The Privileged Life: The Treasure Boxes of Pompeii

“…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 6:20-21

In 79 A.D., a cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried several Roman cities in a “rain” of terror. It’s estimated that the eruption released thermal energy 100,000 times more violent than the explosions of atomic bombs over both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.1

The resulting deluge of lava and ash shrouded the nearby Roman settlements of Herculaneum and Pompeii, up to 70 feet deep. For centuries, the cities lay entombed until excavations began to uncover a remarkably preserved way of life underneath, time capsules frozen on the day of the eruption.

Today, despite decades of archeological work, much of Pompeii still remains to be discovered. A friend of mine, Lisa Rolen, was blessed to spend several weeks there recently as a volunteer digger, helping unravel some of the mysteries in unexplored areas…sounds like a great trip, doesn’t it?2

When archeologists were able to dig down to the street level, they discovered that almost every home had a treasure box, perhaps with a lock, for safekeeping of coins, jewelry, and other valuables. These treasure boxes, much like a home safe or bank vault, could be large or small, depending on the owners’ prosperity.

Residents of these communities attempted to flee the destruction on that catastrophic day, but many were trapped and suffocated. Those who escaped were likely those who didn’t try to carry a lot of goods with them, getting away with only the clothes on their backs. Treasure boxes were left behind.

We’re going to be in the same spot someday. We’ll be called to leave our homes, our loved ones, our material things, our accomplishments, our fame, our bodies. Whether we have “fallen asleep in the Lord” or are still standing when Jesus returns, there’s going to be a reckoning. 

Like Easter, which will be here in a few weeks, that day could be coming soon. As you prepare for celebrating in joy and worship on the day of Christ’s resurrection, think a bit on the “treasures” of your own. 

Where is your heart? Does it belong to your job, your house, your car? Do you spend a lot of your waking hours dreaming about having more money, success, fame, or earthly love? Do you put more stock in the approval of family, co-workers, or even the world, than you desire the Lord’s approval?

Make no mistake here—Jesus does not love us because of what we’ve done, how much we have worked, how much we’ve given away, how many good deeds we’ve performed, or how many people admire us. He loves us simply because we are His children. We are loved only because He is love Himself and has first loved us.

He said that our hearts follow what we treasure. If we’re only concerned with earthly things, we’re missing out on the heavenly blessings that could await us. We’re supposed to be laying up treasures with Him, handing Him offerings that will never be destroyed. We’re called to love Him back, living in joyful gratitude and service for what He has done for us.

It’s hard to remember that as we answer the tyrannic siren call of the urgent demands pressing upon us or as we give in to the temptations of the world. But this pre-Easter season (Lent) gives us a good time for personal assessment, taking stock of what we have, who we are, and where we’re going. 

May the time you spend right now in personal reflection take you into His presence. May your study of His word reveal those parts of your life that need rearranging, change, or elimination. Ask Him for His vision of what your life should look like in the coming year. Don’t wait for an “eruption” to find out what’s really important to you. It won’t be the trinkets you’re holding dear here…it will be in your treasure box in heaven.

Lord Jesus, shine Your light upon our lives as we prepare to celebrate Easter. Lift our eyes above the trinkets of this earthly existence to invest our hearts in Your way and truth. Make us good stewards of all that You have given us in time, resources, and talents. Call us to live so that we will hear Your words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In Your Name, Amen.

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© Copyright 2021 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruption_of_Mount_Vesuvius_in_79_AD

2You can find Lisa Rolen on Instagram at FoodHistory360 (https://www.instagram.com/foodhistory360/) –she loves all things Pompeiian! 

The atrium of an upscale home in Pompeii, complete with a stone pool
A cameo found in a Pompeii treasure box

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