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Beware: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

You’ve probably heard the saying, “All that glitters is not gold.” Well, society would tell us differently. And so would one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time.

all that glitters is not goldIn the image that is coded into this post, you can literally see the burning desire in this man’s eyes to possess the golden treasure. This is THE MOMENT he has waited for all his life. The reward of his life’s journey is finally before him. Nothing could stop him now.

Except – in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar of Star Wars fame – “It’s a trap!” You just knew that bag of sand Indiana Jones used to replace the idol when he lifted it off its resting place was not going to work.

In the next few moments as he ran for his life, he would face a collapsing cave roof, poison darts shooting from the cave walls, a treacherous guide, a giant rolling boulder, and native spear points. The worst part is he didn’t even get to keep the idol. His treasure-seeking arch rival with the help of the locals deprived him of that item.

Yes, it’s an extreme example. We’ll probably never face such a situation. But it does teach us a valuable lesson that all that glitters is not gold. Or in other words, not everything that can be attained is beneficial to us.

It sure does seem like bad things happen when we try to lay hold of something that we are not supposed to have. So if we are going to learn from this, we will have to look inward. And the looking starts with our eyes.

The Eyes Are The Window to the Soul

There is no doubt that our sense of touch is our most excitable sense. But not far behind it is our sense of sight. It can be argued that sight drives us more than any of our other senses.

All the world has become increasingly visual. Visuals and advertising used to only appear in print, like newspapers or magazines, on billboards or storefronts. Now, from the television, to the latest I-device and all things social media, visuals are everywhere. In fact, researchers estimate that the average American sees anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 different types of advertising in a single day!

And what we see in many of these visuals is not helpful. But we are sucked in anyway.

We see people with power and we want that too.

Other visuals showcase wealth. We feel compelled to pursue it.

Our eyes see the fame others relish in and we crave it, even if for just 15 minutes.

We see people take shortcuts to get ahead and before we know it, we are trying that ourselves.

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Our eyes see gold and everything else that glitters. And we can’t help but be lead down a path and into action.

In this regard, our eyes help reveal what we value. They see the world and we are prompted to make decisions based on that information. Our resulting actions reveal the depth and scope of our character. 

And in case you think this is a modern day issue, it isn’t. It’s literally been occurring since the beginning of time.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold: An Ancient Example

The classic and familiar “all that glitters is not gold” story is found in the Bible in the book of Genesis (Chapter 3). It’s the story of Adam and Eve disobeying God by eating a forbidden fruit. It cost them greatly and changed the dynamic between God and mankind forever.

But perhaps a different example would be helpful to look at, since its one actually dealing with gold. And it really zeros in on this idea of how the eyes lead us into action.

The Bible describes an event in the book of Joshua where Israel has just been dealt a confidence-shaking blow through a military defeat at a small city called Ai. When the dust settled, God revealed to Joshua their defeat happened because there was sin in the camp. With God’s assistance, they trace this sin to the household of a man named Achan.

When confronted by Joshua, Achan answers him this way in Joshua 7:

“Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.’”

He had taken these items from the rubble of the once mighty city of Jericho Israel had previously defeated. His actions were a problem because the people had been explicitly instructed not to take any of the accursed things once they had conquered the city. All of the silver, gold and other precious items were to be consecrated to God.

Seems like a fairly straightforward command to me. But Achan was pulled into this sin through his sight. And he couldn’t resist the glitters of gold.

The Power of Our Sight

Achan was enticed by something he saw that was beautiful. He could have resisted and obeyed, but didn’t. There was a progression in his own admission that led to his sin.

Notice how this unfolded:

1. He first looked (and probably looked again)

2. Then his mind processed (they were “beautiful”)

3. Next came a heart desire  (“I coveted them”)

4. He then acted (he “took them”)

5. Finally, he kept it secret and hid it from others (no one in Israel knew he had done this thing)

If there was a check in Achan’s spirit or conscience to avoid this sin, we are not made aware of that. He had to have known the command given to Joshua by God. But his desire for these items exerted a greater pull than the pull of obedience. And again it all started with his eyes.

Unfortunately for him and his family, the legal consequence in that culture for taking these accursed items was death. His actions had devastating consequences for those in his circle of life.

Can We Avoid the Gold and the Glitter?

With so many visuals and advertising coming across our path, the answer to the question is obvious. We can’t avoid seeing everything our culture presents to us. Isolation and visual deprivation is not an option. We have to exist and be present in our world.

So how do we resist being pulled to treasures of gold that glitter and do us no good?

For starters, we can understand the progression Achan went through. The best time to stop a potential bad behavior from occurring is at points 1 and 2. It’s inevitable that we are going to see and we are going to process. But what comes next is critical.

Once we begin to desire (step 3), we are more likely to act (step 4). So it seems that our potential bad behavior needs to be halted by step 3. Desire, thought about long enough, will breed action. And once you act once, it will be increasingly harder to not act again.

Some things in our world are beautiful and have been placed there for our benefit and enjoyment. Other things, are to be avoided because the consequences would be physically and spiritually fatal. It’s up to us to have the wisdom to know the difference and realize all that glitters is not gold.

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Is there some gold glittering in your world today? Is it something that could lead to negative consequences? How do you avoid falling victim to the lust for power, fame and wealth?

Image created by Luke1428.com

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  1. Great post Brian – it really is amazing how you can be travelling along contently, life being just fine, and then you see something you just ‘have’ to have, or other people that have something you suddenly think you need (like when children always want the toy the other children have!). This definitely causes me much confusion on occasions, when I’m not firmly grounded in my own core values, but I do try to be very grateful for what I already have as a means to combat this seemingly endless problem.

    • Thanks for the insightful comment Jason! It is tough, especially with a child pulling at your heart strings to make a purchase for him/her. Some of the best lessons our children have learned though in relation to money were time when we had to tell them “No” for something they really wanted.

  2. Wonderful post, Brian! I am practically speechless. Contentment is such an important term and frame of mind to have in life. As you’ve shown, and in many other places in the bible, when our hearts start desiring things, they oft lead us far from where we want to be. I think in some ways I am easily enticed by all the things you’ve mentioned. I don’t have a fool-proof plan to not yield, but I do believe a heart of humility and gratitude for everything God has given (and meditating on that) is a help.

    • Thanks Sherrian! Seems like since the beginning of time mankind has had difficulty with contentment and gratitude for what they already possess. What we have is simply never enough. That’s an attitude we have to overcome for sure.

  3. Singing “Lord, it’s hard to be humble. When you’re perfect in every way!” j/k I am humbled by others lives and seeing the adversity that some people go through and rise above. That keeps me grounded and not get ahead of myself.

  4. Hmmm, I can’t think of anything in particular at the moment, but it does seem there are a lot of people who would be willing to do anything to get famous cough Kim and Kanya cough cough. 🙂 I always wonder just want tips someone over the edge that they are willing to do certain things for a buck.

    • “…what tips someone over the edge…” That’s a good question. Not sure I have a complete answer but it sure speaks to the power money can exact on our lives.


  1. […] gives, at Luke 14:28, a much needed warning that all that glitters isn’t gold. It is a great reminder, and reason to search, within yourself to question your motivation for the […]

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