Where Your Treasure Goes – Obverse

I have not done much cross-posting here in the last month. I will do a bunch over the next week, of things I should have put in here. But not more than one per day. That seems excessive.

 Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Even those of us who know the verse still respond as if only the inverse were true, that we give our treasure to where our heart inclines.  That latter is certainly true, but Jesus is teaching the interesting principle that if we give something, or commit something, our heart is much more likely to follow.  This is why salespeople or charities or organisations try to get you to commit any small thing – even a smile or a nod can be a down payment. 

Churches want to make sure that all is grace and no one is left out for inability to pay – but teachers of adult Sunday School notice that people are more likely to do the homework and participate if they have paid for the book than if you give it for free.  We grow more attached to something if we have bought it rather than received it. There are all sorts of applications – if college students male and female are set across a table from each other and included in their chitchat, are required to confess one secret or slight embarrassment, the find they like each other and have a higher probability for going on a date after than if that requirement is left out.

I wonder about the obverse (I admit I may not be using that word properly here), that if we criticise something or participate in its criticism we are more likely to keep on disliking it. It is not that different from the original principle.  We have invested something of ourselves in the criticism, and our heart goes and stays there.  It would be a bit of a wrench to say “Oh, I was wrong about it, or her, or them.” The cost is higher for some than others, but for all of us, we have put treasure in a place and our heart follows it.

I think there is something even stronger, though this is an impression.  I cannot think of any data, nor would I quite know what to look for, other than self-reports.  Once we have made fun of something, we are even more likely to keep on hating it.  It is very difficult to return from that. I did make fun of individual people when I was younger, not usually openly unless it was clearly with affection (and even that can go bad). For a longer period I made fun of groups – including some I now belong to. I don’t think I do that much anymore – though there may be an entire sector of mockeries I still engage in, oblivious to any proper self-observation. As near as I can tell, criticisms are easier to repent of than mockings.  Not that those repentings are harder to accomplish once recognised, but that they are harder to see to begin with. When we have derived some emotional gain from expressing ourselves, that source of pleasure protects itself in our brain, heading off threats long before we become aware of them 

This would suggest that if we are habitual scoffers it begins to take over our character, and we become increasingly unable to give up our favorite targets. It has a CS Lewis feel to it, though I can’t think of an example of it offhand. I suppose the section in The Great Divorce in which a woman is described who has grumbled so long that there is no longer any self grumbling, but merely a Grumble going on endlessly of its own accord is a bit like it.

5 thoughts on “Where Your Treasure Goes – Obverse”

  1. Good observation. Seems like there is a basic positivity or negativity in world outlook associated in the choice of pursuing treasure, having a grateful heart, rather than engaging in tearing others down, having a coveting heart. Jesus got it right again, but he certainly wasn’t encouraging focusing on worldly treasure. I’m pretty sure the cause and effect is that choosing to pursue one’s relationship with God yields the meaningful treasure.


  2. In Screwtape there is this on flippancy –

    “Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.”

  3. @Phwest – that quote was prominent in my re-understanding Christianity as a young man and re-embracing it. I later saw exactly who was doing this in political culture as well, which over time changed my affiliation.

  4. “Flippancy” sounds useful for a teacher or guide. Correction or criticism can easily lead to hostility and resentment rather than improvement. “Flippancy”, however, might have a danger since it does seem to get close to distain or dismissal. Quite a balancing act on that edge.

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