What is the most precious thing to you in life? Is it your most expensive material possession: a diamond, or car, or tech gadget, or your house? Maybe it is a relationship: a girlfriend, or boyfriend, or husband or wife, or a friend, or parent or sibling? Maybe your money, your position, career, or title is the most precious thing to you. Then again with all that’s happening in the United States, this country may be the most precious thing to you.
J.R.R Tolkien vividly and poignantly illustrates this point through the character Gollum from the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings. Gollum, once a rather normal person, turns into a creature that is despicable, nasty, and completely devoid of a conscience—one who will do anything to protect his most precious possession. How does Gollum become Gollum, a hideous and deformed creature? He becomes Gollum because to him the ring is the most precious thing in life. In the recently made movies, the devilish greed of Gollum is well portrayed as we see him worshipping the ring, cherishing it in insecure delight, saying, “My precious…my precious.” Can you hear the ring of hopelessness? He worshipped and placed all his hope in a powerful material thing, the ring, only to be grandly disappointed. But Tolkien didn’t invent this principle of what we hold as most precious becoming what we worship. It existed prior, in the Bible.
In the Bible, we are shown something very transformative about what should be precious. Peter, the disciple of Jesus Christ emphasized the word precious (obviously in Greek, not English!) in his first letter to early Christians. Interestingly though, he talked about preciousness in the larger context of hope. Peter was someone to whom Jesus Christ became most precious. But before Jesus rose from the dead to give hope to the world, the most precious thing to Peter was his own life and reputation. Peter revealed this when he denied that he even knew Jesus, who was being publicly shamed and would shortly be crucified. All this changed however, when the Man Jesus Christ, who Peter denied he knew, defeated death, rose from the grave and visited Peter in His resurrected body.
So, in his first letter to suffering Christians, a transformed Peter describes what is precious to him, and to all who believe in Jesus Christ.
Firstly, the trying of a Christian’s faith through suffering is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7) Then, the blood of Christ, with which believers are purchased by God from the grip of sin and death is precious. (1 Peter 1:19) Jesus Christ, we are told, is precious to God, the Father. (1 Peter 2:4) Peter then quotes the Old Testament, telling us that Jesus Christ is described as the “chief corner stone, chosen and precious.” (1 Peter 2:6) Lastly, “to those who believe,” He (meaning Jesus), “is precious.” (1 Peter 2:7) How does our list of what’s precious in life match this one?
That said, preciousness is not even Peter’s main theme in this letter. His main theme is hope. The letter of First Peter is the letter of hope. He writes to give people the hope that is found in Christ because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is in this letter that we have the famous instruction to Christians to be ready at all times to defend or explain the hope within us to anyone who asks us for the reason of that hope. (1 Peter 3:15) Hope then is the message, the main theme, of Peter’s letter. Preciousness is only a sub-theme, but one intrinsically connected to hope. What’s the connection between hope and preciousness?
Interweaving the themes of precious and hope, the message that Peter is sending to his readers is that if one wants to have hope, we will have to hold the right things as most precious. What we hold as most precious is what we will ultimately worship, and put our hope in. If we put our hope in the things, people and pleasures of this world, we will be disappointed because all those things are corruptible (another theme in the letter of first Peter) and will decay and be destroyed one day. The only things which are incorruptible, and therefore precious, are those things that Peter mentions: the trying of our faith in this world, the blood of Christ, the word of God (the Bible), and Jesus Christ Himself. We can therefore hold all this as precious and place our hope in Jesus, and never be disappointed.
It’s not wrong to value other things such as relationships and possessions as precious. But in comparison to Jesus who made them and controls them, they should pale in preciousness. Is Jesus Christ who you value as most precious in your life? Is His word and His blood what you value as most precious? If you already believe in Him, know that Jesus values you as His most precious possession. And if you desire to believe in Jesus, you will become most precious to Him, and He to you. You can cling to Jesus as most precious, and have hope at all times, never once being disappointed!
© Kenny Damara, 2017.