Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings…
These are the treasures whereof Julie Andrews sings… in the Sound of Music. And while I’ve never had particular fondness for snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, I understand the sentimental ties which bind us to objects or experiences of little worth in the eyes of others. Just about everyone has some inherently worthless possession laden with immeasurable meaning – and that’s not necessarily a bad or unhealthy thing. It kinda makes us human.
But what we treasure also says something about what we value.
Value is an intrinsically relational commodity. There is no treasure without a treasure seeker; the willingness of one to sacrifice for something is what confers value upon it. This is particularly so for those objects which are rare, hard to come by, or reinforce a chosen or inherited identity, such as great-grandfather’s lucky silver piece, a trophy commemorating high performance in business or sports, or the Rolex watch which a clever marketing ad convinces an up-and-coming executive to purchase, in order to convey his superior achievements to his lowly fellow man – when it may actually just send the message that a shallow and materialistic preppy with a lot of money has a shiny little instrument for telling time.
Perhaps most to be treasured are things intangible. Consider the attributes valued by our fictional friends in the Wizard of Oz: Scarecrow’s brain (intelligence), Tin Man’s heart (tenderness) and Lion’s courage. In all three instances, these characters unwittingly already possessed these quantities in demonstrable measure – they just needed a source of authority to confer it upon them through gifts symbolizing the respective principles. As it happened of course, their chosen authority figure was a known charlatan, the Wizard, whom they had hazarded everything to reach – and perhaps it is the sacrifice demonstrated in the quest to attain such recognitions which sublimates an otherwise meaningless ceremony. This is the nature of diplomas, medals and testimonials of all kinds – their intrinsic value is often incidental compared to the intangible attributes they reflect, even if these symbols are conferred by a locally esteemed con-artist, such as a politician – because in truth, the intangible realities are already possessed by their recipients.
Our intangible treasures are sometimes held in most contempt by those who do not share their sense of value. To bring another fictional character into the mix, Don Quixote paid no heed to the ridicule of the world when he launched out upon his quest as a knight errant to right wrongs for the love of his lady, Dulcinea – a homely peasant girl whom he regarded a radiant queen. And as comic a tale as this aged story is – it is one of the great works in world literature, in part because it presents as oddly heroic an individual who lives in a world not of this world, who holds dear that which those around him hold in contempt.
Curiously, another knight errant who preceded Quixote held the same view of the world, and his duty to the One whom he had committed himself to entirely. This pre-Quixote had been raised in the strictest sect of Judaism, and had had a transformative encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus on his journey to persecute Christians. This event led him later to so completely abandon the ways of his previous life, as to literally regard them as excrement in comparison to the value of knowing Christ (Phillipians 3:8). This was the all-consuming zeal which drove Paul, and has driven countless others, even up to this day – to attempt the most spectacular of efforts of evangelism, as embodied in the Great Commission, and to accept the most horrific of martyrdoms over renouncing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If treasure is measured in terms of one’s willingness to sacrifice – truly, how could there ever be a greater treasure than this?
The opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect those of Salem Communications Seattle, or its parent company, Salem Communications.