Often in the midst of financial slowdown we realise where our true confidence ought to be. We can spend our entire lives accumulating wealth and providing simply for our physical needs, and then realise we cannot take it with us to the world to come.
Tutankhamen was an Egyptian Pharaoh who lived about 1300 BC. He thought he could take his wealth with him when he died. He had his tomb filled treasure to enjoy in the Afterlife. When Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen tomb in 1922, the treasures where still there – worth hundreds of millions of rands. Tutankhamen was gone, but the treasure was still there.
We may spend our entire lives accumulating wealth and the abundance of possessions, but we can’t take it with us. We need the right perspective.
Jesus said in Matthew 13:44,
“The kingdom of heaven is like 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.”
Jesus had taught about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of “heaven” – as Matthew calls it. Jesus is the promised king and is bringing about the kingdom of God in all the world. We become members of the kingdom by trusting king Jesus. The disciples, at this stage in Jesus’ ministry, were probably asking themselves, “Is it worth following Jesus? There is so much rejection!” Jesus told a story about the infinite worth of the Kingdom.
In the days that Jesus walked the fields of Israel the average person did not earn a lot of money. There were no banks or safe-deposit boxes and if you had any valuables or had saved money, you would protect your valuables or money by hiding it in a secret spot in the ground. Israel had also been a battle ground for many years, and families would also bury their valuables from looting enemy soldiers. In time the ground in Israel came to hold many treasures, often unclaimed, as the owners of the treasures died or where forcefully driven away. The treasure would be forever lost, unless it were accidentally discovered.
Jesus said that a man was walking, maybe to work. He takes a shortcut across a field. His staff may have hit something solid in the ground and he digs to investigate. To his surprise he finds a fortune, a buried treasure, worth far more than all he has ever owned or hoped to own. According to the law of the day, if he buys the field the treasure is legally his. He goes home and joyfully, happily, excitedly, enthusiastically and willingly sells all that he owns, even his designer donkey, to buy the field and own the treasure. He knows and is convinced that no price is too high to gain the treasure. He must have it, he cannot lose it, he must do all that is required to get it, he cannot rest till it is his. Why? Because the treasure is of great worth. This is what the kingdom of God is like according to Jesus.
The real life account
A man named Justin lived in the 2nd century AD. He was a brilliant professor and tried all the different schools of philosophy, but the deep longing in his soul remained unsatisfied. One day he met an old man in the fields who told him about Jesus. He immediately started reading the Bible to see if this was indeed true. Justin was convinced and became a joyful Christian, using his intellect to defend the Christian faith. Some years later he was arrested in Rome for his faith and ordered to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods or be tortured without mercy. He replied, “That is our desire, to be tortured for our Lord, Jesus Christ.” The Roman prefect had them whipped and beheaded. After a long search, Justin had found the treasure of great worth and he gladly gave up even his life for the sake of that which is of infinite worth.
Justin has been given the surname Martyr by the church. The legacy of Justin Martyr lives to this day. Justin Martyr knew that the kingdom of God is like a priceless treasure. Nothing is too much to give in return for it. Anything we give for it is a bargain, because we are far better off in the end.
When you become a Christian, you are like that man in the field. You catch a glimpse of the unfading beauty and infinite worth of Jesus and his kingdom. At that point you realise that nothing in this world can ever compare and you joyfully, happily, excitedly, enthusiastically and willingly give up anything you must to gain the kingdom. You die to self, pick up your cross and follow Jesus. You turn from your sin and your own ambitions and you embrace Christ as Saviour and King.
Someone only becomes a Christian because deep-down they know that what he has just heard about Christ is the most important thing they have ever heard. They must have Christ, they cannot lose Christ, they must do all that is required to get Christ and they cannot rest till Christ is theirs. Whatever, whatever, whatever the cost.
For some the cost will be very high. Friends may scorn you. You will have to leave your unsavoury business practice. You will need to reconcile with your wife who you’ve been sinning against. You will need to stop your favourite sin. You will need to end the affair. You may need to leave your home and go to the mission field because you know that that’s what Jesus wants.
If you are Jewish or a Muslim, at best your family will treat you as if you are dead. But all these so-called “sacrifices” are all infinitely worth it because you are not losing out. You are better off. You are gaining the kingdom of God.
In light of the above, we can say that not treasuring the kingdom is the essence of all sin. When we sin by rebelling against God in some way and living contrary to his word, what we in effect say is this, “God, I’m not going to trust you to meet my needs. I consider that in this area of my life the treasures of this world are better than the treasure of the kingdom.”
When we covet someone else’s things we are not treasuring the kingdom by not trusting the king to provide our needs. When we involve ourselves in sexual immorality we are not treasuring the kingdom by not entrusting ourselves to the king’s guidelines for sex.
Sin begins and sin grows when we do not value the kingdom of God as our highest treasure of infinite worth.
The man of God
Moses, the man of God, knew the worth of the kingdom and certainly had the right perspective. Note how Hebrews 11:24-26 describes him:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to THE reward.
Why settle for all the treasures of Egypt or Bill Gates’ fortune when you could have the kingdom?