My favorite one was to found in my grandfather’s house. A survivor of the depression, he learned how to make due with whatever was handy. Hence, his checkers set consisted of a homemade checker board and checker pieces made from painted coke bottle caps. As an homage to him, I keep a similar set to this day.
Of course, the greatest move in checkers was to get a piece completely across the board and proudly proclaim, “Crown me!” Once ordinary checkers were crowned, they became immensely more valuable. As well as powerful! Who among us has not played the game and desired to be so crowned?
I share this because of an article in the news this day. Written by Ashley Hume and posted on www.foxbusiness.com, it was titled “Drake Purchases Tupac Shakur's Self-Designed Crown Ring for Over $1 Million at Auction: Tupac Shakur Wore the Ring to the 1996 MTV Music Awards in His Final Public Appearance Before His Death”.
As the title suggests, it seems that acclaimed Hip hop artist Drake has purchased Tupac Shakur's self-designed diamond, ruby and gold crown ring at Sotheby's Hip-Hop auction for a staggering $1.01 million. The solid gold ring, designed by Shakur and inspired by the crowns of medieval European kings, is literally topped with multiple jewels set in a small crown. According to Sotheby’s, the ring features a diamond-encrusted gold band, set with a central cabochon ruby and two pavé-cut diamonds on a gold circlet symbolizing the crown.
Sotheby's also confirmed the sale in a press release, noting that the winning bid for the ring was triple its high estimate of $300,000. According to the auction house, the ring was the "most valuable Hip Hop artifact ever sold at auction" and "the only Hip Hop artifact to surpass $1 million."
It seems that what gives the ring such value is that Shakur, considered the king of Hip Hop, sported the accessory at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 4, 1996, which was to be his final public appearance before he was killed in a drive-by shooting nine days later.
Now, I personally do not listen to Hip Hop music. On the secular side, I bounce between 1960s pop and 1970s rock and 1980s country. And on the religious side, I favor the hymns of my childhood and the praise choruses of the last thirty years. I guess we all have our individual tastes.
After all, my aunt once collected Elvis memorabilia, several of my friends have Eagles’ posters from back in the day, and my son has a picture of Johnny Cash on his basement wall even now.
What is more, I know of quite good church-going individuals who might well qualify as “diesel sniffers” given that they seem to follow their favorite Southern Gospel music artists from concert to concert! It seems that whatever our individual musical tastes, we all seem to value our favorite artists.
And yet, the simple truth is that we all know the artists we favor are human. As such, they are frail, they are flawed, and ultimately, they are mortal! Why then do we place them on such pedestals? Why then do we treat them like royalty? Why do we refer to them as the King of Rock and Roll, or the King of Country Music, or the King of Hip Hop? And why do we emulate them so?
If we are truly looking for a king to emulate, then we would do well to look to a King Whose Kingdom transcends this world! If we are looking for a crown to acquire, then why no look to acquire one that transcends this world?!
The Apostle Paul understood this. In his First New Testament Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 9, verse 25), he refers to people who strive mightily to obtain an earthly crown. But he reminds us that such crowns are temporary and fleeting, whereas followers of Christ should forsake worldly rewards and resources and strive instead for a crown that lasts forever.
Not only did he assert this principle; he also lived it. After a lifetime spent in denial of self and pursuit of the Lord and His will, when Paul neared the end of his sojourn in this world, he could boldly proclaim the following truths to one of his young protégés (II Timothy chapter 4, verses 6-8):
6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
Note that Paul reminds us that the crown awaiting him can await us as well. In the end, it all comes down to what crown we truly desire. And also to how much and in what manner we are willing to pay for it!
I conclude with the words to one of my favorite hymns penned by George Bennard…
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
to bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see,
for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
to pardon and sanctify me.
To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I'll share.
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown!