The Map is Not the Treasure

The Map is Not the Treasure August 11, 2020

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Last year I started watching The Curse of Oak Island television series.  It is a reality show that combines myth, legend, some history and quite a bit of mystery.  It centers around finding a treasure that seems to always be just out of the reach of the treasure seekers.  Like most reality shows, there is a certain level of believe-ability and a certain amount of showmanship.  It’s just fun to kind of get lost in the uncertainty of the treasure hunting journey.

It takes me back to my childhood.  Before the era of computers and video games, sometimes children just went outside to play.  My brother(s) and I would do what the brothers on the Treasure Island show did.  We would leave in the morning seeking treasure of unknown quantity and destination.   I remember one day we set off for the Lake.  We really didn’t know where the lake was or how far it was, but we strapped out fishing poles to our bicycles and headed out.  It was a good thing my mom came to rescue us because we were literally exhausted by the time we got there.  My own children went to explore a pond in the area of our home only to come back with leaches all over their body.  What were we doing when we went treasure seeking?

In my mind, treasure seeking is discovering the unknown.  Someone outside our circle has given us a hint that something exciting or intriguing or better is out there somewhere.  In various ways, they give us a map to hopefully help find this treasure that we seek.  They draw a map because they have experienced it before us.  In a way, the Bible is a map of sorts to lead us to this destination and treasure that we are so curious about.  It names it as the Kingdom of Heaven with its main treasure being the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The map even hints that this treasure is something we should sacrifice everything to find.  Everything in this map is pointing to the one thing, the treasure.  It is not a handbook or a history book – it is full of poetry and word pictures and descriptions of past treasure seekers.  It progressively leads up to the revelation of when this treasure was observed—the one time when people saw it in person.  Then, the rest of the map tries to explain what they saw and how others can find it too.

In the Oak Island show, many different maps appear from all over the world.  These maps might be described as different accounts of where they think the treasure is and what is buried there.  When the brothers on the show investigate the different maps, they are not weighing them against one another—what they are doing is looking for similarities.  They often lay one map over the other to find out which points on the map are common to the other.  I think that is a great point to consider.   They do not dismiss one map because it is slightly different, they look for things that match up and spend their time “digging” there!  But even that is not the most important point.  To me, the most important point is:


Even though it seems silly for us to fall in love with a treasure map, many have made the Scriptures an idol to be worshiped instead of a treasure map to be used.   The treasure map of the Bible points us to Jesus, not the other way around.   The treasure map is not perfect–Jesus Christ, the true treasure, is!  It is a means to the end—not an end in itself.

But, let me push this just a little further.  May I suggest that sometimes we don’t even need the Bible (the treasure map) to find the treasure.  I know, right?  It sounds heretical because the map has often become the treasure.  But may I just investigate a couple of ways quickly that we find treasure without a map.  You probably could think of more.    The map is helpful to start us in the right direction, but then we often can effectively use other things to lead us to the treasure.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a guide

I am very adventurous and love to discover things on my own, but usually before I head out to discover the new thing, I ask a couple of people that have been down that road before.  You see that in the Oak Island show and it is true in life.  Paul needed Barnabus – Timothy need Paul – and, even Jesus, needed the Father and the Spirit and even his mother and teachers at times to tell him what they knew.  “What I’ve discovered to be true …” is one of sweetest sounds to me.  It means this is a possible way to interpret the map and an approach that someone has found helpful – it is wisdom and experience.

Sometimes we stumble upon treasure

Many times, my brothers and I went out without a plan.  We just went out open for adventure and finding what we had not already experienced.  So, in a way, it is the opposite of the previous point.  To me, this relates to my contemplative experiences when I am meditating and not really focusing on anything and I receive something that is truly a treasure – like wisdom, or peace or confidence.  All these are treasures that I was not specifically looking for but found none-the-less.

I am a treasure seeker at heart.  I am always looking for that which I have not yet discovered.  Sometimes that comes within the pages of Scripture when I notice something on the map I have never seen before.  But most often, it is the treasure that the map points to that is most worthy of my attention.  It is possible to fall in love with the map, but that’s not what treasure seeking is all about and it is not what maps are for.  Guarding the map or guarding the treasure is the trap that all treasure hunters fall into.

What if we would stay excited about the treasure hunt- what if we stayed on the journey?

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Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and the soon-to-be released Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary and Too Many Podcasters podcasts. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!


Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

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2 responses to “The Map is Not the Treasure”

  1. I’m not sure that this is a good angology, at least with the show you picked to make your point. Oak Island is based around the whole idea people think there is treasure there. There isn’t even really a real myth to that island. People just saw holes and were like ‘Oh, there treasure here.’ Sure, those guys find some interesting thing on the island, but I don’t they will ever find the treasure they want. So what if the treasure you think there is never appear at all and you’re wasting your time looking for something that might not be real.

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