Nothing is quite as injurious as an immature idea of God. When I was young, I wasted a lot of time looking for God. It was almost like I had lost a shoe. I thought I would find my missing “God” in the next book or the next mystical experience. We can spend our lifetimes waiting to be rescued or led by an invisible missing person. And, if our idea of God is immature, finding it may be worse than being lost. An immature idea of God proves any theory and justifies any cause.
How do you look for something unless you already know what it is? Worse, how do you search for something that you have been told is everywhere? How does a fish discover the ocean that it cannot see?
Jesus said God is within you. Many scholars contend that the phrase is better translated “God is among you.” Either way, the point is that religious symbols must point beyond themselves and reveal aspects of our shared experience with every other being. If God exists, He, She or It cannot fit inside me. So Jesus’ statement would simply remind us that the universal is everywhere so we don’t need to go hunting for it. Perhaps the word “God” is like a bookmark that reminds us that there is always something outside our widest definition, something deeper than our deepest perception of things.
Einstein didn’t believe in a personal God, but he used that word a lot. It seems to me he was using the word as a kind of corrective lens to human arrogance. We humans are not capable of grasping a universal concept, so perhaps Einstein was using the word to displace us from the myth that we stand at a fundamental vantage point. Perhaps Jesus was doing the same thing.
Whether or not we believe “God” is an actual person, it can be helpful to have a symbol reminds us we are not at the center of the universe. Whether or not we believe “God” is an actual person, it can be helpful to have a symbol that reminds us that we are expressions of whatever intelligence lies in the primordial laws of the universe. Whether or not we believe “God” is an actual person, it can be helpful to have a symbol that can remind us we are intimately connected to every other being in a fundamental way.
Perhaps Jesus was saying that there is something deeply peaceful in realizing that the treasure we seek comes as standard equipment. We do not need to buy it, achieve it or steal it from others. We do not need to seek it as if it were hidden. We are born possessing the most precious jewel in the universe.