A Trustworthy Treasure

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly–I used to be really involved in the Scouting movement, at the same time I was involved in a religious denomination that wasn’t excessively Christian.

In about 1997, when I realized that this church’s direction did not match my beliefs, I headed for the door. A few months earlier, sitting on a denominational advisory committee for Scouting, I was nominated as the group’s chaplain at the upcoming Boy Scout National Jamboree. What could be cooler than going to a National Jamboree on the staff in a flexible and wide-ranging role?

Oddly, I didn’t hear anything from the Jamboree people through the fall of 1996 and into the first months of 1997. When they called me in the spring of 1997, I vaguely noted that my situation had changed, and I couldn’t fill this role.

As I got off the phone that day, I smiled. I hadn’t hesitated a moment in passing up an assignment that I had previously coveted. Yes, I had to abandon an intriguing opportunity for that summer, but it didn’t make me pause for a moment.

In the next of Jesus’ Matthew 13 parables of the kingdom, we discover a parallel to my experience:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.–Matthew 13:44

I had the treasure. As much as I still enjoyed Scouting, it didn’t bother me a bit to give up that opportunity in order to embrace that treasure. Twenty-two years later, I have never regretted my decision. I gain a couple of conclusions from this verse.

  • The kingdom of God is incredibly valuable. It is not one among many things of value in our lives. It is valuable beyond compare.
  • The kingdom of God is not something we buy or work for. This guy found the treasure, but he did not work for it. Even if he was plowing when he found it, he didn’t plow for it.
  • The kingdom of God is worth every sacrifice that we make to secure it. The important fact in this parable is not that the man bought a field. It is that he obtained the treasure with the field as a necessary afterthought.
  • The kingdom of God is something that, when found, should bring us joy. This man did not hesitate or do a cost-benefit analysis. Instead, he jumped joyfully into action.

But here’s the question that I’m left with as I read this verse. Is the kingdom still something that I would sacrifice the near and dear to enjoy or maintain? Do I feel the joy of my salvation like I did when I first received it. What about you? If not, maybe we need to refresh ourselves on Matthew 6:33 and the kingdom of God we’re seeking.

To Forgive Is Divine (Hebrews 5:3-4)

This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:3-4)

I saw a bumper sticker in a convenience store a few days back. I read the words and then studied the image. They didn’t seem to make any sense. Then I realized just what I was seeing and blushed. I won’t describe the sticker, thereby giving it any value, but it was crass and tacky.

The acceptable level of crass and tackiness in our society has risen dramatically over the span of my life. It wasn’t in the Middle Ages that Jack Paar faced a firestorm of outrage when he told a joke that pivoted on the definition of W.C.: water closet or wayside chapel. Compare that with any random five minutes from How I Met Your Mother or Two and a Half Men. Yes, standards have changed.

Essentially, people have decided that things that used to be “wrong” are now “okay.” At the same time, many things that used to be “okay”–telling racist jokes, for example–are now decidedly “wrong.” I quotate these words because I believe that what’s wrong has always been wrong and will always be wrong. Just because society decides that abortion is a “woman’s right to choose,” does not make it acceptable. Similarly, just because a nation decided for several hundred years that enslaving Africans was acceptable did not move slavery out of the sin column.

Only God can decide what is sin and what is not. Only God can provide the means to settle our sin problems. Only God can call the “High Priest” who will make that settlement. No government office or journalistic position can change these things. No amount of television propaganda or talk therapy can eliminate sin. That’s why the existence of Christ as our high priest is such a miracle.