After being in the Denver area for just over two months my wife, Carole, and I finally made it to the mountains for a couple of days. While we were there we spent some time taking in and exploring the beauty of the majestic Rockies and rejoicing that we could know that it is all part of God’s creation.
Part of our exploring included getting out our metal detector for a few hours so as to see if we could find some buried treasure. In fact, the owners of the place where we were staying told us that years ago a train that used to run through their property was robbed of its gold which was then buried somewhere nearby – yet to be discovered! As you might imagine, that only served to fuel our desire to find some buried treasure and so we searched and we dug, and searched and we dug until we found… all of the things pictured above. Quite a find, right?! An old beer or soda can, some wire, various nails and staples, a couple of old bolt heads, some spent bullet cartridges, a bottle cap, a railroad tie, and a hunk of lead – total value: 27 cents.
The worst and most frustrating find of all (not pictured) was a 12 inch by 12 inch metal plate that had been used somewhere along the railroad tracks and which I spent about 30 minutes digging up, convinced all along that I had found the coveted stash. When I was finally able to reach it so as to extract it from the ground, it wasn’t “Eureka!” that I cried but rather, “Okay, I’ve had enough, let’s go home and Carole agreed.
Now what’s ironic about all of that (probably sinfully ironic is more like it), is that we are currently going through a Bible study on Ecclesiastes.
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecc. 1:2). That phrase (or one like it) is repeated throughout the book and that’s because the Preacher would have us to know that this life is but a passing shadow, a vapor, a puff of smoke with nothing of any lasting value or ultimate worth contained within it. Not to say that we humans are created without a purpose or without a reason for being here – we are, and that’s to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Cf. I Cor. 10:31). However, this current life will ultimately end in death no matter what we do or how much we like to pretend otherwise (Heb. 9:27), at which point all that we have sought to attain and possess will slip through our grasp and hold no meaning for us whatsoever.
In his book Living Life Backward David Gibson wrote, “The reality is, we spend our lives trying to escape the constraints of our created condition. Opening our eyes to this is a significant breakthrough. To be human is to be a creature, and to be a creature is to be finite. We are not God. We are not in control, and we will not live forever. We will die. But we avoid this reality by playing ‘let’s pretend.’
Let’s pretend that if we get the promotion, or see our church grow, or bring up good children, we’ll feel significant and leave a lasting legacy behind us. Let’s pretend that if we change jobs… move to a new house, we’ll be happier and will never want to move again. Let’s pretend that if we end one relationship and start a new one we won’t ever feel trapped. Let’s pretend that if we had more money (like the kind that Carole and I were hoping to unearth) we would be satisfied.”
That’s only an abbreviated list of the “Let’s pretend” scenarios which Mr. Gibson writes about, but I’m assuming that that’s enough of the list so as to get the point.
Please understand, I’m not saying that hunting buried treasure with a metal detector or even a shovel is sinful in and of itself. Truth be told I’m sure that Carole and I will be back at it again soon – finding more old metal cans, staples and other worthless objects (at least we’ll be cleaning up litter) – and yet, what we, as well as any other treasure hunter needs to remember is that the true treasure doesn’t lie under the ground of this earth, or even above the ground of this earth, but instead the true and everlasting treasure resides beyond this earth in heaven.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And why did He say that? Because He knows that to lay up treasure upon this earth is a vain pursuit, even one that has no lasting value.
Knowing full-well, and always keeping before us, the reality that we are going to die and that the things of this earth will then be left to others, is meant to be freeing. Of course that can only be freeing if we realize and confess our sin as sin (including the sin of covetousness), while at the same time trusting in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.
Lord’s Day 23, question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism, asks: “How are you righteous before God?” followed by this answer, “Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect righteousness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had my self accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”
Oh, what a blessed “as if” and even more so what a blessed Savior! By His grace may we all come to understand more and more the true and everlasting treasure that’s found in Him.