By Richard Lawry
John, Bob, and J.H. were among the prospectors who came to the Buffalo River Valley, searching for lost silver mines they had heard about in Indian legends. Near Rush Creek, they found shiny metallic flakes in the rocks that they believed to be silver. Before long, the news of the discovery spread like wildfire throughout the South. Farmers, unskilled laborers, miners, and former soldiers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and the Carolinas, came to the area, looking for ways to get rich quick. Due to its rough terrain and isolation, Rush Valley had very few settlers before the prospectors came to the area.
John, Bob, and J.H. built a rock smelter near Rush Creek to extract the silver from the promising ore deposits on their claim. On a crisp cold day in January 1887, they fired up the smelter for the first time. The day started with high expectations, but no silver came out of the bottom of the smelter. All of their hard work came to nothing, and the day crushed their dreams of getting rich. Legend tells us that John, Bob, and J.H. were broke, discouraged, and out of food. They offered to sell their claim to another prospector for a can of oysters. The man turned the offer down.
The smelter didn’t produce any silver but emitted green zinc oxide fumes in a spectacular display, described as beautiful rainbows. More experienced prospectors realized that although the ore didn’t contain silver, it was rich in zinc. Shortly after that disappointing January morning, zinc mining began at the Morning Star Mine. Soon people were rushing to the area to stake a claim. By the 1890s, a bustling community of homes and businesses developed near the Morning Star Mine.
World War I was Rush’s heyday. Zinc prices soared due to the demands of the war effort. During that time, Rush’s business district had ten general stores, three bakeries, and many boarding houses and hotels. The population soared to over 5,000, with many miners living in tents because there wasn’t enough housing for them. When World War I ended, the demand for zinc rapidly declined, and the price dropped. Mines began to close, and the population dropped. By the 1930s, all mining had ceased. The post office closed in the mid-1950s, and by the 1960s, no one was living in Rush.
For some time, I have wanted to visit the ghost town of Rush. Last month I was finally able to make the trip. It was a beautiful day as we walked along the short trail that loops through the center of Rush. As we read the interpretive signs along the way that told of the bustling activity of 100 years ago, I thought of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)
Jesus tells us not to place too much value on the things of this world. If you treasure them as the essential things in your life, one day you will find yourself very disappointed when they are devalued, destroyed, or stolen. Is Jesus telling us that we should not have any possessions here in this world? Of course not. But he is telling us that treasures on earth are subject to being eaten, rusting, or being stolen. Treasures in heaven are secure. They will remain.
To the people living in Rush during 1918, their city must have seemed immune to any possible downturn. But, when the demand for zinc dropped, everything changed, and they realized just how fleeting the things of this world could be.
We see these same patterns in countless situations in the world around us. Overnight, successful things can become failures. The fads of today are likely to be forgotten tomorrow. And boomtowns can become ghost towns. Often we make our plans, assuming that things, as we know them, will last forever. We need to realize that change is inevitable. Our ideas, strategies, commitments, and resources can be like ghost towns, thriving one minute, but empty the next.
We understand what treasures are here on earth, but what did Jesus mean by “treasures in heaven?” He wants us to use our time, energy, and finances to pursue things that are of eternal value; Those things that will have value in heaven, not on earth.
The Bible says, “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) So, how do we understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate attention to “treasures on earth?”
Jesus answers, “don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” Matthew 6:31-33(NCV)
Gentle Reader, don’t place your trust in the things of this world. They may end up being a ghost town like Rush. As Christians, our faith should be in the timeless truths of God found in His Word.
The stock market may go up and down. Corporations, nations, and politicians may rise and fall, but God’s Word is forever. Remember that boomtowns can become ghost towns, “but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:25 (NKJV)