Do not gather up treasures for yourselves on earth where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal. Gather up treasure in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and no thief can steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
When a butterfly lands on your arm you stop and hold very still. As it rests there, gently moving its delicate wings, you know: at any moment it could fly away. Any child who has this experience knows the feeling, an echo of the reality of grace, a direct experience of being blessed. You know that to be touched by this winged being is a rare gift. And you never forget it…
When Jesus speaks about gathering treasures on earth and treasures in heaven, somewhere, intuitively, we know what he means – at least with the earthly part. It is so easy to imagine what is meant by earthly treasure..but heavenly treasure?
Everything and everyone has an outside and an inside, a physical sheath and a spiritual core, a surface and a depth. The secret to understanding heavenly treasure is not to think that it can be gathered in some ‘other world’ far from our experience. The secret lies in discovering that it is spread out all around us as the inner reality behind all outer semblance, the depth hidden beneath every surface.
If we have trouble breaking through to those depths with the things around us, we certainly know this experience with our fellow human beings. We meet someone and get a first impression from their ‘look’, the way they present themselves, etc., and we try to form judgments about who they are and what they are all about. But then, perhaps in a conversation over coffee, they open up and reveal depths of which we had no inkling. It is nothing you could have forced and you feel blessed by their trust in you and by the beauty of their soul, this being that has given you a glimpse of who they really are.
When that happens, a person really enters your heart. You become a part of them and they become a part of you and nothing can take that away. Even if you leave and don’t see them for a long time – even if they die and lay down their outer garments – they can not be taken from you. This kind of encounter is possible with every single thing in the universe. Every stone and flower, every animal, the wind, the clouds and the mountains – the earth itself – all conceal an innerness, a hidden ‘heavenly’ being we may one day be gifted to meet, to feel, to experience.
” Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.” – George Washington Carver
In the 19th century and well into the beginning of the 20th century, during the height of Western scientific materialism, it became popular to try and capture butterflies. There were collections to be built. Capture the butterfly in your net, place it inside a glass case and pin it with its wings open. Any perceptive heart, sensitive to the inner being of things, can feel futility, even the violence, of such an act. There is no butterfly in that case, just an empty shell. The being of the butterfly has long left and can never be grasped or taken. Beings can only be received as a gift, a blessing, an encounter with the treasures of heaven.
The one that landed on the child’s arm? That butterfly, even though it flew away, will always be remembered in his heart and no one can take that away.