Martin Frobisher couldn’t believe his luck.  

He was already celebrated as one of England’s most daring and accomplished sailors.

He had helped vanquish the Spanish Armada that had tried to invade England in 1588.    

In the service of Queen Elizabeth I, he had searched for the Northwest Passage, that mystical pathway rumored to exist somewhere north of Canada that would allow ships to travel unimpeded from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.   

Along the way, as he trudged through stretches of wilderness in present-day Newfoundland, he stumbled upon reams of shiny yellow ore.  

By returning with a boatload of gold nuggets, he would become a national hero.  A treasure of this magnitude would guarantee that England could keep pace with her Spanish rivals.

And he himself would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.

But a funny thing happened when Frobisher presented his fortune to the royal assayers in London.  Not an ounce of gold could be found. He had jubilantly transported thousands of pounds of iron pyrite.  Fool’s gold.  

Fool’s Gold


Frobisher, humiliated but determined, immediately secured a commission to return to the New World.  This time he loaded three ships with yellow ore from another geological seam. He and his men risked their lives sailing back across the Atlantic with their overloaded vessels.

Sadly, the result was exactly the same.

Over the course of two years Martin Frobisher had managed to transport more than 1,700 tons of worthless iron pyrite to his homeland.  His reputation never recovered.

Iron pyrite is called fool’s gold because it turns people who want to get rich into fools.   

So what happened to those 1,700 tons?  Much of the pyrite ended up as as part of modern-day British roads.

There’s an incredible irony in that.  What will heaven be like? According to the book of Revelation, the streets of the new Jerusalem will be paved with gold.  Is that a way of describing the next world’s matchless beauty?

Actually, the Bible’s authors were sending a rather different message.   

In the ancient world, the most disagreeable part of the human body was the bottom of the foot.  A victorious king would be said to put his enemies under his feet. As Nancy Sinatra memorably sang, “These boots are made for walkin’, and that’s just what they’ll do, and one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

To be walked over, in other words, is the ultimate disrespect.

In this world, people will do almost anything to obtain financial security.  They will work ridiculous hours, lie to their clients and business partners, ignore their children, betray their spouses, and literally work themselves to death.  All for the sake of gold

In heaven, gold is of such little consequence that we will walk on it.

Streets are meant to take us somewhere, and gold really does take us places in this world. We will always need resources.  

But the kind of treasure we can hold in our hands is not life’s true treasure.

The world’s richest people are those who love God and love others.

Wisdom may be defined as living right now, in this world, according to the way things are going to be in the next world.   

May God grant us the wisdom today to give our hearts to the right stuff.


By: Glenn McDonald

Glenn McDonald is the Director of Mission Integration for the Ascension Ministry Service Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, a role in which he serves as the workplace mission leader for 900 associates in the healthcare industry.

Glenn is an ordained Presbyterian minister, has 33 years of congregational leadership experience, and is the author of eight books on discipleship and spiritual formation.  He and his wife enjoy living on a small farm.