What Matters Most

Lord, I am your servant,
my body the vehicle
you sent here,
my health the strength
you provide
to do my service
for you and your Kingdom.

I am but a scribe,
my fingers the feather in your hand,
my eyes dependent
on the light 
that you shine
on truth and mistakes.

But I am also your child,
your daughter, chosen
to be adopted,
to be loved and treasured!
Abba, your arms
protect me, hold me tight.

Your purpose
is the beat of my heart
because I love you,
so I care about what matters
most to you. At least
that is what I want to do!

I hear you say,
“Yes, what matters most
is that you love me
and carry out my purposes,
letting my love be the seed
that brings in the harvest!”

I grew up a people-pleaser, longing for my mom and dad, in particular, to approve of me. That was basically the reason that I decided, while in high school, to go into medicine. I got good grades, and my life in a medical family had led me to believe that the best way to use a gift of “smarts” was to be a doctor. Mom even urged me to not consider nursing as a career; she often wished she were a doctor so could do more. So I helped Mom with newborn babies and scrubbed in surgery with Dad. At the Ferke hospital, those experiences were possible! Pleasing my parents was a normal step forward, as it is for most kids with great parents.

But while I was in college I realized that what I was really made for was in another dimension: words. I loved reading, writing and languages. The game-changer came the day that I realized that doing what my Father God wanted was exactly what I wanted to do, because he is good and his plans are best. The more that I grew in my attachment to him, the more he was able to show me how to follow his plans, step by step. My life story then became one of letting my Lord reveal the purposes that he had for me.

So let’s remember: what is the commandment that covers all the others?  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5 NIV)

I discovered later that my earthly parents actually approved of my life path, because they saw that I had been made for it! They were people who loved God with all their heart and soul and strength. When we actually love God with all that is within us, not just “believing” but actually following him and growing in our devotion to him, we want to please him by carrying out his plan. We also long to be like him: loving, compassionate, full of grace and truth!

That is a theme in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He keeps saying that we must live to please the Father, who is carefully watching over us all the time, not to live with the aim of earning the approval of people. And he says that living our lives for the Father is the only way to get a true reward, one that lasts. So are we in some kind of contest, running a race to see how many awards we can get? No! But we are pressing ahead toward what will last forever, versus what is merely temporary:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21 NIV)

Ah! What is essential is that my heart be focused on the right values! The heart is the symbol of the inner person, the source of emotions and choices. If my heart is fixated on the importance of my status, the approval of others, entertainment or material wealth, or even my family above everything else, that will show up in how I spend my life. But if my first and foremost attachment is to God, those things will all be seen with a new perspective. That is why Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:5 when asked what the greatest commandment really is (cf. Matt. 22:37 NIV)

He gave me my family, my beloved parents and husband and children. They are gifts from him and he has underlined the importance of honoring them, providing for them and loving them. The proper perspective is to let the Lord’s love rule in me and pour out to them, serving my Father in whatever way he has told me to. That has brought challenges for me, being a missionary and needing to be willing to let go of living near my children and grandchildren as much as possible, for instance.

My Father gave me this world to enjoy, and he saw that his creation was good. He longs for me to take good care of what he made, not to cause it harm. He made all the diverse peoples of the earth, too, and he loves them. That means I am to love them too.

He blesses me with food and possessions; it is not wrong to have them, but it is wrong to make increasing them the goal of my life. I am not to covet, not to want what others have in such a way that my heart gives in to greed or jealousy. Letting any of these temporary things become my priority in life means that I am living for them, not for my Father. It is a way of “putting other gods before him,” which I am commanded not to do (cf. Ex. 20:3).

So how can I prioritize what will last forever? Is it even possible to store up treasures in heaven while I am still on earth? Yes, because heaven is not just an afterlife. The Kingdom of Heaven is among us. We who belong to Jesus have entered it, and as we fulfill his purposes, we are doing what will last forever. This is how Paul put it:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19) NIV)

Jesus underlined the importance of generosity in the words that follow his command to store up treasures in heaven:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt. 6:22-23 NIV)

If we could understand this the way that Jesus’ audience would have heard it, it would take on deeper meaning. The eye allows a person to see, and then the body can move about in the environment as it should.[1] If the eye does not let in light, one does not have proper direction for action. One action we are told to take is doing what is good, which includes being “generous and willing to share” (cf.1 Tim. 6:17).

So it is very meaningful that the Greek word used for “healthy” here has the connotation of “generous,” and the word for “unhealthy” carries the meaning of “stingy.” The “evil eye” in the cultures of the Near East at that time was greedy, avaricious. As Hagner explains:

“The ἁπλοῦς eye, given the symmetrical structure of the passage, is probably the opposite of the evil eye, namely, a generous eye, as in the cognate adverb ἁπλῶς, “generously,” in Jas 1:5 (cf. Rom 12:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11, 13)—an eye that is not attached to wealth but is ready to part with it.”[2]

So I propose that a dynamic translation of Matt. 6:22-23 might be like this:  The eye lets light into the body so that it can act wisely. If your eyes are open to the light of generosity, your body will know how to respond by sharing. But if your eyes are cracked shut so as not to acknowledge the needs of others or be willing to help them, you will not be walking in the light but in darkness.”

John Stott makes this very clear:

“The argument seems to go like this: just as our eye affects our whole body, so our ambition (where we fix our eyes and heart) affects our whole life. Just as a seeing eye gives light to the body, so a noble and singleminded ambition to serve God and man adds meaning to life and throws light on everything we do. Again, just as blindness leads to darkness, so an ignoble and selfish ambition (e.g. to lay up treasure for ourselves on earth) plunges us into moral darkness. It makes us intolerant, inhuman, ruthless and deprives life of all ultimate significance.[3]

So there is a way to do what contributes to the riches that are intended for us when we are children of God, citizens of the Kingdom Among Us. Even now we may see a “harvest” when we sow seeds of love that come out of our union with our God who is love. And the Word is clear that we are storing up treasure that lasts forever:

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:8-10)

When we give generously, we partner with our generous, gracious God who gives good gifts, and our Father is delighted. May we learn to love the way that we are loved–and make a difference!

[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997) 206.

[2] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 158.

[3] John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 157.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

One thought on “What Matters Most

  1. I love your writing as it always teaches me. This one in particular hit my heart and gave me complete peace and gratitude that I do trust the Lord in my gifts of being one who loves to give !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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