treasure: what is it?

Some people assume a lot, easily accept the rest, and simply ride on the shoulders of others without a second thought.

I’ve attempted to adopt a slightly different approach. I question everyday language. The very use of words.

“Treasure,” for instance. Not that it’s a regular part of my vocabulary.

If I were to give the word “treasure” five possible definitions of my own making . . .

1) Something of value, importance, or significance
2) An unforgettable, inestimable thing or person or experience to which your heart clings
3) Money or possessions which are too meaningful to sell or give away
4) Worthless things that you think are amazing when you’re a five-year-old
5) The buried-in-a-chest, shiny stuff for which pirates search and kill

With the help of a friend, I recently explored the use of “treasure” in the Bible. How? Find the Greek word for treasure [thesauros], and examine how it is used. {Hang with me. It gets quite interesting.}

Here’s a quick snapshot of the results. Not exhaustive, but somewhat comprehensive.

First, a list of references so you can see the scope of this thing and study it for yourself. Then concise “conclusions,” so we can get right to the issue at hand.

In case you happen to look up a few of these . . . this is a study of the Greek word thesauros; the English word “treasure” is not always there. {Ah, translations.}

Old Testament (LXX):
Gen 43:23
Deut 28:12
Josh 6:19
1 Kings 7:51, 14:26
2 Kings 18:15, 20:13,15, 24:13
1 Chron 9:26, 26:20, 27:25,27-28
2 Chron 32:27, 36:18
Ezra 5:14
Neh 7:70, 13:12
Job 3:21-22, 38:22
Ps 33:7, 135:7
Prov 2:4, 3:14, 8:21, 10:2, 15:16, 21:20
Isa 2:7, 33:6, 39:2, 45:2
Jer 10:13, 15:13, 17:3, 25, 41:8, 48:7, 49:4, 50:25,37, 51:13,16
Ezek 27:24, 28:4,13
Dan 1:2
Joel 1:17
Amos 8:5
Micah 6:10
Mal 3:10

New Testament:
Matt 2:11, 6:19-21, 12:35, 13:44,52, 19:21
Mark 10:21
Luke 6:45, 12:33-34, 18:22
2 Cor 4:7
Col 2:3
Heb 11:26

Some things we can know about treasure:

Treasure is valuable.
{This isn’t so hard to discover. Treasure is something you want. Now the question is: Is it valuable because you say it is, or simply because it is?}

Treasure is almost always hidden: unseen, buried, not out in the open.
{Makes sense. That’s what I would do with something valuable. So, maybe if it’s not something you would conceal, it’s not treasure . . .}

Treasure is usually kept inside a container of some kind and only occasionally brought out.
{You don’t announce your possession of this thing. That wouldn’t be smart. You keep it in a special, secretive place.}

“Treasure” sometimes seems to be referring to the container, the box or bag containing the valuable items.
{Confusing. Maybe “treasure” really refers to the valuables inside the container, but sometimes valuable things are kept inside a “treasure;” and that “treasure” isn’t always valuable (e.g. 1 Kings 7:51, Neh 13:12, 2 Cor 4:7).}

Treasure is set aside for a particular purpose and is not retrieved on a daily basis.
{There’s a reason why you have it. Maybe it’s for something special? Maybe it’s in case of an emergency? Maybe?}

Treasure is often guarded.
{Someone is put in charge of it. Many instances of “treasurers.” Shows you how important this stuff is.}

Types of treasure: gold, silver, precious stones, brass, iron, vessels, armory, priestly garments, grains, olive oil, wine, honey, spices. Not to mention figurative uses (e.g. Job 38:22, Ps 38:7).

Why all of this?

While a study like this can seem to create further confusion at times {which is to say, there’s a lot more to consider here and a lot more to be said}, it can certainly give the reader a better idea of the author’s intended meaning in a given passage, down to the very words he used. A 21st-century idea of “treasure” is a bit removed from the era and culture and language of Bible days. So, what I think “treasure” means may not be what Jesus means.

And I want to know what Jesus means when He says the following:

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.
Matt 6:19-21

Click here for part 2, “Treasure: Should I Have It?”

[image credit:,]

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