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From the Desk of … Lessons from a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere

by Steve Smith, Major

For some time I have been drawn to the story about a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that was buried for 50 years inside a protected vault in front of the Tulsa, Oklahoma courthouse. This beautiful, shiny new car was entombed so that it could be opened 50 years later during the centennial celebration of Oklahoma’s statehood. When that day arrived, thousands of people came to watch the unveiling of this classic car.

The vault had been constructed to withstand a nuclear blast, so hopes were high that the car would still be in pristine condition. Adding to the excitement was the fact that back in 1957 there had been a contest for people to guess the population of Tulsa in 2007. The person, or his or her heirs, to come closest to the actual 2007 population would win the car. All of the contest entries were saved on microfilm and placed inside the car. The big question circling around the crowd was—who would win the car?

When the Belvedere was hoisted out of its protective tomb, it was obvious that moisture had seeped into the vault over time. Rust covered the entire vehicle; the high hopes of the enthusiastic crowd were dashed. The interior was not much better. A woman’s handbag left in the glove box of the car now looked like a lump of rotted leather. Sadly, because of the deterioration, organizers had trouble finding the microfilm inside the vehicle with the names and guesses of contestants hoping to win the car. It really didn’t matter anyway—the Belvedere did not turn out to be much of a prize!

I think what still intrigues me about this true story is the direct relation that it has to Scripture. What better illustration is there to demonstrate the truth contained in the following words of Jesus:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust 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 (NIV)

No matter how hard the organizers in Tulsa tried, they were not able to keep the ’57 Belvedere in pristine condition. Moisture eventually caused the rust that destroyed the vehicle.

The lesson is really quite profound, especially in this day when we place so much importance on “things”. All of our “stuff” will eventually deteriorate and cease to be useful. Even our own bodies will eventually give way as the result of age and disease. Jesus reminds us that it is best for us to focus on the eternal—our personal relationship with the Lord and our proclamation of the gospel message to other people. I need to ask myself as I ask others: where are my priorities? Who am I discipling? Who am I speaking to about Christ? All of these questions help me to truly answer the most important question that comes from this passage: Where is my treasure?

May your treasure and mine be continually found in Christ! Oh, and it’s probably not a good idea to bury your new car in the front yard!

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