Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroys, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.Matthew 6:19-21
What is your most prized possession? What do you value more than anything in this world? For many years, for me, it was my baseball card collection. While it did not hold much monetary value, there were certain cards in my collection that had the potential to explode in value in the distant future. Rookie cards for such great childhood heroes like Craig Biggio, Mike Scott, and Ken Griffey, Jr. Late career cards for other heroes like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Tom Seaver, Cal Ripken, Jr., Bobby Bonilla, and many others. And cards for the notorious Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, and more.
The value of these cards would fluctuate over time, but in most cases they would only rise – perhaps pennies per year. Cards that were printed with errors often would fetch a higher price. Some of my favorite rookie cards, however, would take a huge hit when Jose Canseco published his shocking expose “Juiced”, where he admitted to using steroids his entire career. Then the BALCO steroid scandal of 2005 broke out, tarnishing the careers of such All-Stars as Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, and Curt Schilling. All of these were in my prized collection as I grew up playing the grand old game and their value diminished overnight. Ultimately most of them were lost in 2011 when we moved from Alaska back to Texas. I still have a handful tucked away in a small binder, but their value to me has been reduced to mere sentimental value.
Scandal and corruption destroys value. They destroy reputation. But the root of scandal and corruption comes down to the desire to lift yourself higher than you ought to be by artificial means. The desire to be greater than you rightfully are. The treasure of fame and fortune is elevated over integrity and honor. Ultimately, such treasure is fleeting, for it is simply temporary. As long as you keep yourself on top of your game, and don’t get caught cheating, the fame remains. As Billy Joel once put it:
“I am the entertainerThe Entertainer, by Billy Joel, (c) 1974
The idol of my age
I make all kinds of money
When I go on the stage
Ah, you’ve seen me in the papers
I’ve been in the magazines
But if I go cold I won’t get sold
I’ll get put in the back in the discount rack
Like another can of beans.”
One of the great commodities of the Biblical period was olive oil. In fact, olive oil, due its difficult extraction process and wide use for cooking, bathing, lamp fuel, and many other uses, it quickly replaced salt on the top of the commodities trade in the Roman Empire. Olive oil was often shipped in large clay jars call amphoras, that would have two round handles on the top for carrying. These amphorae were also highly fragile as earthenware and would easily break if not handled with care. A testament to their fragile nature can be seen at Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill in Rome made up of broken shards of amphorae pottery, measuring 115 ft high and a little over half a mile around the base. It is widely believed to be the largest garbage dump in the ancient world, measuring over 220,000 square feet with a volume of over 580,000 cubic meters, containing the remains of an estimated 53 million amphorae. A short distance away is the east bank of the River Tiber, where the Roman government would store their olive oil reserves in the late 2nd century AD.
At one time, the Pope used to use the hill to commemorate Good Friday remembrances, representing the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. The Pope would lead a procession up the hill and place crosses there to represent Jesus and the two thieves that were crucified there. To this day, there is still a cross on top of that garbage heap.
During the 1st century AD, a major shipping port and exporter of olive oil was the settlement of Corinth. And Paul alluded to the value of this commodity when we wrote to the Corinthian church:
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.2 Corinthians 4:6-12
So I ask you again, what do you treasure most? Is the a material wealth of this world? Or is the surpassing glory of God that overcomes the world? Is it the shekels of men or the shekinah glory of the Father? Where do you invest your time and talents? Do you spend your time on worthless and empty pursuits or do you invest in others and building up the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in Heaven”? Are you more invested in seeking Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame” or seeking the honor and approval of eternity?
When my time comes, and I pray that it is still decades from now, the only thing that will matter is what I have built for the Kingdom of God. Everything else will pass away. The corruption of this world will ultimately destroy the wealth of this world. That which is valuable today will lose its value tomorrow. Placing your faith in the corruptible will ultimately corrupt your faith. But placing your faith in the incorruptible glory of Almighty God will withstand the passage of time and beyond into eternity. It will define your legacy more than any bank account or measure of passing fame will.