Money may not buy happiness, but we’d all like to find hidden treasure! Yet are we looking in the right place? How do we discover what’s truly valuable in life?
In November of 1992, a farmer near Suffolk, England, lost a hammer. He felt he had lost it somewhere in the fields of his farm; so after an unsuccessful search, he asked a friend who owned a metal detector for some help.
The search with the metal detector uncovered some silver tableware—and some ancient coins. So they notified the authorities, and an archaeological team came in to excavate the site.
When the excavation was complete, nearly 15,000 Roman coins from the fourth and fifth centuries had been recovered, along with silver tableware. The assessed value in 1993 was about 1.75 million pounds (approximately $3.5 million)! The value in today’s currency would be considerably more.
The story of Jesse Lauriston Livermore has a far different outcome. Jesse Livermore was a financial trader and investor during the early 20th century. He made most of his money by using a trading technique called “short selling.” Essentially, when a trader expects the market to go down, he can borrow shares and sell them while the price is high. He hopes that by the time he has to return the shares he will be able to purchase them at a lower price so he can make a profit.
Livermore made about $3 million using this method during a market panic in 1907. This fortune, however, pales when compared to the fortune he made during the great market crash of 1929.
In the months leading up to the crash of October 1929, Livermore noticed market conditions he felt were similar to those in 1907. He began short selling stocks and continued to build on those market positions. After the market crash was complete, Livermore was worth around $100 million. After accounting for inflation, that fortune would be worth much more than $1 billion in today’s dollars!
But by 1934, Jesse Livermore was bankrupt. We don’t know exactly how the fortune was lost, but we do know he continued to trade the market after 1929, and he suffered the second of two divorces in 1932.
Livermore slipped into a clinical depression from which he never recovered during the late 1930s. On Nov. 28, 1940, at the age of 63, he committed suicide in a hotel room in New York City.
What about the rest of us?
Though stories of treasures found and fortunes lost aren’t that uncommon, most of us experience neither of those extremes during the course of our lives. But we all face decisions about what we will value in life. Perhaps we are also sitting on a hidden treasure—or in danger of losing one.
If something isn’t lasting, how valuable is it? Even if we manage to achieve or inherit a fortune in this lifetime, we can’t “take it with us,” as the saying goes. Any fortune, no matter how large, becomes worthless to its owner on the day of his or her death.When determining what is truly valuable in life, consider the relationship between time and value. If something isn’t lasting, how valuable is it? Even if we manage to achieve or inherit a fortune in this lifetime, we can’t “take it with us,” as the saying goes. Any fortune, no matter how large, becomes worthless to its owner on the day of his or her death.
Time and treasure
Jesus Christ had some advice for those in His day about what makes something truly valuable: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Jesus was describing the ways riches were acquired and measured in His day, as well as the ways those riches could commonly be lost.
Garments could be very valuable in those times, especially if they were acquired by trading and brought by ships from foreign lands. Garments, though, could be destroyed by moths. Valuables might also be represented by coins or precious metals. Those same coins and metals were subject to becoming corroded or defaced. It was common for treasure to be buried in fields or hidden in houses. In both cases, thieves could discover and carry away the treasure.
(What did Jesus Christ mean when He said “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”? Learn more about this in the articles on the Life, Hope & Truth website titled “What Is Heaven?” and “Do We Go to Heaven When We Die?”)
Today, we have many other ways to acquire and measure wealth, along with several new ways to lose that wealth. But the basic principles remain the same.
The book of Hebrews gives similar advice about the enduring nature of true treasure. The author sought to encourage these early New Testament Christians who had experienced many trials. He wrote: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:32-34).
Both of these biblical passages tell us that something truly valuable lasts beyond the human lifetime. Both statements tell us that true treasure merits more of our time and effort than temporary riches.
What is a real treasure worth?
Jesus had further words of wisdom concerning what true treasure—treasure that lasts beyond a lifetime—is worth. Notice Matthew 13:44: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
The image again is of the practice of that time: burying treasure in a field. The treasure that is described here, though, is worth everything a person owns.
The parable that immediately follows contains the same message: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
The “kingdom of heaven” is described as the real treasure—a treasure worth more than we can possess in this lifetime. The analogy in the parables is one of trading personal valuables for lasting treasure. The lesson is that seeking the Kingdom of God should be the No. 1 priority in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
In Search of Hidden Treasure
By: David Sellery
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
From Treasure Island to Indiana Jones, there is something about stories of buried treasure, secret maps and hidden clues that uniquely captures our imagination. Over the ages the elusive dream of riches beyond counting has led people up the Amazon in search of El Dorado and down to the grocery store to blow the milk money on lottery tickets.
This week’s gospel is full of clues on where to find the ultimate treasure… the kingdom of heaven. Is it in a mustard seed… buried in a field… or in a rare pearl? What is this kingdom and how do we find it? Here we need no obscure clues or secret maps. Jesus openly preaches and lives the kingdom. He points the way in plain words and loving deeds… larger than life, transcending death. Knowing he faced execution, Jesus comforted his disciples saying: I am the way the truth and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.
Jesus shows us that the kingdom is living here and hereafter in God’s love. The Peace of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven… they are one. Through the grace of God, they are found in the realization that the flawed children of Eve are his beloved. In our pride, in our hypocrisy, in our darkest hour, you and I are cherished with a love beyond understanding. Christ did not live and die to redeem some abstraction called “mankind.” He went to the cross deliberately and specifically to save you, to save me, to save each one of us individually. As our Evangelical brothers and sisters so accurately describe Jesus: He is our personal Savior. In his love, the kingdom lives.
Jesus goes on to explain why he uses parables: This is as the prophet said: I will speak using stories; I will tell things that have been secret since the world began. Jesus did not come to banter with theologians. He came to save each one of us, to lead us to the kingdom of heaven. The genius of the parables is their profound simplicity and their undeniable truth. Knowing he faces opposition, he is the stone the builders rejected. Knowing the worth of the kingdom, he tells us of apearl beyond price. Knowing our stubborn ways, he reminds us that the harvest awaits us all. Revealing his loving Father, he shows us the prodigal returning home to joyful forgiveness.
In many parables and in his direct charge, Jesus is particularly clear that to those that much has been given, much is expected. That goes double for his ministers. I have not answered his call to St. John’s in lovely Salisbury, Connecticut, to enjoy the beautiful scenery and to help the congregation get their ticket to heaven punched once a week. I am here; we are all here to build the kingdom of heaven. That’s not a rhetorical flourish. It is not a grand and meaningless gesture. It is the essence of the God’s great commandment. It is the only reason why we walk the earth.
Living with that reality is the first step to building the kingdom. The next is committing to the kingdom, making it the focus of our lives. That is God’s plan for us. The kingdom of God will not be built by a few great saints. It will take millions of sinners, like you and me… getting up every day, witnessing Christ’s love, though often failing and falling… but always being forgiven in true contrition… being fortified in grace… then getting up again, resolved to build the kingdom.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God… It is there for the asking. It is there for the building. God loves you beyond measure. Start digging for his treasure. It’s not hidden. You’ll find it in his love. Spend every day in that knowledge. Go home to him in that certainty.
One of Jesus’s most powerful parables is also one of his shortest:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).
Fifteen minutes before this man’s discovery in the field, the thought of selling all that he owned to buy it wouldn’t have crossed his mind. Even if it had, it would have seemed ludicrous. But fifteen minutes after finding the treasure, he was off to do it with joy. What made the difference?
This man suddenly found something that transformed his whole outlook on life. The treasure restructured his values and priorities. It altered his goals. The treasure revolutionized the man.
The treasure in this parable is the resurrection to eternal life. It was the same “treasure in heaven” that Jesus promised the rich young man if he would sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21). The rich young man, blinded by short-term worldly wealth, could not see the treasure, but the man in the parable did, and he jumped at it.
Now, there was a cost to obtaining the treasure. Viewed one way, the cost seemed high — it cost him everything he owned. But viewed another way, the cost was very small. Standing in the field, the man did a quick cost-benefit analysis. It didn’t take him long to realize that selling all his possessions was going to make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He would have been a fool not to do whatever was necessary to buy that field.
The Treasure of Treasures
Now, when the man bought the field and obtained the treasure of eternal life, what specifically did he get? This is an important question, because the Bible makes eternal life a central focus for the Christian, yet provides few descriptions about what it will be like. When the Bible does describe eternal life, it often uses similes, metaphors, and symbols. Why?
One reason is that we simply are not yet equipped to comprehend the reality we will experience in the new age, for “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Through figurative language, God helps us transpose the glories we now see and understand into glimpses of future greater glories.
But I believe there is a more important reason God doesn’t give us more details: Eternal life is more about a Person than a place. What will make the kingdom of heaven so heavenly to us will not be the glorious phenomena of the new creation or the rich rewards we will receive, as inexpressibly wonderful as they will be. The heaven of the age to come, the Treasure of treasures, will be God himself — knowing and being with the One from whom all blessings flow.
Jesus himself said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And Paul expressed his deepest longings like this: “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8, 10). What we will enjoy most about the resurrection is having the dim mirror of this age removed and finally seeing Jesus face to face, finally knowing the triune God fully as we have been fully known by him (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Remember Why You Sold Everything
The resurrection from the dead is the single greatest hope of the Christian. It is the only prize that ultimately matters, and we make it our one great life goal to obtain it (Philippians 3:14). It is the culmination of the gospel (1 Peter 3:18). The whole reason Jesus came into the world was to give us eternal life (John 3:16). He died for us, that we might live with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to “deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
Jesus is longing for this day with all his heart. He expressed this yearning to his Father when he prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Jesus’s great longing is that you will be with him. And when you are finally with him, “he will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Never again will you know any kind of separation from him (Romans 8:39), for you will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
That is the treasure you have discovered in the field of this fallen world. Jesus has paid for it all, and it costs you everything you own in this age to have it. Yet it is such a small payment for such an everlasting, never-ending treasure that only a fool would pass it up.
The treasure makes all the difference.