Our Caleb was not quite two years old when our second love, Jacob, was born.
We had spoken in simple terms to Caleb about the gift of becoming a big brother. Jacob is our little treasure, I said daily as I rocked our newborn, patting his back, whispering such a little lamb. Caleb kissed his brother’s downy head and asked to hold him, mimicking me by likewise patting his back.
Soon Caleb was announcing to anyone and everyone: This is my brother Yammy-Jacob, my tweasure. (Yammy meant Lamby.)
Many people repeatedly warned us that our oldest would be jealous of his new brother. The terrible twos, they whispered knowingly; eyebrows all raised. You just wait.
We are still waiting, some twenty-four years later. Caleb remained protective and gentle and kind. For that whole first year of Jacob’s life, he continued to call him My treasure. We had reminded him so often of this truth that his heart followed merrily along.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
I was shocked by the recent video of a Jamaican Zoo employee.
There he stood, strutting proudly in front of a lion’s cage. Playing the show-off, and eager to entertain the zoo’s visitors who were filming him, this man began to taunt the massive beast. He sought to rouse the lion, clapping loudly, aggressively shouting in his face, poking at his regal mane, inciting as he jabbed. The creature roared a warning, revealing razor sharp teeth. The worker kept at it, fanning the flames of irritation, when suddenly: SNAP! The lion clamped down hard, refusing to let go of the human hand. The man howled and swore, attempting to pull away, but it was too late.
The man’s severed finger was the lion’s reward.
And there you have it. A nearly perfect analogy.
Toy with sin, playing and prodding and poking the beast, and you will eventually be devoured.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
A particularly disturbing aspect to this cautionary tale is that this man was a zoo employee. He knew the protocol well, aware of the potential dangers better than most. While treasuring his pride he became seduced by the notion that he could somehow manage the lion.
These things never end well.
The missing ingredient?
Sin cannot be managed. It must be slain.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 6:21-23
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3: 1-5)
It is time for the church to awaken to the holiness of God.
In Christ, we have this magnificent treasure that we store in our jars of clay. We are cracked, broken, and fragile beings, but God is not. He is our strength, our hope.
Do we savor Christ? Do we treasure the gift of salvation? The word treasure ignites such tender meaning as it encompasses loving, cherishing, protecting, guarding, caring for, respecting, and delighting in.
Do we take time to repeatedly ponder the power and holiness of God? Are we burning to know and obey God through humble submission to his Word? If so, we will be like the lightning bugs that adorned our yard last night. They glowed in the dark, carrying tiny bright lanterns of treasure as they traveled.
I have read and meditated and considered and marked and prayed these verses in Ephesians 2. Even this morning, as I walked, I reminded myself: I was dead.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
As Christians, we were dead people walking and God made us alive. Hearts of stone turned to softened flesh. We did nothing to deserve or earn this regeneration. The result? Faith. A true and vibrant and treasured belief in Christ. It is the proper response, the only response, of a genuine Christ-follower.
How can we not speak boldly of these truths? Let us remind one another of our treasure! May we stir each other up to the good works that God has planned, striving to outdo one another in showing honor, while seeking unity under Christ.
I am openly pleading–do not stay gridlocked in pride. Turn to God, bow low, and apologize for your sins. Then turn around and walk in freedom, treasuring Christ above all.
If your heart now whispers: What is she talking about? What do I have to repent from? you are in mortal danger. This is the echo of pride, and God is warring against you.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
Remember the zookeeper.
Paul, arguably one of the most faithful Christians, was swept away by the mercy and grace of God, who had forgiven Paul’s sins, and favored him to preach Christ. His heart posture?
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. (1 Timothy 1:15)
God searches the posture of the heart. Always.
For those who stubbornly resist humility and choose to treasure their sin instead of repenting?
I never knew you; depart from me. (Matthew 7:23)
Don’t follow your heart. Lead it. Away from sin and to the riches of Christ, who is our treasure.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)