Treasure in a Brown Paper Bag

It’s never too late to rediscover and recover that abundant life.

Hyveth Williams

One of the world’s leading diamond-producing countries is South Africa. Years ago a visitor sitting with the chief of an African village saw children playing with what looked like marbles. He picked up a couple stones and realized they were actually diamonds. The traveler asked the chief for some to share with his children in exchange for a pouch of tobacco. The chief laughed and said it would be stealing to take the man’s tobacco, since the village had thousands of those stones.

But while the chief and his villagers were sitting on top of those diamonds their children were undernourished, and the villagers had to plead for help from other countries. One of the villagers thought, If the stranger wants the stones so badly, they must be valuable. So he urged the chief not to give the precious stones away. He suggested they collect the stones, sell them, and use the profits to feed their people.

But the chief insisted, “They’re just stones.” He refused to listen to the villager, and gave the traveler a basketful of the stones. The stranger immediately left the village. A few weeks later the man returned and bought up all the land. Within 10 years he was the richest man in the world.

This seems to be the condition of many Christians. We sit on the diamond deposit called happiness, but we don’t understand the value of this treasure. We treat it like ordinary stones.

Life in Christ is extraordinary, delightful, and filled with indescribable spiritual riches. What Jesus described as “the abundant life” is like owning our own diamond mine. But often our response is similar to that of an atheist who said: “You so-called Christians don’t look as if you’ve been redeemed. You’re as fearful, guilt-ridden, anxious, confused, miserable, and adrift in an alien environment as I am. I’m allowed; I don’t believe. I have nothing to hope for. You claim you have a Saviour. Why don’t you look like you’re saved?”

It’s tragic that “outsiders” have that perception of us.

So my question: If Jesus gave us abundant life, which begins the moment we are justified or born again, shouldn’t Christians be the most content people on our planet?

It’s important to note that if believers are chronically unhappy, it doesn’t mean they are not saved. It could simply be a sign that the thief called Satan, and his minions (whom Jesus called robbers), have killed and destroyed their joy of salvation.

But it’s never too late to rediscover and recover that abundant life for which the only source is Jesus. Let’s not waste time regretting the past, looking for someone or something to blame in the present, or fearing the future.

Thank God for Jesus. By God’s generous grace we don’t have to hoard our treasure. We can spend it, lend it, and send it to do the Holy Spirit’s bidding because we have the Rock, Jesus, the living Stone (1 Peter 2:3, 4).

Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.