Treasure maps are a bit of an iconic feature of our culture. In many ways they are a vestige of an era of intrigue that has lived on through "Dora the Explorer," a myriad of pirate moves, a few cable TV franchises and even Nicholas Cage running after a few national treasures. A treasure map can contain many elements. Trees, beaches, mountains, rivers and maybe a skull or two but the most important feature on a treasure map is a very simple mark. Everyone knows what it is and what it signifies and most people recognize it when they see it. “X Marks the spot."
I remember as a teenager watching a random pirate movie where an infamous pirate retraces his steps to recount where he had buried a treasure. He had followed the map and was finishing with this rather odd procedure: Stagger, Stagger, crawl, crawl, fall, roll, stagger, stagger, crawl. His method was meant to be comical but it sounds a bit like human life here under the sun. We stagger through this world looking for the treasure, trying to find joy, meaning and happiness for it has to be hidden down here somewhere, right?
Jesus took up the topic of buried treasure when he told the following parable 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."
His point was that people go “all in” where they find true treasure. We should do likewise in our lives yet we must find out what true treasure is and then know What X is truly marking the spot.
Our world today is filled with treasure maps pointing us to this or that promise of happiness. Marketers, advertisers, self-help gurus and political messiahs all mark out X's in the world for us to chase. Jesus had something more important to say than “buy this widget” or “read my book” to make us happy. He calls us in a better direction which does not leave the soul empty every searching for its gold.
In one of Jesus’ most famous teachings, which has come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, we encounter a command and some clear truth about treasure. Read his words in Matthew 6:19-21.
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We can all acknowledge are a myriad of earthly treasures that all people seek after. Jesus would have us know that they are temporary, they are subject to decay, and they can be taken away from us by thieves. All the things we seek after with such energy money, health, security, relationships with others can all be good things. Yet they are not true treasure. Anything that can be lost or taken away from us against our will does not provide a sure foundation for the heart. Jesus knew that only treasure “in heaven”, treasure found in and with God, would give the heart the home that it needs.
Too often the Christian is distracted by the cares of this world to the degree that material possessions, educational attainments, security in retirement, a new house or gadget actually become the “X marking the spot” for our lives. In doing so we turn aside from that which gives all those things true value and meaning.
Jesus closes his teaching on treasure with a strong reminder: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
Here he lays before us an impossibility—bowing the knee to God and earthly treasure. He speaks so clearly to us: YOU cannot do that. It simply doesn't work. If we are worshippers of things we cannot be servants of God. If we worship God we will not be worshippers of things. Our devotion and worship is only due to our Creator and Savior. We seek his kingdom, we hunger and thirst for righteousness and we receive all other things as gracious gifts from a good Father. If X marks the spot of true treasure we must have our hearts fully drawn to God in worship. Then we are free to worship creator and not creation, thank the giver for his gifts rather than making them into worthless idols that rob us of joy. In treasuring God we are actually freed up from the worry and anxieties of this life. The true map of life has Jesus as the true treasure. If we have the Son of God, we possess everything. It is then that we can trust him for what we need and are free to enjoy his good gifts in their proper place as well. Jesus said it this way: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
So today examine your own heart and ask your self: “What X marks the spot” for me? Is it Christ and Kingdom or is your hope in something else?