What is true treasure? When I think about this I go back to my childhood memories of the book Treasure Island. My mind thinks of pirates and those who ride the high seas in search of that most illusive of all things - buried treasure. I consider the intrigue and the hidden motives and betrayals that await me as I read of a journey based upon a tattered treasure map. The air is heavy with excitement as the first shovel of dirt and sand is lifted on the very spot where the X is on the map. That excitement reaches fever pitch as the shovel thuds for the very first time on the chest itself.
Solomon tells us about a kind of treasure in this proverb. The phrase "ill-gotten gains," is actually the Hebrew phrase, "The treasures of wickedness." So we find that there are treasures that no matter how much they say they are worth - are actually worthless. When we seek our treasures here on earth where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break in and steal, we are only gathering up the treasures of wickedness. In fact, unless we are locating the X on God's map - the gospel of Jesus Christ - everything we think is true treasure is only a chest filled with filthy rags. Let me explain further.
Solomon tells us in the second half of this proverb, "but righteousness delivers from death." What a powerful phrase he has just uttered. What a prophetic phrase it is as well. Any treasure that cannot deliver us from death is not a treasure at all. This is where we begin to see there is only one treasure that we should desire. The Scriptures say some interesting things about this Treasure. Jesus asked the question, 'What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?' (Matthew 16:26) There is an interesting question. What will you give in exchange for your soul? What amount of money or earthly treasure will pay the price for our souls? The psalmist answers that question when he says, 'No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him—For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever.' (Psalm 49:7-8)
There is NO price in human terms that will ever be able to buy our souls. The problem is not with a financial price, it is with the currency that must be paid for our souls. Our problem is that the price tag is blood - blood of an holy sacrifice offered to God. The price is the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He paid the final and ONLY acceptable price for our souls. When he gave up His Spirit on the cross His final cry was, "Tetelestai!" That is a financial term meaning, "Paid in full!"
The cost for our souls is perfect righteousness. We must be absolutely holy and pure to come into God's presence. Any sin would merit His full wrath being poured out upon us. Coming into His presence without this righteousness would be as foolish as Nadab and Abihu's approach to God in Exodus. Their entrance without righteousness resulted in them being consumed by the fire of God instantly. Considering the fact that God tells us in His Word that all our righteousness is like filthy rags - we quickly see that we are in need of a righteousness that will stand before God.
Praise the Lord, God provided that righteousness Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He came and fulfilled the Law. He came and lived a perfect life absolutely keeping all God's commandments and precepts. Then He took our sin upon Himself and paid the horrific penalty of God's wrath. Through His death, burial, and resurrecton God now forgives our sin and gives us the glorious exchange - His righteousness for our sin. By the grace of God we have been justified by God. Justified means, "declared righteous." As a result of being justified/declared righteous we can now stand before God - not in our own righteousness, but clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the "righteousness that delivers from death."
All the treasures of all the ages piled as high as the heavens amount to nothing before our holy God. Added together they still amount to a sum of the "treasures of wickedness." All the achievements of all the people who have worked to attain them mean nothing in light of our sin. None of these things profit us - or have profited any son of Adam. What we need is the "righteousness that delivers from death." That righteousness was provided by God Himself. It is only attained when we receive it as a gift by the grace of God. It comes only through Jesus Christ. In light of these undisputable Biblical facts there is then only one question to be answered. Are you trusting in the treasures of wickedness to deliver your soul from death - or - are you trusting in Jesus Christ. Only He has the righteousness that delivers from death.