The Greek definition for sin is simply this: “to miss.” We were created in God’s image with the intent to glorify Him through our worship and enjoyment of Him forever. In that, we have missed—big time. We choose to worship money, sex, and other pretend gods and enjoy the menial pleasures of hamburgers rather than the Almighty. We have missed. That’s a simple definition for the far-reaching condition in which we find ourselves.
Let’s not miss that, too—sin isn’t so much an action as it is a condition. It’s true, whenever we violate God’s revealed will, we sin, but we do so because it’s in our nature. Let me put it another way—we don’t become sinners when we sin; we sin because we are sinners. That’s our heritage. It’s the spiritual DNA we inherited from the parents of the human race.
We were born as sinners. And, just as apples can’t will themselves to be oranges, we can’t stop ourselves from sinning. Our natural inclination is toward evil and disobedience, and we are without hope. Sure, we might will ourselves to be pretty good citizens, but that doesn’t change the inherent condition of our hearts. That initial choice of Adam and Eve plunged us into a reality of darkness from which we can’t escape:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
One of the realities of this condition is that we don’t care about the things we should. We don’t feel angry enough about hypocrisy and injustice; we don’t feel compassionate enough about the lost and suffering; we don’t feel loving enough about our neighbors and friends. Our “feeler” is broken, and because it is, we live with a sense of apathy when we should be feeling much more deeply.
But, here’s good news: Jesus knows what to do with your apathy. He has a positive action point for us when we look at something, know we should feel something more about it, but we don’t. And His action step is found in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
It’s a pretty familiar passage—one that you could summarize like this: Follow the money. If you want to know what you really value, what you really love, what you really treasure, then just follow the money. Your bank account will reveal the true desire of your heart.
That is true—our resource investment is revelatory. It’s a signpost to show us—regardless of what we say—that which we truly love. But, there is another way to read Matthew 6 that has less to do with revealing our hearts, and more to do with directing them.
Look back at the passage with me. Jesus is giving direction to His followers. He’s saying “don’t store up” and then instead “store up.” These are active commands, things for us to do, regardless of how we feel. We can certainly identify with that because we do things we don’t necessarily feel like doing all the time. We get up and exercise not because we are excited to do it, but because we know it’s good for us, and we will be glad we did.
Now trace that line out a little further. When Jesus tells us that, “where your treasure is, our heart will also be,” it can be read as an action point. Here, we find what to do with our apathy. Let’s look at it through the lens of an example.
Let’s say you have a neighbor who is hard to be around. He’s reclusive; he’s stoic; he’s unfriendly to you and your family. And, you feel very apathetic toward him. In fact, you wish he would just move. But, you know you shouldn’t feel that way. You know you should feel compassion and love and generous toward him. So, what do you do with your apathy?
You invest some resources, because your heart will follow your investment. You will start to care about that which you are giving yourself to. So, you invest some time in purposefully trying to have a conversation when you’re both outside. You invest some sweat in offering to help him cut his grass or trim his bushes. You invest some emotion by inviting him over for a BBQ in the yard. And, slowly, you find that where your treasure is, your heart is beginning to be also.
What do you do with your apathy? What do you do when you know you should care, but you don’t? You invest, believing that our hearts follow our treasure. So, to get our hearts in the right place, let’s make sure our treasure leads the way.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.