Friday 13 October 2017

Our Taonga, Our Treasure

By Iola Goulton

It was my birthday at the end of August. To celebrate (commiserate?), my husband and I took a short break to the South Island, famous for high country sheep stations, skifields, and Lord of the Rings filming sites.

Arrowtown is the site of the famous "if you want him, come and claim him" scene where Arwen saves Frodo from the Black Riders. It's also home to the Lakes District Museum and Gallery, which we visited. The museum has a permanent exhibition covering the history of Arrowtown from the gold rush days. There is also a small temporary exhibition space.

When I visited, the exhibition was 'Our Taonga' which broadly translates as 'Our Treasure'.

The exhibition was put together by a local school. If I remember correctly, it was part of a national initiative where children were encouraged to share their taonga, their treasure, and explain why it was precious. (I didn't take photographs ... annoying, in hindsight!)

It was a fascinating insight into what the children and their families valued. 

There was a range of items large and small, old and new. One display was a giant tapa cloth, a gift to the family from the Queen of Tonga. Another was a nineteenth century Prussian helmet. One child displayed her great-grandfather's box camera, another displayed the skis his mother used when she competed in the Winter Olympics.

The museum director also chipped in with her family treasure: her husband's rugby caps. For those of you who aren't from rugby-playing nations, a player is "capped" when they play their first significant match for a provincial or national team. Yes, it's a physical cap. There were three caps on display: his provincial cap, All Black cap, and another for captaining the All Blacks.

The one that touched me the most was a blue tartan pinafore: a school uniform. The note beside the pinafore explained that she'd chosen the uniform because she'd enjoyed her time at intermediate (middle) school, and was a little apprehensive about starting high school the following year. She also thanked her favourite teacher for being a positive influence.

The exhibit got me thinking: what is my treasure?

Sometimes our treasure isn't a possession. Sometimes it's a person (or people). Our family, our friends, our church fellowship. A treasured teacher.

Sometimes our treasure has monetary value, like my diamond engagement ring.

Sometimes our treasure has sentimental value, like the souvenirs we buy on holiday.

And sometimes our treasure has symbolic value. My husband has his grandfather's King James Bible. I have my great-grandmother's Book of Common Prayer, which was a gift from her own grandmother over a hundred years ago. Both are of little monetary value, but they symbolise a Christian heritage.

As Christians, we think about treasure differently to the people around us. The Bible talks about treasure.

We can't save ourselves through our treasure (Job 20:20). A focus on worldly treasure brings death (Prov 15:6). Physical treasures can be plundered and stolen (Isa 10:13).

Not all treasures are physical. People can be treasures as well. The Jews are God's people, his treasured possession (Deut 7:6).

Knowledge can be treasure ... if it's the right kind of knowledge.

We are called to treasure God's word (Job 23:12). God will give us hidden treasures so we may know Him (Isa 45:3).

Yes, we are commanded to store up treasure. But not worldly treasure:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
See the contrast? Our true treasure is Jesus:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:2-3)

Jesus is what (who?) was missing from the Our Treasure exhibition. The focus was on earthly treasures, which moths and vermin destroy, which thieves break in and steal. There were no Bibles, no symbols of faith in God. The closest thing to eternal treasure was the school uniform. The teacher's name was Sister Mary, so I suspect the treasure she was sharing was eternal.

Whether her students realised it or not.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
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  1. What a wonderful perspective - from a wonderful time away. Thanks for the reminder to keep our eyes on the heavenly prize.

    1. Yes, we had a great time away, and it's been good to reflect on it since as well.

  2. Great post, Iola. One of my most prized earthly treasures is a tea towel with the Footprints poem on it. It belonged to a sweet lady from church that I absolutely adored and was given to me by her best friend when she passed away. But great reminder to store up treasures in heaven!

    1. I have a few "treasures" like that - a symbol of an earthly relationship and a reminder of our heavenly treasure at the same time.

  3. Beautiful, Iola. What a great question–what is your treasure? My family for sure. My faith. My friends. Possessions are treasure, but what lasts? Loved this blog.

    1. Thank you :)

      I heard another take on treasure yesterday in church: sacrifice. Treasures often come at great sacrifice and cost, like the sacrifice of Jesus giving His life for ours.

      Just as we need to remember He is our true treasure, sometimes we also need to remember that we are His treasure, His pearl of great price.

  4. Than you, dear Iola. Glad you has such a wonderful time and enjoyed such a moving experience from school children.

    I am weighing up many special treasures right now & find it difficult to name even a few!

    1. We do have many treasures - husbands, family, friends. But the pale into insignificance in the face of our greatest treasure.

  5. Iola, thanks for your insights that encourage us to press a little deeper and take stock of our lives. It got me thinking about what my treasure is stored in. Is it located in a Heavenly place or a physical place? That depends on what my treasure is, right? Is it material or spiritual? If I were to be truthful, right now there's a bit off both! My grandmother's wedding ring, my auntie's music box from her trip to Switzerland and the 'family cashmere shawl' that is passed down from generation to generation. Whilst none of these things are of great monetary value they are still my treasures. I can't take them with me but I can hand them on to others as a remembrance of the people and values they represent. Physical treasures with spiritual significance, especially when the story is passed on with the treasure!

    1. "Physical treasures with spiritual significance" - I like that!

  6. Enjoyed the post, Iola. Thank you for the reminder of a treasure no one can take, no one can steal, and which no amount of money can buy. 🌸


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