Early last week, news surfaced of the discovery of sunken treasure off the coast of the South American country of Columbia. It is believed that the wreckage is that of the Spanish galleon ship, the San Jose, which was carrying 600 passengers and eleven million dollars in gold that disappeared in 1708. For over 300 years the search has been on to find the treasure that many believe now to be worth between four and seventeen billion dollars in gold coins and jewelry. If true, this would be one of the greatest recoveries of sunken treasures in all of history. Ownership of the contents of the find is being highly contested by the Columbian government, the salvage company, the Spanish, and several other “interested” parties.
One of the things about this find that comes to mind is just how much effort has been put into locating the old wreckage. How many lives do you suppose have been affected by the search for this treasure? How many people, above the original 600, perhaps lost their lives in an effort to find this shipwreck? How many millions have and will be spent in order to see that the contents of the find are fairly distributed to all interested parties. One thing is for sure; money and wealth will cause people to do strange and desperate things.
Whatever the outcome of this find, it has all the makings of setting the imagination assail in the sublime and dreamy world of “what if.” What if I discovered that shipwreck? What if I got to decide how to spend that money? That much money boggles the mind, much less the struggle one would have knowing what to do with it. But it is an interesting thought of what measure one would go through to get it and then determine how it should be used.
Jesus used the example of finding treasure as a parable for explaining the kingdom of heaven. He said, “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.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV) He then followed with a more maritime related picture when He said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45–46 ESV) How the Lord fashions these two powerful illustrations is in consideration of how men think when it comes to finding a treasure. You see, treasure finding is persnickety business. It can be dangerous. Depending on its value, one will have to do some pretty creative and maybe fussy work to acquire it. Covering the treasure in a field illustrates the need to be careful about who you knows until you have an opportunity to purchase the land upon which it is hidden. The more that is known, the greater the chance one has of losing or at least sharing the treasure. So, great care must be taken in securing it.
But let us not miss the point of both parables; the kingdom of heaven is worth a whole lot. It is worth far more than anything that might be found in the wreckage of the San Jose. In fact, it is worth more than all the gold and jewels of all the sunken treasures in all the seven seas. Finding the kingdom of heaven is priceless! And, while others can enjoy it if they find it, it is an either or thing for the searcher. You either have the treasure or you do not. God’s treasure is nothing to play around with. I must have it! You MUST have it!
So, let the excavation companies and the deep-sea divers hunt and spend their days in search of great treasures that perish. For more than 300, and even more than 3000 years, men have looked for the most valuable treasure—the kingdom of heaven. It is now available to everyone. Now, what all could you do with that kind of wealth? Only eternity knows!