Early one winter morning in 1994, two men pull up to the National Art Gallery in Oslo, Norway. From the trunk of their car, they withdraw a ladder they have stolen just minutes earlier from a construction site and prop it against the wall of the museum. One of the men starts up the ladder only to slip and tumble back down. He gets up, shakes off the snow and goes up again. This time he reaches the top, where he takes a hammer and smashes the second story window.
He climbs inside and goes after the painting closest to the window. With a pair of wire cutters he snips the wires holding the painting to the wall. It is The Scream by Edvard Munch and is valued at 70 million dollars. When he is finished, he leaves the wire cutters on the floor along with a postcard of a picture titled, Good Story. The picture, by a popular Norwegian artist, shows three men laughing uproariously, presumably over a story they have just shared. On the back of the postcard is written the words, Thanks for the poor security. The man then takes the painting and slides it down the ladder to his waiting partner. The entire crime is caught on tape and takes less than one minute.
When museum officials are later asked to explain why such a valuable painting was so easy to steal, their answer is that it is the gallery’s mission to display great works of art to the public. Since any money spent on security takes away from what can be spent obtaining and displaying such art, spending on security is kept to a bare minimum. (Incidentally, this same gallery would experience another robbery a decade later when thieves would walk in during exhibition hours, wave a gun and take two valuable paintings).
While the gallery’s intent is undoubtedly honorable, their philosophy is fundamentally flawed. If they fail to secure their treasure, there will not be anything to display! Therefore, keeping their treasure secure must be a priority.
And what might our treasure be? Material possessions? Relationships? Our family? What is it we need to guard?
The answer might surprise you. It is our heart. The writer of Proverbs counsels us to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23).
What is being said here? To start with, we need to detach ourselves from our modern notion that the heart refers exclusively or even primarily to the emotions. For the people of biblical times, emotions were viewed as centered not in the heart but a little lower down, in the abdomen (think about the queasy stomach you get when you’re nervous). The heart involved the intellect but most of all it embraced the will. To speak of the heart then is to speak of the part of man where decisions were made and destinies determined. This passage urges us to be extremely cautious of what we let into our decision center.
Maybe it is helpful to think of our heart as the GPS (God Positioning System) of our life. If we treat it well and with respect, it will seek out and remain sensitive to God. If we abuse it and let it become hard and unyielding, it will not work as intended.
What kind of shape is your heart in? Securing great art from would-be thieves should be a no-brainer. Securing our heart from anything that would move it away from our Father is even more important.
Secure your treasure and guard your heart!