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Sermon illustrations

Treasure

Finding Lost Treasure

In 1991, a yet-to-be-identified flea market enthusiast discovered a simple picture frame to his liking. Securing the purchase, the shopper returned home only to discover an ancient document hiding inconspicuously behind the frame. Thinking little of the discovery, he continued about his life. Two years later, a friend stumbled on the document and investigated its origin. The rest is history. The four – dollar frame had hidden a first – edition copy of the Declaration of Independence reportedly worth north of one million dollars.

This accidental discovery is not isolated. There was the contractor who found $ 182,000 in a bathroom wall he was remodeling. A three-dollar Chinese bowl later sold at Sotheby’s for $ 2.2 million — it was a treasure from the Northern Song Dynasty. Then there was that California family who stumbled on a can of ancient gold coins in their backyard valued at $10 million.

To borrow Calvin’s words from Bill Watterson’s iconic comic strip, “There’s treasure everywhere.”  Not only do treasures of gold and silver lie hidden everywhere around us, but priceless ideas do as well. History is the story of ideas lost and found, disappearing and reappearing time and again to the surface.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Location 215.

The Moussaieff Red Diamond

The stone had been formed in the depths of the earth centuries before it was found, transformed from worthless carbon by unimaginable temperatures and pressures. It had been driven to the surface of the earth by tectonic forces and had made its way down various tributary streams until it came to rest at the edge of the Abaetezinho River in Brazil. No one could know how long it was there, unrecognizable, covered with mud and sand. It looked like any ordinary stone, but it was precious beyond words.

In 1990, a Brazilian farmer needed some water for his fields and stooped down to get it. The stone somehow caught his eye, and he scooped it up, dripping and dirty. There’s no way the farmer could have known that he had just discovered the largest red diamond in history—13.9 carats in its rough form. All diamonds are rare, but red diamonds are the rarest of them all. That red diamond would eventually be cut into a triangular shape weighing 5.11 carats. It is now known as the Moussaieff Red Diamond, after the collector who purchased it in 2001. Its sale price was undisclosed, but estimates put its value as high as $8 million. This amazing red diamond is exceedingly precious.

Andrew M Davis, The Power of Christian Contentment, Baker Publishing Group, 2019, p.12.

A Transfer of Funds

When Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on Earth, it’s not because wealth might be lost; it’s because wealth will always be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions. Imagine yourself near the end of the Civil War. You’re a Northerner, stranded in the South by the war. You plan to move home when the war is over. While in the South, you’ve accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war soon.

What will you do with your Confederate money?

If you’re smart, you’ll immediately cash in your excess Confederate currency for US currency—the only money that will have value after the war. You’ll keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs.

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns—or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit.

Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He instructs us to transfer our funds from the fallen Earth (which is ready to take a permanent dive) to Heaven (which is insured by God and will soon replace Earth’s economy—forever). Though Christ’s financial forecast for Earth is bleak, He’s unreservedly bullish about investing in Heaven, where every market indicator is eternally positive!

Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Revised and Updated: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, Multnomah, 2017.

The Treasure of a Lifetime

A first-century Hebrew walks alone on a hot afternoon, staff in hand. His shoulders are stooped, his tunic stained with sweat. But he doesn’t stop to rest. He has pressing business in the city. He veers off the road into a field, seeking a shortcut. The owner won’t mind—travelers are permitted this courtesy. The field is uneven. To keep his balance he thrusts his staff into the dirt. Thunk. The staff strikes something hard. He stops, wipes his brow, and pokes again. Thunk. Something’s under there, and it’s not a rock.

The weary traveler’s curiosity wins out. He jabs at the ground. Something reflects a sliver of sunlight. He drops to his knees and starts digging. Five minutes later, he’s uncovered a case fringed in gold. By the looks of it, it’s been there for decades. Hands shaking and heart racing, he pries off the lock and opens the lid. Gold coins! Jewelry! Precious stones! A treasure more valuable than anything he’s ever imagined. Some wealthy man must have buried the treasure and died suddenly, its secret location dying with him.

There’s no homestead nearby. Surely the current landowner has no clue this ancient treasure is here. The traveler buries the chest and marks the spot. He turns to head home—only now he’s not plodding. He’s skipping like a child and smiling broadly. What a find! Unbelievable! I’ve got to have that treasure! But I can’t just take it. By law, whoever buys a field assumes ownership of all that’s in it. But how can I afford to buy it? I’ll sell my farm…and crops…all my tools…my prize oxen.

Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough! From the moment of his discovery, the traveler’s life changes. The treasure captures his imagination. It’s his reference point, his new center of gravity. The traveler takes every new step with this treasure in mind. He experiences a radical paradigm shift. This story is captured by Jesus in a single verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).

Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Revised and Updated: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, Multnomah, 2017.

Weighed Down By Gold

After striking a large deposit of gold, two miners in the Klondike gold rush were so excited about unearthing more and more gold each day that they neglected to store up provisions for the winter. Then came the first blizzard. Nearly frozen, one of the miners scribbled a note explaining their foolishness. Then he lay down to die, having come to his senses too late. Months later, a prospecting party discovered the note and the miners’ frozen bodies lying on top of a huge pile of gold.

Obsessed with their treasure, these men hadn’t taken into account that the fair weather wouldn’t last and winter was coming. Hypnotized by their wealth, they failed to prepare for the imminent future. The gold that seemed such a blessing proved to be a deadly curse. Dazzled by riches and the prospect of having more, materialists live out their life on earth as if this were all there is. They fail to prepare for the long life ahead. One day, sooner than expected, materialists will find out they were wrong. They will discover the truth that all the wealth in the world can do nothing for them. If they don’t make that discovery until they die, it will be too late to go back and change the way they lived.

Money, Possessions, and Eternity: A Comprehensive Guide to What the Bible Says about Financial Stewardship, Generosity, Materialism, Retirement, Financial Planning, Gambling, Debt, and More, Tyndale Press, 2011.

Where is the Money?

Years ago, the story goes, a San Diego bank hired a private investigator to track down a bank robber and retrieve stolen funds. The search led to Mexico. The investigator crossed the border and then, realizing he would need a Spanish interpreter, opened up the telephone book and hired the first interpreter listed in the Yellow Pages.

After many days, he finally captured the bandit and, through the interpreter, asked him, “Where did you hide the money?” In Spanish, the thief replied, “What money? I have no idea what you’re talking about”.

With that, the investigator drew his pistol, pointed it at the suspect, and said to the interpreter, “Tell him that if he doesn’t tell me where the money is, I will shoot him where he stands.”

Upon receiving this message, the bank robber said to the interpreter, “Senor, I have hidden the money in a coffee can, under the fourth floorboard, in the second-floor men’s room of the Palacio Hotel on Via Del in LaPaz?

“What did he say?” the investigator asked the interpreter. “Senor,” said the interpreter as he thought for a moment, “he says he is prepared to die like a man!”

Ivan R. Misner, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secrets, Bard Press, 1994, p. 41.

Your Treasure Chest

Picture a treasure chest. Not a small box that might hold jewelry on a girl’s nightstand—a large treasure chest, larger than any suitcase you own, larger than any suitcase you’ve ever seen. Picture a massive oak treasure chest, like pirates might have used, with large iron hinges and a huge clasp.

The size and age and strength of this strongbox say it was made for the most valuable things. Inside this chest are all of the things you wish could somehow be restored to you. Everything you have lost, everything you know you will lose. What fills your treasure chest?

John Eldredge, All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love, Thomas Nelson, 2018.

See also Illustrations on PossessionsStewardshipWealth.

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Treasure. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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