The adventure film National Treasure has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it in 2004. It is loosely based on the myth of a secret code inscribed on the back of the Declaration of Independence by its signers. The deciphering of this secret code would lead the treasure hunters, led by Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage), to the discovery of a fantastic collection of treasure that, for centuries, had been protected and passed down by the Knights Templar and Freemasons. I am convinced that films like National Treasure and the hugely successful Indiana Jones series are so popular because they connect viewers with their inner treasure hunter. If, indeed, we are all treasure hunters, the question that must be answered is: “What kind of treasure are we spending our lives to discover?”
The greatest treasure
Jesus cautioned His disciples, “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). In this brief but penetrating passage, Jesus sets forth four powerful truths that relate to treasure hunting.
The first truth is found in the fact that everyone is a treasure hunter. Jesus does not leave room for any other option. He assumes that treasure hunting is a mark of all humanity. Anything of value is a treasure, and we are all seeking value. It may be the value of a certain amount of income. Perhaps it is a style of living that indicates you have “made it.” Maybe it is a position of power and prestige in your company, community, or church. In his book, A Quest For More, Paul Tripp asks, “If I watched the video of your last year, what treasure would I conclude you’re after?”
The second truth is found in the various classes of treasure: earthly and heavenly, carnal and spiritual, important and unimportant, little and big, temporal and eternal. We always have two choices in treasure hunting; we can hunt for the stuff we want or the stuff God wants for us.
It’s important to note that we could, in fact, be pursuing the treasure God wants us to pursue, but for the wrong reasons, like personal power or self-centered glorification. For example, a church elder who enjoys the prestige of authority rather than the fulfillment of serving is pursuing godly treasure, but with the entirely wrong motive!
The third truth is framed in the divine “abstain/advance” imperative from Jesus. Jesus warns us to abstain from pursuing earth-bound little kingdom treasures and to advance in the direction of pursuing heaven-bound big kingdom treasures. The Apostle Paul passed this truth on to his young assistant, Timothy: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
The fourth truth makes it clear that what we pursue and possess ultimately pursues and possesses us. It is a matter of the heart; “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It was a matter of the heart for both Adam and Eve. With hearts made for God, they both sought to satisfy their deepest longings in something other than God, something that could never satisfy them, and all humanity has been on a downward spiral ever since. Satan promised Adam and Eve something they already had–life; instead, they received something they were never intended to experience–death. This is always the result of chasing after the wrong kind of treasure. The promise at the beginning is attractive and enticing, but at the end of the day, it inevitably leads to some kind of death.
When we hunt for treasure other than the only treasure that was meant to satisfy us, we are never satisfied. “The Preacher,” author of Ecclesiastes, is considered by many scholars to be none other than King Solomon, whose vast accumulation of wealth eclipsed that of any other Israelite king, yet his heart was led astray from God. His testimony is illustrative:
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