Every single one of us either worships the one, true, living God, or we worship something else. It is that simple. Jesus once said that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our lives will always be devoted to something, and if it is not God, it will be something else.
Jesus also told a series of parables about this, and how very important it is to get our priorities right, and make God the supreme value in our life. We should make God, and His Kingdom, the ultimate treasure which we value above everything else.
In Luke 15 for example he offers us three such parables: the parable of the lost sheep (1-7); the parable of the lost coin (8-10); and the parable of the lost son (11-32). And in Matthew 13 we have two more of these parables: the parable of the hidden treasure (v. 44) and the parable of the pearl of great price (45-46).
They all speak to seeking after that which is of immense value, a treasure which consumes all our attention until it is found. The first three speak of God’s great love for the lost, and how very valuable he considers every single one of us. The last two deal with the overwhelming importance of seeking first the Kingdom of God, and paying any price to find it.
When we see God and his Kingdom as the greatest possible good, we will sacrifice anything to obtain him and it. No price is too big, no effort too large, and no sacrifice too great, to receive the greatest thing in this life and the next. Such zealous and dedicated searching for what is of ultimate value should not sound very strange to us.
Indeed, people do it all the time. We all put huge efforts into getting what we think is of great value and importance. Just yesterday I came across a news story which very nicely illustrates this truth, and these parables. It is worth presenting the entire narrative here:
Brian McGuinn stood before a 9-ton mountain of smelly, rotten garbage, knowing it was his only chance to go from zero to hero.
The night before, he’d accidentally tossed his wife’s 1.5-carat diamond engagement ring into the trash — along with his disposable razor.
In the intervening hours since the night of Oct. 30, the custom-designed platinum ring he’d given Anna McGuinn, his wife of five years, had gone from the bathroom waste basket to the Margate-neighborhood trash bin to the Wheelabrator dump in Pompano Beach.
The crew at the dump gave McGuinn a mask, thick leather gloves, a hard hat and a full protective suit that made him look like a space man.
“I had a fighting chance,” Brian McGuinn said.
But the dump crew warned him to not get his hopes up. In all the years people had come to the dump looking for their valuables, only one woman had found what she was looking for — and that was after searching three days for eight hours each day.
Still, he waded into the 10-foot high pile debris, filled with rotten eggs, dirty diapers and chicken carcasses.
Overcome by the stench, McGuinn, 34, threw up.
About 20 minutes into his search, Joel Ryan, a utility operator at Wheelabrator, offered to get a bulldozer and level out the pile to make it easier.
The driver who’d picked up the garbage from the McGuinns’ community dump suggested he look in the far end of the pile.
Just 10 minutes later, McGuinn noticed something familiar: the hot pink cup from Menchies, his wife’s favorite spot for frozen yogurt. He dived toward the cup and started to dig frantically. He uncovered the couple’s garbage bag.
Just one problem: He hadn’t tied it closed, and many of the contents were missing.
Brian McGuinn stopped and said a prayer. As he opened his eyes, he spotted a familiar shower cap and conditioner bottle. He began lifting other bags and found the disposable razor.
Still, no platinum ring.
With the thick leather gloves he’d been given, McGuinn couldn’t feel anything as delicate as the missing ring. He had only one choice left: take off the glove and plunge his naked hand into the 5-inch pool of black sludge.
“It had been raining profusely, there was like five inches of nastiness,’’ he said.
McGuinn felt around, thinking he had found a nail. But when he pulled his sludge-covered hand from the pile, McGuinn let out a Tarzan-like yell. He was holding the diamond ring.
“I was absolutely in shock, there was no way I’d just found it.’’
His next stop was the jeweller, where he had the ring thoroughly cleaned. Then he drove to his wife’s office to put it back on her finger.
“It was unbelievable,” said Anna McGuinn, 31. “I’m never taking it off again.’’
The couple, who are expecting their first child in about three months, recently found out he’s a boy.
Brian McGuinn has some words of advice for his son:
“Even if you have to sort through a pile of crap,” he said, “persevere.”
Not a bad illustration of the very thing Jesus was speaking about. When you value something very highly, you will allow nothing to get in your way of obtaining it. No matter how odious and unpleasant and miserable it may be, you will keep at it until that prize is secured.
Jesus made it quite clear that the Kingdom of God is the ultimate treasure we should all be seeking. And the same commitment, dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice is required if we are to press on with God. God never rewards the casual inquirer but only the diligent seeker.
When we seek him with all our heart and mind and strength, he honours that and he rewards that. This is true not only of the initial salvation the sinner experiences when first turning to Christ, but is also true of the ongoing Christian walk – the life of daily, devoted discipleship.
How many believers put Christ first before all else? How many believers instead have Jesus as simply one of many treasures in their life? How many believers have plenty of other gods they really bow down to first? The life of Christian discipleship demands that we have no other gods besides Him.
And I am not talking about being saved by works here or human efforts, but about the Lordship of Christ. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. If he is not the treasure of great price that we will do anything for then he is not really Lord.
Following him may well mean wading through mountains of rubbish and all the stink and turmoil that entails. But it will always be worth it. Jesus went through plenty of misery and suffering for our sakes; how can we do anything less?
Indeed, the Christian life begins and continues as the cruciform life. Without the cross there can be no salvation and without the cross there can be no discipleship. Dying to everyone and everything else but God is the order of the day. Nothing less will do. As A.W. Tozer put it:
“The man who is crucified is facing only one direction… He [cannot] look back. The crucified man on the cross is looking only one direction and that is the direction of God, and Christ and the Holy Ghost… The man on the cross… has no further plans of his own… Somebody else made his plans for him, and when they nailed him up there all his plans disappeared… When you go out to die on the cross you bid good-bye – you are not going back!”