Where Your Treasure Is (By William Nonge)

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. (Matthew 7:3-5)

“Neighbourhood Watch” – Blame culture?

Many are those spending a good portion of their lives and wondering about “what”, “why” and “how” their neighbours are doing, but not paying attention on their own lives. They are very busy watching, criticising, monitoring and even controlling other people’s lives but they would barely see or acknowledge mistakes of their own. This behaviour is now so mediatised that it has become opium or obsession for some to relentlessly read gossip magazines or watch related TV programmes about celebrities’ lives. The culture and even the cult of celebrities are so religiously observed that some figures are worshiped as idols. Since these so called celebrities are simply frail and mortal human beings, their private lives are no longer private and thus exposed to the public for criticism, blame and mockery. Ironically, these famous personalities keep on successfully achieving in their area of gifting while their “watchers” spend idly time with searching about their futile lives details.

The blame culture is so embedded in our society that certain people, through the so called “TV reality shows”, expose their family matters to the public domain. Behind the glamorous curtains of celebrities’ lives and out of their spotlights, we all are surrounded – in our inner and outer circles – with two categories of people I call “aftershock advisers” and “redundant prophets”.

The aftershock advisers are those who come to advise you of what you should, could and would have done, after you have already gone an ordeal which has led you to a fall or a pain. Instead of empathising with you, they would rather hurt you with such negative advice. One thing that these inopportune advisers do not know is that the person who has gone through some experience is the best one to reflecting on the situation and the best one to constructively learn from it. James Allen eloquently remarked: “As the progressive and evolving being, man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow; and as he learns the spiritual lesson which any circumstance contains for him, it passes away and gives place to other circumstances.” This category of people cause more harm than good to those going through harsh experience of life.

The redundant prophets are people who have noticeably had some insights of what was going to happen to you but consciously or unconsciously kept it silent till late when fate has taken its toll. Rather than keeping it silent for good and rather than remorsefully feeling guilty of not advising you earlier enough to avert the incident, they would boast of how insightful they are. Even shamelessly saying that God had showed them in a dream of what was going to happen.
Far from wasting our time in watching and criticising other people, Jesus in the context of the above verses, teaches us where our priority should be focused on. Let us remark that we have originally inherited this blame culture from Adam who, instead of assuming full responsibility of eating the forbidden fruit, said: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12) Jesus, the second Adam, came to restore the original order by refocusing primarily our full attention on our personal development. Rather than looking to change others’ behaviour we should put our full energy in transforming ourselves.

Indispensable Priority

The emphasis is that an individual should make his personal development a priority in his life rather than trying to develop others. It’s only then that we will be able to help develop others. The truth is that it takes us a lifetime to perpetually develop ourselves to become what God had intended us to originally be. In fact, we should ‘mind our own businesses’ first.

The moment man focuses on working on himself and not criticising other people, the moment the right order – as God originally intended will be restored in the world. Man has a lot to do for himself that he does not have time to waste on criticising others. The moment man discovers the vast rich gold chest he possesses within himself, he will then sell everything else he has and dedicate his whole life digging and extracting from his own backyard the hidden treasure God had buried for him to deliver to the whole humanity. Once man comes to self-realisation of the hidden riches he possesses, he will wholeheartedly invest in himself in order to serve his rich treasure to the mankind. For where your treasure is, there will also be your heart. Man was never appointed by God to judge others but to cultivate himself first, so that once transformed, he could influence others through the manifestation of his character. Those who have built up a character can influence others even without saying a single word of criticism, blame or judgement. Nancy Kline says: “I think that our first duty to each other as human beings is to help each other fulfil our nature. And surely the most quintessentially human part of human nature is to think for ourselves. Our minds were designed with the most breathtaking accuracy to exactly do that.”

The obvious manifestation of man’s character would inevitably lead other people to their own self-transformation. Man has in fact an innate built-in capacity to self-transformation. That is why men naturally do not want to be criticised or judged by others. He has instead room for betterment through the influence of other people’s character. The true liberation of a man does not come from any form of criticism, blame, judgement, protest, campaign or revolt, but man is set free by the truth he discovers himself from within. This truth will constantly renew his mind so that he will be transformed from the inside out.
James Allen points out: “A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.”

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) We all have the divine mandate to work and to take care of something. The Hebrew word “work” also means to cultivate or serve. To cultivate means to train, domesticate, naturalise, tame, educate, civilise, school. Let’s notice here that the word cultivate does not mean exclusively farming. You can only serve what you have worked on. In other words you need to work on something first and deliver it later as a finished product to people. For example, you need to cook food first before you serve it as a meal to others.
Adam was given the mandate to work on something before he could serve it to the world. There are here two areas where man needs to concentrate on working first: the internal and external environments. The biblical “earth” context represents both the outer environment that surrounds us and the inner and hidden environment contained in ourselves. And man cannot work without having certain abilities, skills and aptitudes to carry out required and specific tasks of his work. Man needs to work on himself first. Man has to train, educate, and cultivate himself first in order to developing his skills. Then this will enable him through the use of his developed skills or the area of his gifts to transform and influence the outer environment. By working on his specific gifted area he will then serve his fruit to the humanity. Before man works on something, he must discover himself and identify what kind of gifts, talents or abilities he possesses. Man has to work first of all, on himself before he cultivates the environment he was given charge of. This involves rediscovering his identity, his purpose on earth and his abilities, refining his gifts and skills, training and educating himself to develop such a mindset that will help him prosper in the area of his gift. This is a lifetime process that requires full and constant attention on oneself. This requires a strong leadership in self-education.

Self-education era?

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD”. Jeremiah 31:33

Educating means civilise, cultivate, school, train, prepare, develop, meliorate, improve, better, amend and ameliorate. The word “educate” originates from the two Latin words: “ex” which means out and “ducere” meaning to lead, conduct and drive. There is a dynamic transformation that requires man to move from the condition and situation he finds himself in and get him to his expected destination.

God has hidden in man his own destiny which means that man has to educate himself in order to lead the hidden treasure out for the benefit of all. In the man is trapped what he is meant to become in the future. Man’s destiny is never ahead of him but within him. What a man is supposed to become, his perfect and final version is actually placed in himself in the form of a seed that needs to be cultivated. This constitutes the treasure he alone must discover within himself and deliver it to the humanity. There is a need of self-awareness, self-development, self-education, self-transformation to the person a man is supposed to become. The finished and perfect product of a man that is in God’s image is hidden in himself. It only takes man himself to carry out this work of self-education.

God had already built in each individual the capacity to discover oneself and therefore discover God. Does not the nature teach us how with the advancement of technology we are moving towards a self-service society? Let’s take one example of fast lane checkout tills in larger superstores. I think they simply call it fast lane to satisfy the customers who are on the move and don’t want stand for a long queue. But when actually it comes to using the till, do you think these customers including me would use it with the same speed as a trained checkout staff would? I don’t think so. But the point I would like to make is that people like checking out themselves and they enjoy it. They have adopted it as a personal responsible way of shopping. People want to do things for themselves, by themselves and at their own pace. This suggests that when you want to know something about yourself and work on it, you won’t struggle to find it out if you do it yourself. You will learn it faster and easier.

In order to grow fast, you need to do it yourself. We are not denying the importance of learning from others through books, seminars, classes and other educational settings. Instead all these tools contribute to helping individuals towards their own personal development. They ignite what God had already placed in us and inspire us to enlighten others. After Miriam and I offered tablets as Christmas presents to our two children of 8 and 7, I envisaged installing Bible Apps in their devices. When I asked my seven years old daughter Elsa, to bring me her tablet, I was surprised that she’d already managed to download it by herself. Needless was for me to ask her brother Michael. They even set alarms on their devices to wake them up every morning for school, with the advantage that they no longer complain to us how tired or unwell they feel. What a benefit! They just do it responsibly, spontaneously and happily. This example makes me say that we have already entered the age of self-education. It is at our doorsteps. Let’s responsibly admit and adopt it.

Time has come for us to stop trying to “teach” others what to do while we have so much to self-teach and learn from ourselves. Because everything we need for life and godliness is hidden within us. Let’s focus our attention in finding the treasure which is hidden in our hearts and let’s refine and deliver it to others for the betterment of the humanity.

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