Where Your Treasure Is

An Ash Wednesday Sermon

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Jesus Christ

It’s a true, but a challenging statement. Its true, because while we may not put our money where our mouth is, we do put our money where our hearts are. Its challenging because we need only look to where we put our treasure to find where we’ve placed our values. Indeed, as a country, as a church, and in our families, we need only look at our budgets to discover what we actually believe.

A budget, is a moral document.

For instance, the Canadian Government claims it’s dedicated to the peace and to the prosperity of all—but what does the government’s budget say?

Millions of tax dollars cut from unemployment insurance.

Billions of tax dollars spent on subsidies for large corporations.

Millions of tax dollars cut from social services.

Billions of tax dollars spent on weapons.

A budget is a moral document, because in a budget, we are forced to make decisions about what we really believe, to choose what gets put in and what gets left out, to make commitments to the values that animate us the most.

Do we believe in prosperity for all? Or, do we believe that the rich should be getting richer, and the poor, poorer? Do we believe in peace? Or, do we believe in the need for more weapons? What does the budget say? What story does the budget tell about us?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What’s true for the country is also true for the church, and for ourselves.

If your church were to take a long hard look at its annual budget, what story would that budget tell about your church’s beliefs?

As a family, if you were to sit down, and to reflect on what you actually spend your money on, what story would that budget tell about your family’s values?

Where do you put your treasure? Where do you find your heart?

These are the questions we gather together on Ash Wednesday to ask, and to continue asking throughout Lent: where are our treasures? Where will we find our hearts? And where would we like our hearts to be found?

In our wallets? Or, in our families?

In our possessions? Or, in our communities?

Ash Wednesday and Lent are a time of reflection and penitence, a time when we take account of the treasures we’ve been storing up over the last year, a time when we discern whether those treasures were treasures on earth—where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal—or treasures in heaven—where neither moth nor rust consume and where thieves do not break in and steal.

But what are the treasures of heaven, and where can they be found?

As the Bible tells us, they are not false piety, not empty spirituality, or pointless religion, they are real practices: political, social, and economic.

In the word of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

The treasure of heaven is the treasure that we store up by undoing the bonds of injustice, letting the oppressed go free, sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless into our houses, and clothing the naked.

These are the practices of the Kingdom of God, and they are the marks of the true church.

Because the true church is not a mere institution, it is not a church building, or even a cathedral; the true church is the body of Christ, a community of faith that fasts by undoing the bonds of injustice, and letting the oppressed go free.

And so, as we examine our budgets this Lent, literally and metaphorically, as a country, as a church, and as families, let us reflect on the story our treasures tell about us, of who we are, and who we want to be.

For where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.

Jeffrey Metcalfe is the Incumbent of the Parish of the Magdalen Islands in the Diocese of Quebec. He is a co-editor of Catholic Commons.


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