Hebrews 11:26 “He (Moses) regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
What do we regard as treasure? One of my seminary professors pointed out that when we are willing to give something a major portion of our attention, time, money, and witness, and when we expect in return to find help, satisfaction, fulfillment, and a cause, we have discovered much more than a treasure. We have something that is threatening to become our god. Based upon the financial advice shows I hear on talk radio, based on the never-ending talk about the economy and the stock market on the news, we Americans still like the old-fashioned kind of treasure–money itself.
But treasure also takes more subtle forms in our lives: our families, which Jesus specifically warns are not to become more important to us than him; or hobbies, which easily dominate our attention, time, money, and witness in exchange for help, satisfaction, fulfillment, and a cause. Again, the danger is that by treasuring these things we elevate them to god-status in our lives.
What did Moses regard as treasure? Did you see the King Tut exhibit when it toured the United States? Maybe you have seen pictures. King Tut was not the richest of Egypt’s kings, nor was he the poorest. The stuff they buried him with is worth about $650 million. His tomb gives us some idea of the treasures of Egypt Moses might have enjoyed.
But Moses’ faith led him to give up those treasures for even greater riches: disgrace, insults, for the sake of Christ. It wasn’t the mean words Moses valued so highly. It was their association with Christ. Moses understood that mocking, insults, and disgrace from the enemies of God was one of the clearest signs that you were on the right track. Think about it: what would it say about you if drug lords, communist dictators, or terrorist masterminds could do nothing but sing your praises? One might wonder whose side you are on. If they insult you, that is probably to your credit.
Moses wanted to be on the side of Christ. He knew him only as the voice from a burning bush, and a promise of salvation handed down through the family from one generation to the next. We have faith in the Christ who already joined our human family on earth. We believe in the Christ who carried our sins to the cross, slowly suffered their consequences, and rose three days later to give us forgiveness and life. It’s the same Christ of course–Moses’ Christ and ours. We just know so much more about his love for us.
He is the Christ who tells us, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man…For that is how their fathers treated the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). But “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Whose side are we on, anyway? We don’t need to antagonize those who don’t like or don’t care about our Jesus. But if living for him means letting go of some earthly treasure and bearing insults, that is a trade worth making.
Christ offers more than insults. Moses was “he was looking ahead to his reward.” A number of years ago a preacher reviewed the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection in his Easter sermon. He concluded that if he was a betting man, he would stake his life on it. But that makes it sound though there is a risk involved, though odds are favorable. God’s promise of eternal life is not a matter of favorable odds. Our reward in heaven is a guarantee.
That’s why Moses endured disgrace. That’s why Jesus’ apostles chose death by crucifixion, beheading, even being skinned alive rather than denying the Savior whose blood had bought them. I don’t know what Christ might ask us to suffer for him here. But faith puts future reward ahead of present pleasures, and knows that we possess the greater treasure.