funny thing and by that I don't mean the blood pumper that resides in our chests, it's that centre of emotions that governs our lives. Some decisions we make are governed by our heads, by that we mean we weigh up the facts, the pros and cons and do our best to make a logical decision. Other decisions are based on our feelings, how we respond to people, situations - relationships for example are almost always started by our 'hearts.'

What's been interesting over the last 20 years or so is that what we buy and why we buy them has largely shifted from head reasons ('I need to replace my winter coat') to heart reasons ('I'd really like an iPhone'). The coat is needed because the old one is no longer keeping me warm and I make a choice about the best replacement. The iPhone is wanted and purchased even though I have a phone that works. It may be a better phone, it may not be - better is rarely the point, its because 'I want one'. It's difficult to challenge those decisions because the heart is a much more private sphere, facts can be weighed up against each other but emotions are a much more tricky proposition.

This appeal to the desires is at the heart of our consumer economy, 'buy this and you'll be happier' is the essential message and by and large it's a message that people in the UK have believed Christian or not. Now, when the economy is on the slide we'll be less able to buy what we want and as a result we'll probably feel a lot less happy.

Mt 6:21 becomes intensely relevant. In the Greek Jesus uses the word eimi which means 'I exist'. The idea being conveyed by Jesus when he says, "Your heart will always be where your treasure is" is that where your heart is, is where you really exist, where you find life and meaning, where you draw strength and comfort. Jesus challenges us not to find comfort and strength or meaning and life from earthly treasures, which we are again discovering are unreliable, but in heavenly treasures - in the eternal and ultimately in God. He should be our source of life, meaning, strength and comfort.

The trouble is that it's easier to say that our treasure is in heaven than to actually make it so, we can only do that by demonstrating our faith with our actions - giving generously, caring for those in need, commiting generous portions of our time to the church or other related activities. As we do these things our lives become less about us and our hearts desires and increasingly about heaven and God's desires. We need to regularly recentre our hearts.

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