Posted by: glorifyhim1 | April 26, 2010

A Presidential Visit

This past weekend found the city of Asheville and the surrounding area all abuzz with excitement over the arrival of two of its most famous visitors – President and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. People eagerly positioned themselves in parking lots and along roadways around the airport to catch a glimpse of Airforce One or the motorcade departing the airport. Others claimed spaces along the route to the Grove Park Inn where the famous couple would be staying for the weekend. And still others were pleasantly surprised to find they would actually be dining with the President as the motorcade stopped at a popular eatery. From the golf course to the Blue Ridge Parkway; from the Biltmore House to Black Mountain and Montreat where the President met with evangelist Billy Graham; people either intentionally gathered to try to see him or were caught by surprise as their normal, routine weekend activities were interrupted by something quite unexpected and surreal. The President had come to town!

I admit that although I was out of town for the weekend and missed the excitement surrounding the visit, there is a kind of regional, local pride that makes you feel good that the President of the United States chose this area to vacation. After all, this is our home. We are proud of the natural beauty that surrounds us, the simple pleasures we enjoy, and we look forward to sharing it with others, especially the President of the United States.

Sometimes, however, the opposite can be true. We can value and treasure something so much that we become protective and defensive and instead of wanting to share it with others, we try to keep others out. No trespassing signs replace welcome signs and we stubbornly hold onto our treasure like a child might selfishly guard a bag of lollipops.

In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus tells the story of a rich young ruler who had great possessions. The young man approached Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do in order to have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments – “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man told Jesus that he had kept all of these commandments from his youth. Then “Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’” The Scriptures tell us that the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” This young man may have kept the letter of the law, but his priorities were all mixed up. He loved his riches more than he loved his neighbor. 

What do I love more than my neighbor? What do you love more than your neighbor? Most of us probably have a treasure here on earth that we selfishly cling to. It might be a house or a job, a bank account or even an expensive piece of jewelry. Our treasures could also be a person, our families, and even our faith. The problem is not in having a treasure, but in making that treasure a higher priority than Christ Himself. While the rich young man had kept every commandment of his faith, he put more emphasis on keeping the law than in loving his neighbor. He had his priorities all out of order.

Don’t we often do the same thing? We can become so obsessed with what we think is important that we try to hang onto it at all costs. We do things our way, according to our agendas, and although we may follow the letter of our law or faith, we play by our own rules and find some way to justify our actions. Yet Paul reminds us in Colossians 2:3 that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. When we truly seek Christ, first and foremost, we will surrender to His will and way instead of our own. We will not hold onto our treasures, but surrender even our dearest things to Him.

I am reminded of visiting one of my favorite beaches a few years ago. I love this particular beach, but was saddened as I rode along distant areas of the shoreline and saw an endless row of new homes under construction that essentially barricaded the beautiful ocean and shore from the view of the average passerby. Private property signs dotted the well-kept lawns and keep out signs decorated the gates to the beach. The beautiful treasure on the other side of the gates was hidden from all but a few homeowners and invited guests. How different it was just a few miles down the road where a beautiful stretch of beach, protected by the state park system, stretched for miles inviting all to come and enjoy.

We can hold onto our treasures just like those property owners, clutching them tightly in our fists, afraid to let them go. Or we can hold them lightly, palm up, allowing others to also be blessed by our treasures. Just as our town threw open its arms and welcomed President Barack and Michelle Obama, may we as individuals always be ready to share the treasures with which God has blessed us, knowing that our true treasure is not here on earth but that it is stored up in heaven. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

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