The treasure often isn’t found on the surface.
Mining is a very interesting process, one that requires a huge commitment of time and effort to produce anything of even the slightest value. We start by digging ourselves into a dark hole, hurling rocks and piling up tons of dirt all around us. No value there. Next we sift out the ore. Here we begin to find something of value, but still have nothing usable. Through ongoing work we separate the ore, refine the most precious part to produce pure gold, and convert it into something of beauty and lasting value.
The process that people go through in coming to their understandings of God and spirituality is much the same. It’s common for non-believers to just dig up dirt and throw rocks at religion, citing all its failings as their justification for rejecting God. They criticize the judgmentalism and self-righteousness of religious people. They object to efforts to convert people’s way of thinking. They point to atrocities in religion such as the Spanish inquisition. They sneer at a reliance on faith. They complain that there is no evidence for God.
I once used these arguments myself, but I’ve now come to see how flawed they are, for in doing this non-believers are guilty of ALL the same failings they attribute to religion. I was judgmental of people whose beliefs and experiences I did not understand and self-assured, or self-righteous, in my own beliefs. I tried to convince others of my way of thinking. It didn’t seem to register with me that those holding atheistic and evolutionist beliefs were responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust and other hate crimes. Nor did I understand that those who do not believe in God can’t explain their own existence without an incredible FAITH in life forming from nothing, against incredible odds and through unknown processes which cannot be proven and are in complete contradiction to all that we observe.
Just as in the first phase of mining, a lot of effort went into my thinking, but I see now that to this point I had really only succeeded in collecting a lot of dirt and throwing a lot of rocks, and had failed to see how similar my heart was to those that I criticized. The dirt in intellectual skepticism and atheism has all the same qualities as the dirt in religion. I was quite right to think that many things done in the name of religion are wrong, but I now recognize that so are many things done in the name of government, corporate profits, law enforcement, sports, etc. You see, it’s not the institution itself that is bad, but the motives and actions of people within those institutions whose hearts become like rock and dirt, hardened and soiled. Hearts like this become filled with self-centeredness that leads to pride, anger, greed, hate, jealousy, slander, arrogance, murder, deceit, judgmentalism, selfishness, self-righteousness, lust, dissension, envy and ego.
Now I see that our nature can exist on a higher plane, one that has beauty and value. This is the heart refined to the purest and most precious element, one that shines with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, justice, thankfulness, mercy, humbleness, caring, pureness, compassion, reconciliation, honesty, service, and understanding. This is the “heart of gold” that consists of pure love for God and for others. This is what Jesus holds out to us as the treasure of the human experience, the part that reflects the nature of God.
Pursuing our understanding of God and spirituality requires that we’re committed to mining for gold to create beauty and value, and that we not just stop short and sit in a foxhole, surrounded by the dirt and filth that we dig up in the process.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
Words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 13:44
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:1-5
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37-39
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:8, 15-16
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Words of Jesus Christ in John 15:12-13