Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Treasure, Aaarrrgghh!

My son loves pirates. It's one trend he isn't fickle about. Star Wars is hit and miss. He's lost interest in his monster trucks. He no longer wants to grow up to be an astronaut (snif). But you can never go wrong breaking out some pirate toys.

So it was fitting that over spring break we went with grandma to a museum exhibit on pirates. I wasn't sure how well it would hold my six year-old's attention, but I shouldn't have worried. Myself, I'm a museum nerd. I will read the description on every display and I'll be lucky to make it through a single wing in a day. I even bought the audio guide to the exhibit. A lot of good that did, as I would be listening intently, studying what was before me, while my son would be ripping my arm out of its socket to lead me around the corner to see what was next.

There were canons, guns, flags, and of course, treasure. Real pirate treasure! Funny thing about pirates, much of what we think we know are really products of books (Treasure Island) and movies ("Peter Pan", "Pirates of the Caribbean"). For example, did you know that walking the plank is a recent fabrication? There is one known example of this being documented, but it was in the late 1800's, well after the peak of piracy we associate with the Jolly Roger. In fact, the image of walking the plank was introduced to our cultural memory by the original stage production of "Peter Pan".

Another myth is that pirates buried treasure. This myth was encouraged by the book Treasure Island. But the truth was that the "booty" pirates would collect from captured ships was often spent in port on alcohol and prostitution. It would be unlikely there would be any left after a shore-leave of revelry.

That doesn't make Jesus' parable of the buried treasure irrelevant however. In Jesus' day there were no pirates, but there was buried treasure. It wouldn't be uncommon for a family to hide away some of their possessions by burying them. After all, there were no banks insured by FDIC and they were under Roman occupation. It was a safe (though unreliable) way of protecting what was yours. But there was a risk in doing so. They could forget where they buried it, or they would often be forced to move before having a chance to retrieve it.

So imagine someone's surprise to find treasure buried in a field. In Jesus' parable, it is an honest man. I think today, we'd just dig it up and claim it as our own. But he went and sold all he had so that he could buy the land and its treasure.

This is a parable of the Kingdom of God. What is it worth to you? Are you willing to give up everything you have, risk it all, for the sake of God's Kingdom? After all isn't the treasure being stored up for us in heaven more valuable than anything we could ever obtain on this Earth? Or like the pirates of old are you wasting what you have here on worldly pleasures as if our short life is no different than a stop in port?

Aaaarrrgghh, indeed.

This entry is part of Peter Pollock's blog carnival. This week's topic is treasure. Be sure to check out the many other thoughtful posts.


Russell Holloway said...

Thank you for your thoughts on treasure. How much does God and His love really mean to us? Thanks

katdish said...

This reminds me of a sermon I watched Francis Chan preach at his old church about the camel through the eye of the needle passage. He talked about how we covet our tiny little plots of land and all our possessions we put before God. He said he imagines God looking down from the heavens at us hoarding all these worthless things instead of latching on to the idea of spending eternity in perfect fellowship with Him and must be saying to himself, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You choose this over what I'm offering you? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" That really puts things in perspective for me.

A Joyful Noise said...

Your son's excitement to discover what was around the next corner, reminds me of living the Christian Life. God has treasures for us in the life as well as in the next. Treasure? Not always jewels, diamonds and gold, but spiritual treasure as we walk with Him and discover all we have IN Christ! For in Him are hidden the treasures he has for us.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks, everyone for your comments!

@katdish: reminds me of how you catch a squirrel, let it reach through a small hole to grab a nut. They won't let it go, but can't pull their hand out. Isn't that like us, holding on for dear life to our things and getting caught in a trap in the process?

@Hazel: one of the neat things was they actually let us touch some of the treasure. My son was so excited for that part, but it was actually very underwhelming. It was just pieces of silver and gold stamped with the Spanish coat of arms. Nothing like you see in the movies. A lot like the treasures the world promises us, underwhelming.

Glynn said...

You mean walking the plank originated with Peter Pan? I'm totally undone.

Good post, Fatha Frank. The only real treasure is that which doesn't rust and can't be stolen.

Duane Scott said...

I would love to go to a museum with you.

I'm the nerd who reads everything too... and I get so annoyed how people just run through them.

At least all my family does. ;)

The analogy presented in this post was really good!

Fatha Frank said...

@Glynn: Actually in the late 1800's (I forget the exact date) there was an article in Harper's that talked about it with respect to buccaneers, not pirates. And this was long after the "golden age" of piracy. It didn't come up again until the original stage production in the early 1900's. The rest, as they say, is history.

@Duane: Anytime! According to my wife I take too long too.

Loni said...

Ohh what a good picture! My kids have played hunting for treasures!

Thank you so much for sharing today!