Some of the scenes on TV following the London riots looked like they belonged to the Blitz, and not 21st Century Britain. According to insurance companies the damage done over those few days in August is going to cost the UK taxpayer an estimated £100m.Small businesses in particular had been hit hard. Reeves furniture store in Croydon had been trading for 140 years until it was burned down in the riots. The owner, Trevor Reeves, admitted that the fire had 'ruined' his life. The newspapers have spilt a lot of ink arguing about the causes of the riots, from family breakdown to financial injustice. But almost all agree that what fuelled the looting was our materialistic culture.
Sadly, the happiness and self-worth of so many of us is determined by what we have: the make of our trainers, the value of our smartphone, the speed of our broadband, the size of our house, the model of our car. Our TVs are bombarding us daily with lies telling us that if we buy their product then we will be happy, then we will be fulfilled, then the opposite sex will find us attractive. We have given our hearts to these 'things', instead of the God who gave them to us. We are worshipping creation, rather than the Creator. Jesus' words speak powerfully into this situation:
Do not 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 moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
The truth is that 'things' do not and will not satisfy us. We think they will, then we buy them, and then we realise they don't. What Jesus says here makes sense: it is crazy for us to give our hearts to things that will not last – either by rusting away like my car, becoming outdated like my computer, or looted like Reeves. Of course, in the end, everything we have will be taken away from us. Naked we enter the world, and naked we leave it. Our money and stuff can't save us.
If you want to riot-proof your treasure, Jesus' recommendation would be to redefine what your treasure is. The Christian will tell you that their treasure can "never perish, spoil or fade" because it is awaiting them in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4). That future has been secured for them, "not with perishable things such as silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Jesus" (1 Peter 1:18-19). We know what awaits us when we die, not because of what we have or what we've done, but because of who Jesus is and what he's done for us on the cross. Our treasure is enjoying our Creator and Saviour forever.
I read in the newspapers of one woman who was trying to defend her business from looters. As one of them started to get rough with her, she shouted at him: "Go for it! I'm at peace with the Lord! I'm ready to go!" Her life was riot-proof. Is yours?