Last Monday night, my community group went through 1 Thessalonians 2. We got onto the topic of treasure and really took a big bite out of verses 19-20: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”
When I think of treasure, a few things come to mind: The Egyptians put the treasured possessions of a person (usually an elite or pharaoh) with their mummy to be with them in the afterlife. They even saw this as a requirement to get into the afterlife.
Pirates like treasure. They’re always lootin’ and hootin’ about some buried treasure on their treasure map. I always wondered: usually it’s always about an abandoned ship or something with treasure on it. Why didn’t the guy who made the map and apparently knew where the treasure was just go get it himself?
Even the early Europeans were infatuated with treasure. In the days of Christopher Columbus, it was all about finding the East Indies. It was so mysterious, and there was an abundance of dyes and other goods there to be had. A merchant’s paradise, or so they thought.
It doesn’t take long to see that treasure is an important concept in the human mind. For Paul, his treasure was people. Specifically, here, the Thessalonians. They were a young Gentile church, and they had an immense amount of questions for Paul regarding predestination, God’s sovereignty, and especially death and Christ’s return. Unfortunately, Paul was forced out of Thessalonica by the Jews there, which is what is he was talking about at the end of chapter two (more info can be found in Acts 17).
The concept of treasure isn’t talked mentioned very commonly. Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart is (Matthew 6:21), which is why it is so important. A treasure is something that gives you joy and happiness. A treasure is something you like thinking about and interacting with. A treasure is literally a part of your life, and you prize it greatly.
Not only does Jesus tell us what treasures reveal about our hearts, he also tells his followers what their treasures should look like: “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.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
Paul puts in this way in Colossians 3:2-3 – “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
So our physical stuff will not make it to heaven (sigh, Xbox 360 and Macbook). What does it mean to have treasures in heaven? Obviously God, our ultimate treasure, is there. But what else? Jesus’s passion was for people. Paul loved Jesus who loved people, and where was Paul’s passion? People. Are you catching the pattern? It’s the people God places in our lives that we should be spending our time with and taking joy in.
But what do most people and Christians treasure? Stuff. Wealth. Clothes. Food. Acceptance. Reputation. Friends. Family. Cars. Sex. Smart phones. The list goes on. Was this what Jesus (or Paul for that matter) had in mind? I think not.
What do you look forward to the most in heaven? Is it not God? Get this — God is most excited and will get the most glory from spending time with you in heaven. Since God treasures us, and we treasure God, we should treasure the people around us as well.
Of course, I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the things you have. Just be careful. When dealing with how to balance and prioritize the treasures in your life, keep in mind that while treasures can very easily become idols — as you probably read the above list from a perspective of idolatry –, treasures and idols are not the same thing. Treasures are cherished for what/who they are; idols are depended on for what they provide the user. We are thankful for our treasures; we always need more from an idol. Treasures are blessings; idols are an unhealthy addiction. Need some Scriptural clarity? Go up to the beginning and read what Paul said about the Thessalonians. Does that sound like idolatry?
Treasures can be broken into two, simple parts: things and people. If you’re not sure what your treasures (or idols) are, think about what makes you passionate, what motivates you to act and why. Here’s the bottom line: If you are passionate about God, you will be passionate about others.
Examine your life. What are your treasures?