Set Your Heart on Worthwhile Treasures
What are worthwhile, durable treasures? How can they be obtained and retained?
IN ALL parts of the earth people are on the run, yes, setting their hearts on the treasures or material things of this life. They count happiness in dollars, new cars and houses. Success and security are measured by wealth. And yet never has the world of mankind been so unhappy and felt so insecure. Religion is held out as the path to peace and security, and many zealously take hold of what is considered a respectable religion, only to be frustrated in their quest for that which is soul-satisfying and durable. Why is this? Is it because most people are seeking after the wrong kind of treasure? What is the really worthwhile treasure that brings peace, security and, above all, the blessing and favor of the God of the universe? In order that we may set our hearts on that which is really worthwhile and leads to life, it will be very beneficial to examine the record of a people who were in covenant relationship with the Most High God. Let us, then, examine our present course in the light of that record.
The Jewish nation went into captivity in the year 607 B.C.E. and for seventy years served under the heavy yoke of Babylon. Now the time had come for them to be released from their bondage, to leave the land of captivity to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple for Jehovah’s worship. Was that an easy thing for them to do? No, it required faith in Jehovah to leave the land of exile. Most of the Israelites at that time had been born in Babylon and had fulfilled Jehovah’s command as recorded at Jeremiah 29:5-7:”Build houses and inhabit them, and plant gardens and eat their fruitage. Take wives and become father to sons and to daughters; . . . seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to go into exile.” To many it was the only home they knew, the only security they had in a material sense. So the question was, Would they heed the call to go to Jerusalem in the interests of Jehovah’s worship? Would they leave their homes, friends and material possessions to travel hundreds of miles to a land that many of them did not know and had never seen, to build a temple for the worship of the true God, Jehovah?
Many of them did. They were encouraged, and this no doubt fired their zeal and helped them make their decision. Even King Cyrus of Persia urged them on, and the people of the land encouraged them too. “As for all those round about them, they strengthened their hands with utensils of silver, with gold, with goods and with domestic animals . . . Also, King Cyrus himself brought forth the utensils of the house of Jehovah . . . [and] proceeded to . . . number them out to Sheshbazzar the chieftain of Judah.” (Ezra 1:6-8) So with silver and gold and words of encouragement they set off on the long and dangerous journey. They had bright hopes, things looked good, and before them was an open path to worship Jehovah God at his temple in Jerusalem. Such a privilege and honor was indeed a worthwhile treasure and one that could bring lasting benefits to those seeking it.
A TRAGIC CHANGE IN COURSE
But something happened at Jerusalem that changed the picture for them, and their faith weakened. They lost sight of their real purpose in coming so far. It was not too long before they had opposition in the building work, for we read, “At that the people of the land were continually weakening the hands of the people of Judah and disheartening them from building, and hiring counselors against them to frustrate their counsel.” (Ezra 4:4, 5) Things were not so easy now. They did not have the comforts of their homes in Babylon, and the people were not giving them gold and silver to encourage them and to finance their service to Jehovah as rebuilders of his temple, but, rather, the people round about were hostile. There was opposition, and the going was tough, and as their minds turned away from the work at hand, from the real purpose in coming, their thoughts no doubt turned back to “the good old days” in Babylon. It reminds us of a very similar situation that occurred in the days of their forefathers after they had left Egypt.—Ex. 16:1-3.
After some years the prophet Haggai, seeing what was happening, was moved by God to ask some pertinent questions and give some good advice: “Is it the time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house is waste? . . . ‘There was a looking for much, but here there was just a little; and you have brought it into the house, and I blew upon it—for what reason?’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies. ‘By reason of my house that is waste, while you are on the run, each one in behalf of his own house. Therefore over you the heavens kept back their dew, and the earth itself kept back its yield.’” (Hag. 1:3-11) Yes, they turned each one to his own materialistic pursuits, and they lost Jehovah’s blessing. They began to trust in riches, they looked for security in houses, land and material things, and they lost their joy, their zeal for Jehovah’s service and their faith. They began seeking materialistic treasure.
ON WHAT IS YOUR HEART SET TODAY?
If you had lived back there in the days of the return from captivity, what would you have done? That question can best be answered by answering a similar one, What are you doing today? After what are you running? It is good for us, each one, to examine his course of action, that he may not fall into the same snare as the Jews in ancient times.
Jesus the great teacher once said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me.” (John 4:34) Is that your attitude? Or do you find that you are so busy with the material things of life that you have little, if any, time for God? This is a fast-moving and fast-living world; yes, we are “on the run” in a literal sense—but after what are you running? Many think that the way to true happiness is by accumulating riches, just as those Jews turned from building the temple for Jehovah’s worship to the building of houses and material things for themselves. The Christian apostle Paul, however, knew otherwise, and his wise counsel comes down to us over the centuries, “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) How true it is, then, that not material things, but, rather, “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Prov. 10:22.
Many today, like the Jews who started out so well, fired with zeal and good intentions, have fallen by the wayside, Yes, like the nation of Israel, they have neglected spiritual things for material things. The result has been a loss of the real, worthwhile treasure. They have lost Jehovah’s favor, their joy of service has gone and they have no real happiness in life. They find that they have no strength to continue on, and this is to be expected because God gives strength only to those who are faithful to him.—Isa. 40:31; Neh. 8:10.
Are you among those who have neglected spiritual things in favor of the material things of life? Are you one who began in the service of Jehovah, yes, was even baptized in symbol of your dedication to Him, and perhaps was given privileges and responsibilities within God’s organization, but then began ‘running after your own house’ instead of seeking first the kingdom of God? Maybe at first when you began all was well, and you enjoyed God’s service, but then opposition arose. Members of your own family opposed you, or people at work or neighbors became hostile. It was not so easy now. Then you were offered that new job, more pay, more opportunities, and so little by little you fell away, caught in the snare of materialism. If this is the case, then heed the words of God’s prophet and follow the example of many of the Jews who listened to him in the sixth century before Christ. In fact, it behooves all of us, no matter who and where we are, to consider our own situation in the light of God’s Word, that we may make straight paths for our feet and receive and retain the blessing that comes from seeking the true treasures that lead to life.
WHAT TO DO
“Set your heart upon your ways,” admonished Jehovah through Haggai the prophet. “‘Go up to the mountain, and you must bring in lumber. And build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and I may be glorified,’ Jehovah has said.” (Hag. 1:7, 8) That means, ‘Get busy in Jehovah’s service and put Kingdom interests first.’ The building up of true worship should be the first thing in your life, not the building of your own house, or of a future or position in this world. Remember the words of Jesus: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) This old world with all its glitter and material possessions will soon pass away, so why “set your heart” on that which in the end will bring you nothing; as the apostle John explains, “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Yes, “set your heart upon your ways” and look to Jehovah for strength to serve him. Be of the same mental attitude as King David, who observed “the able-bodied man that does not put God as his fortress, but trusts in the abundance of his riches,” and then said of himself: “But I shall be like a luxuriant olive tree in God’s house; I do trust in the loving-kindness of God to time indefinite, even forever.”—Ps. 52:7, 8.
Think of the situation back there in the time of restoration. How happy those Jews were who came out of captivity to serve Jehovah God! They were working together for a common and noble cause, the building of the temple of Jehovah God, and they were united in love and purpose. But when they went “on the run, each one in behalf of his own house,” they became divided, selfish, unhappy and faithless. Above all, they lost Jehovah’s favor and, instead of happiness and security, found bitterness, drought, hunger and other sufferings. On heeding the prophet Haggai’s counsel, many of them regained their happiness by returning to Jehovah’s service at the temple.
So too, today, you can regain your happiness by zealously turning to the worship of Jehovah. How much happiness do we really gain from earthly riches? Just a fleeting moment maybe, and then one is off “on the run” again after more. Wise King Solomon, after setting his heart to find the value of material wealth and earthly treasures, tells us that, after gaining more and becoming greater than all before him, he found that “everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Eccl. 2:1-11) The thousands of people the world over who suffer from mental sicknesses, ulcers and other ills due to the strain of pursuing earthly treasures are a testimony to the folly of seeking happiness by means of wealth.
Think of the joy that comes from unitedly seeking association with God’s people today. How much better it is to sit in the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, surrounded by peaceable lovers of God and neighbor, listening to good, wholesome Scriptural counsel, than to be working overtime, just to pay for a new house, car or television. Remember the words of Jesus: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Real happiness and joy come from the inside, from the heart, not from the outside, from material possessions. The knowledge that one is doing God’s will and has his favor brings true security and peace of mind. The treasure of Kingdom service, preaching from house to house, helping one’s neighbor learn the way to life, associating with God’s people—surely these things form a durable and lasting treasure far superior to anything material riches can bring. And remember, they bring with them the blessing of Jehovah—”that is what makes rich.”
So, although many have fallen for the snare of materialism and have set their heart on worldly treasures, it is not too late to turn to Jehovah and to serve him. There is yet time to start storing up treasure in heaven. Jesus said: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21) Consider the example we have discussed in this article and consider the results. Some turned back, ‘set their heart upon their ways’ and received the blessing of Jehovah. (Hag. 2:15-19) Do the same as those wise Jews, and follow also the advice of the apostle Paul: ‘Work at good, be rich in fine works, be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for yourselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that you may get a firm hold on the real life.’ (1 Tim. 6:18, 19) Real life? Yes, a full life now in God’s service and eternal life in the new world of righteousness. So keep your balance in this materialistic old world and “set your heart,” not on material treasures, but on the worthwhile treasures that have to do with the vindication of God’s name and his Kingdom interests. Then you will not get caught in the snare of materialism, but will obtain and retain Jehovah’s blessing and will lay hold on the real life, which will bring you joy and contentment now, and forever in the world to come.