I’ve been reading Tolkien’s Hobbit outloud to my son, and it has occurred to me several times just how Christian the search for treasure really is. For some reason we tend to downplay rewards and treasure. I suppose we’re afraid of seeming selfish or greedy or hypocritical in our piety. But Jesus is always talking about treasures, rewards, and inheritance.
The problem is not with treasure, rewards, or rich inheritance. The problem is with counterfeit offers of treasure, reward, and inheritance. Jesus warns against settling for less than is possible. It’s a pretty simple equation: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26) Do the math.
The problem isn’t with calculating what will give us the best return. The problem is with bad math, settling for something less than the best. Jesus doesn’t object to looking at life as a treasure hunt, and in fact, all of the indicators are that he actually approves of it. What he objects to is dedicating life to hunting for worthless treasure. Don’t settle for less than the best.
It’s not that we don’t want glory or honor or riches. Rather, as Christians, we have dedicated our lives to finding real glory, real honor, true riches, and the greatest rewards. We are completely dedicated to finding real treasure, and we have given our lives to that pursuit.
And this is why Paul says that in the judgment, God will render “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.” That’s what we want, and we’ll settle for nothing less.