Treasuring God’s Word: A Lesson From China
“This is the greatest treasure that I could give you.”
I paused a moment after writing that sentence, thinking about all the meaning compressed into the word “treasure.” Perhaps it sounded dramatic, but I firmly believed what I had written.
I was in southern China, preparing to say goodbye to a teaching assistant who had become my friend over the four weeks that we worked together. She had grown up in a province in southern China, had only ever known atheism, and had never been to a church. I had grown up on an island in the Caribbean as a missionary kid, had understood Christianity before my earliest memories, and had been a faithful church attender before I could even walk myself there. We didn’t have much in common at all!
But we did have English in common. And we were both working at the same English camp—and in the same classroom—for four weeks. And we both wanted to know one another better. She wanted to improve her English and to understand American culture better, and I wanted to understand Chinese culture, be her friend, and have Gospel conversations with her.
So gradually over the course of four weeks, we became friends. She did learn and improve her English, and I’m sure her interaction with me and my other American teaching partners qualified as a potentially overwhelming crash course in American culture! I, in turn, learned much about Chinese culture, found a sweet friendship, and, by God’s grace, did have several opportunities to share the Gospel with her, both by myself and with my other teaching partners.
At the end of our time together, I knew it would be hard to say goodbye. It would be hard to walk away from the camp and head back to the United States knowing that we would most likely never see each other again. It would be hard to say goodbye to someone who had so many questions, someone who had just started sorting through her doubts about creation and even the very existence of God. It would be hard to re-enter the heart of the Bible belt in South Carolina while she returned to an atheistic school that was filled with unbelievers.
Our last morning in China, some of my teaching partners and I had breakfast with her at a bakery near the school. For the last time, we shared the Gospel with her. And then we gave her a gift: a Chinese Bible. While a previous English teacher had given her an English Bible in the past, this was her first Bible in her own language.
On the inside of this Bible, I had written a brief note to her. I knew that this Book was the greatest treasure I could give her—and I told her so in that note.
Shortly afterward when she had to say goodbye to us, I knew that she was leaving with a priceless gift, the greatest treasure. This Treasure told the complete Gospel story, enhancing and deepening the conversations that we had already had with her. This Treasure would tell her more about Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
When our team flew out of China that night, I left the greatest treasure in China with my new friend. But I also took the greatest treasure with me. In fact, ever since I was a little girl, I’ve owned this treasure. My parents gave me my first copy of this treasure, and over time I’ve been privileged to own four or five copies of it.
What determines something’s value? For some things, their value is based on the value that people place on them. It’s a value based on someone’s estimation of the thing, not necessarily the thing itself.
But the Bible is different. The Bible’s value is intrinsic, constant. The Bible’s value comes from its Divine authorship; there is truly no other book that could even begin to compare! Its value transcends cultures, backgrounds, and languages because God intends for it to be for all people.
This summer as I handed the greatest treasure to my friend in China, I was reminded of the incredible worth of the Word of God. And I was also convicted because so often, I don’t treat it like a treasure. I don’t read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, and share it as if it were a priceless gift. Normally when I approach it, I’m too distracted to really concentrate. When I open it in the morning, I’m more likely to start daydreaming than to actually meditate on the truths that I’m reading.
This summer, I got a taste of the joy that comes from giving the Word of God to someone in their own language. It’s a joy because I know what an impact the Bible made in my own life, and I know that God can use it to transform her life too. But it’s not a joy that I have to relegate to mission trips or to Bibles in other languages. This is a joy that I can know each day as I have the privilege of reading God’s Word in my own language. It’s an opportunity that I don’t have to take for granted, and a joy that I don’t have to overlook. It’s also a joy that I can share with others, with those around me.
Even as the psalmist did, I can delight in God’s Word every day, cling to its promises, and obey its commands. God has truly reserved a special joy for those who treasure His Word!
Psalm 119:14-16 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.