Is Jesus precious to you? Do you recognize the forgiveness and life God freely gives you because of Him as the most valuable “items” you could ever possess in this life? Or do the things associated with our Savior–the Bible, Christian books, church attendance, and even the people interested in this–seem boring and useless as far as you’re concerned?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
Most of us have seem diamonds, typically in engagement and wedding rings, but have you ever had the experience of seeing what a diamond looks like when it is first dug out of the earth? It is hidden in rock and difficult to find, and in its unpolished condition, looks almost like a large grain of salt–not worth anything more than to be cast aside. Cheap polished glass, which sells for a tiny fraction of a diamond ‘s worth, appears more attractive than a diamond in the rough.
Yet, amazingly, once the diamontaire, the master diamond cutter, is finished, it is absolutely stunning–breath-taking even–and worth thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is a similar situation with gold. Unrefined gold is just a yellow streak in the surrounding rock, nondescript, and certainly unimpressive. I’d probably trip right past it thinking it’s just another rock on the ground, never recognizing it for what it is or its true value.
Yet, those who know what they’re looking for find it, dig it out, refine it, and when it is finished, it is absolutely beautiful–nothing like the rock it came from–and subsequently sells for hundreds, even thousands of dollars in the form of bullion or elaborate jewelry.
Yet a little child, given the choice between the valuable but uncut and unrefined precious jewel, or a shiny, new, dollar store bauble, will invariably choose the bauble because it looks pretty. If you place the uncut diamond or nugget of unrefined gold in her hand, she won’t understand it’s value and will not want it, because she simply cannot see it for what it is. I believe this is true for many people regarding the kingdom of God.
When given the choice between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, many people think it’s a no-brainer. It’s not difficult to see which one is interesting, lively, hip, with something always going on–and which just looks like a dud. Most of us are, after all, inundated with all the world has to offer on a daily basis–and some of us never disconnect from our iPods and laptops long enough to even go more than several minutes without it’s influence.
I’m not, of course, going so far as to suggest we never listen to music or watch TV, or withdraw into Amish-like communities. I am, however, saying that we need to be aware that the more we immerse ourselves into the vicarious pleasures of our electronics, Internet, and everything else we have with its instantaneous gratification, cynical attitudes toward what is right, and upside down value system, the more we will absorb it, reflect it, mimic it, and eventually embrace it. How can church compete with all that? And should we then be surprised that we eventually find ourselves not drawn–perhaps even repelled –by the things of God? We must be careful that we not become like Lot of the Old Testament, who started out in the valley and eventually ended up sitting within the gates of Sodom!
Yet, what we must realize is that the flash, glitter and glam of the world at large is like dollar store little girl jewelry bling. It’s superficially attractive, but it’s trash–absolutely valueless. It’s pretend jewelry, and it only lasts for a really short time. Most importantly, if our attention is misdirected toward the flashy, useless baubles this world offers, we risk missing out on the diamond hidden in the dull, seemingly unimpressive rock of Christianity.
So, what should we do when we recognize we’re getting too distracted by the baubles? How should we respond as mature individuals who are no longer under the constant supervision of a parent who watches over us and says, “No, honey, this isn’t good for you. Don’t do that”?
What we should do if we’ve become so immersed in the entertainments and distractions of this world that we are starting to have trouble recognizing the true, incomparable value of what Jesus offers is to draw closer to Jesus by pulling away from the things of this world: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) A double minded person is someone who isn’t completely given over to Christ. It’s someone who is making some kind of superficial gesture of following Jesus while at the same time still loving the baubles. The more intimately involved we become with the useless distractions of this world, the less we will love and appreciate Jesus, until eventually, we may become completely blind. Conversely, the less exposure we give ourselves to the sinful attitudes of this world, the more He will open our eyes to see how precious He truly is!
Help me draw near to You. Help me not trick myself into believing I can hang around Sodom and not eventually end up in its gates. Help me pull away from everything that makes You seem less precious, be it catchy songs about an ungodly lifestyle, programs, movies, or literature that deride what is good or glorify what is bad, or anything else that is influencing me away from You. Help me not lose You, the biggest and truest treasure! Amen.