“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
It was a beautiful day in Florida, and I was waiting for my daughter Kelly to finish her browsing at the little strip mall. A young lady in her teens was sitting on the bench nearby, apparently waiting for someone, too. She looked bored, so I struck up a conversation with her. Recently I had created an approach to sharing the gospel that I had used at a party with my youth group back in Michigan. The theme of the party had been “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and we had talked about “treasure.”
“Did you find some good bargains today?” I asked, eyeing the shopping bags that sat at the girl’s feet. I realized it was almost a trick question at that overpriced resort area.
She answered, “Sort of.”
“Hey, would you like to take a quiz about the value of things?” I asked.
“Sure,” she agreed.
“OK,” I said. “Which would you say is more valuable: a gallon of water, 30 feet of rope, a book, a cell phone, or fifty pounds of gold?” She guessed the gold.
“Imagine you’re out sailing on the gulf today,” I continued. “You’re sitting on the edge of the boat, and along comes a wave, and you’re thrown overboard into shark-infested waters! Would you want me to throw you fifty pounds of gold?”
She laughed. Of course not.
“How about that gallon of water? (haha.)” We agreed that in that situation 30 feet of rope would be most valuable. (Or at least one end of it, assuming I was holding onto the other end to pull her back into the boat!)
“So now, what would you say is more valuable – a gallon of water, 30 feet of rope, a book, a cell phone, or 50 pounds of gold?”
“It depends,” she said with a smirk, catching on.
I set up different scenarios, such as being stranded in a desert 20 miles from the nearest town … the gallon of water, definitely!
Buried under an avalanche in a blizzard … cell phone, please!
So far, that 50 pounds of gold that sounded so appealing at the beginning didn’t seem all that handy.
“OK, final scenario,” I concluded. “You’ve died, and you’re standing at the gates of heaven, waiting to find out whether you will be let in to live there forever, or whether you will have to spend eternity … somewhere else. Which would you rather have at that point, 50 pounds of gold? A gallon of water? 30 feet of rope? A cell phone? … OR … a Book that will tell you how to get inside?”
We agreed, definitely the Book. I handed her a pocket-sized New Testament.
Two thousand years ago Jesus told a parable that is as relevant today as it was then.
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21
Have you had your values changed with your experiences?
Have you ever yearned for something only to find that, once you had attained it, that satisfaction was short-lived? Has what you longed for fallen apart or proved to be more work than it was worth to you? Does more of your life than you’d like consist of cleaning, maintaining, repairing, insuring, protecting, and paying taxes on your stuff?
Have you ever envied someone else, only to learn that behind their impressive lifestyle was a life of emptiness, loneliness, depression, or a secret personal tragedy?
As you grow older and (sorry) closer to death each day, how is your perspective changing? What do you value most? Do you expect that to change over time?
Jesus spoke of a treasure worth more than life itself:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went back and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13: 44-46
It struck me one day that in the first parable the kingdom of heaven is like the treasure, and in the second, it’s like the merchant.
In the first parable, we’re told that God’s kingdom is worth everything we have. But in the second parable, we are the treasure. Because of our sin, all of us owe God a debt we could never pay, but Jesus paid it by dying on the cross. God paid the ultimate price – His only begotten Son – to purchase us for Himself!
Jesus gave everything for us. It only makes sense that we should give everything to Him. This relationship – this recognition of His sacrifice and giving our lives to Him in return – is the greatest treasure of all. Do you possess this treasure? If not, let today be the day you give yourself to the One who gave it all for you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we have been chasing after all the wrong things, You’ve been quietly waiting for us to realize that the only true treasure is found in You. May we abandon ourselves at last in exchange for the eternal rewards of a life devoted to You. In Your precious name, amen.