Laying Up Treasure

Heritage Presbyterian Church

August 4, 2019
8th Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture readings – Colossians 3: 1-11 & Luke 12: 13-21

If you mention the word TREASURE to an ordinary person, that person will most likely lean in and pay very close attention.  The word TREASURE has an almost mystical effect on those who hear it, no matter their age.  Start talking about buried TREASURE with just about any group of kids, and they may be ready to grab some shovels and start digging in earnest.

This is the effect that wonderful word has on ordinary people.

To prove my point, let’s look at some pictures and hear a few true stories about TREASURE:

The Hoard of Castine, Maine 1840

The story goes that a man and his son were working on their farm in rural Maine in the late fall of 1840.  Both of them were trying to move a big rock out of the way, but the rock was heavy and well-settled into the ground.  The two guys took their shovels and began to dig around the rock to loosen it up.  They were working quickly because it was the end of a long day, the weather was getting worse, and the sun would set very soon.  Suddenly, they hit something metal with their shovels.  Digging more carefully, they discovered a few old coins from the 1600’s.  They became very excited, but they also ran out of daylight and decided to check it out first thing in the morning.

But this was rural Maine in the late fall…and the weather turned bad, and snow and ice began to fall.  Unfortunately, nothing melted until April of 1841.  It was then that the father and son could finally begin digging up those coins.  When they could finally do it properly, they found a fortune in silver coins from various countries – and all buried on their land.

The Exeter, New Hampshire Hoard of 1876

This hoard of Massachusetts silver was discovered in 1876 during the excavation of a cellar near the railroad station in Exeter, New Hampshire. According to the story, a group of 30 to 40 Massachusetts silver shillings were buried in the sand in what appeared to be the remains of old wooden box. All coins bore the date 1652 and were of the Pine Tree and Oak Tree types, plus, a rare Willow Tree shilling.  It is speculated that people in the 1600’s would often bury their silver in boxes in the ground and carry copper coins for their daily business.  Whoever buried this box of silver shillings may have forgotten where it was buried or died before it could be obtained.

In either case, the silver shillings from the days of colonial America were worth a fortune when they were found in 1876.  They would be priceless today to coin collectors.

The Baltimore Find of 1934

In what is probably my personal favorite of today’s treasure stories, two teenage boys who were playing in the cellar of a rented house in Baltimore in 1934.  The boys were very poor and were just looking for adventure and to have some fun.  They formed themselves into a secret club called the Rinky-Dinky-Doos.  They decided to dig a small hole to hide their playing cards, dice, and “important secret papers.”  But when they began to dig, they hit something metal.  Reaching into the hole, they pulled out a $20 gold piece from the 1800’s.  They continued to dig and eventually pulled out over 3000 gold coins from the 1830’s, 1840’s, and 1850’s – a fortune, especially for the days of the Great Depression.

The next year, the coins discovered by the Rinky-Dinky-Doos were sold at auction for $20,000.

Today, their discovery would be worth more than $20 million dollars.

The Redfield Morgan Silver Dollars

This is perhaps the oddest story for today.  In the 1930’s Lavere Redfield was a Los Angeles financier who made his money through oil and stock investments. He was a “hard money” fanatic, who hated the government and refused to pay taxes.  He also didn’t trust paper money, which was becoming more and more popular with the American public.

In 1930, Redfield left Los Angeles and moved to Reno, Nevada, to become a farmer.  Redfield decided to hold most of his money in silver dollars.  His friends at the bank would let him know whenever they had a lot on hand.  He would go to the bank and exchange his paper money for a big bag of Morgan silver dollars.  Then he would return home and drop the bags down a coal chute into his basement and behind a hidden wall.

When Redfield died in 1974, his hidden fortune was finally discovered containing over 600,000 Morgan silver dollars, most in mint condition.  They were sold at auction for $7.3 million.

Captain Kidd’s Treasure

Now, what discussion would be complete without a pirate treasure story? 

In various stories about pirates all over the world, there are always legends that they buried their treasure on some island and marked it with a secret map.  Sometimes these stories turned out to be nothing more than legend, but a few were true.  Such is the story of Captain Kidd’s treasure.

Captain Kidd took the helm of the Adventure Galley in 1695, when he was hired by a group of English investors to hunt down pirates. But when Kidd failed to find pirates on his journey, he became one himself.  When his vessel became unseaworthy, Kidd ran it ashore in Madagascar. His crew deserted him to join another pirate captain and he was arrested, tried, and executed for piracy in 1701.  Nothing of his legendary pirate treasure was found until 2015 when big bars of silver were found near where his ships were sunk in 1698.

The Curse of Oak Island

If you have watched this series on the History Channel, then you know how sometimes the lure of treasure becomes something of a curse to those who seek it.

Oak Island is a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.  Since the 1790’s, rumors of buried treasure on that island have attracted treasure seekers.  A flattened, sunken area was discovered in the middle of the island, and stories began to fly that something was buried there.  The stories ranged from Captain Kidd’s treasure to Marie Antoinette’s jewels.  Over the years, hundreds of people have dug there, and a few have been killed trying.  Intriguing items and artifacts have been discovered showing human presence, planning, and engineering – but nothing substantial has been pulled out of Oak Island to date. 

Still, it makes a great, if not frustrating, show to watch on the History Channel.

Now let’s try to come back if you can…

I hope you realized what I was doing there.  Just by telling a few treasure stories and showing a few pictures I obtained from the Internet, I can accurately say that I had just about everyone’s full attention.

The problem – and the point I am making for today – is that treasures here on earth can easily distract from the heavenly treasures we are supposed to be seeking!

I can only imagine how thrilling it would be to find a buried treasure.  (Personally, I get pretty excited when I find a nickel in the parking lot at the bank!)  But Jesus tells us today about the worthless value of earthly treasures. 

The parable he tells is commonly known as the “Rich Fool.”  This man plans his future so carefully and so completely that he forgets just one thing – what if he dies tonight?

Our immediate reaction is probably, “What a shame!  What a foolish man!”  But that also misses the point…

Jesus is telling us that the REAL treasure is in heaven…not silver or gold, not Captain Kidd’s pirate treasure or Marie Antoinette’s jewels, not gold pieces or whatever is at the bottom of the money pit on Oak Island…but real treasure.

The ultimate treasure is to be in Heaven with the Lord.  It doesn’t matter if his throne is made of gold or if the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with diamonds and rubies. 

What matters – what no treasure can possible buy – is to be in the loving presence of the Lord for all eternity.  Each and every one of us should be working as hard and as often as we can at loving one another, serving one another, living lives as Jesus would want us to live… Saints – that’s how we lay up our treasures in Heaven.

To do anything else is to act for things here on earth. 

What does it matter if we find a crumbling box of gold coins?  Sure, it would be great – but do we have enough for today?

What does it matter if we are on the fast track to advancement in our jobs?  Sure, everyone wants a great job – but what if we have no one to share it with?

What does it matter if we have the most elegant house on the block when we KNOW there are people sleeping under bridges and begging for food right here in our neighborhood?

What does any of it matter – if we have laid up no treasure at all in Heaven?

The Lord loves each and every one of us.  He died for every single human being who ever lived.  And he is watching us every second of our lives, waiting to see if any of the lessons he left behind from his time on the earth will stick with us…

The song tells us, “Lay Up Your Treasures In Heaven.”

Scripture tells us, “Lay Up Your Treasures In Heaven.”

The parable that Jesus tells us today reminds us to “Lay Up Your Treasures In Heaven.”

Let’s don’t just hear it.  Let’s don’t just sing it.

Let’s believe it.  And let’s do it.