Treasure and Pearl.
The parables of the treasure in a field and the pearl of great value are unique to Matthew (13:44-46). Their meaning is clear enough. The kingdom of God is of unparalleled worth. As a result, everything must be sacrificed to obtain it.
In ancient times people often hid money or other valuables in the ground. The man in this parable appears to have found such a store of treasure by chance. Since it is a parable focused on one main point, we should not get sidetracked with questions of the morality of his hiding it again and buying the field. The point is he recognized the treasure’s extreme value and so was willing to sell everything he had to possess it. The parable even says he did this joyfully, another indication of the extreme value of the treasure.
Pearls, like gold, were considered to have tremendous worth. In contrast to the preceding parable, here the merchant is intentionally seeking something of great value. He, too, finds it, and likewise is willing to sell everything he had in order to obtain it.
The first discovery of treasure seems accidental and the second intentional. One man was likely a field worker and the other was a merchant. But both found something of inestimable value, and both sold everything they had in order to obtain it. Jesus says this is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. Those who recognize its extreme value will willingly and evenly joyfully sacrifice everything to experience it. Understanding the meaning is not the hard part. The difficulty lies in assimilating its truth.
One helpful step toward assimilating the message is to remember that the kingdom of Heaven is about kingship, with God reigning as King over us (see The Story of God’s Kingdom 2 and that whole series). It refers to his plan to deliver us from our plight and bring about better days of peace, joy, right living, fear of the Lord, justice, and the power of his Spirit to help us do all these things. The kingdom refers to having Jesus, God’s Anointed Ruler, as our King. He it is who can bring about these good things. All this is the kingdom, and this, says Jesus, is of immeasurable value.
So, do you see the value of the kingdom of Heaven? That is, do you see the value of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph? You may want to reread it. If you were working in a field and noticed an opportunity to have Jesus rule your life, would you have figured out a way and then joyfully sold everything you have to come under his rule? If you had been browsing for in shop somewhere, looking for items of value, and noticed the possibility of experiencing the wise, royal counsel and benevolent lordship of Jesus, would you have been willing to sell everything you have to obtain them? If you are busy and pulled in a thousand directions by all the needs, demands, and opportunities around you, would you ever slow down enough to consider how valuable it is to have Jesus as the reigning King of your life? Have you explored the meaning of his kingship enough to recognize its unparalleled worth?
Clearly, Jesus calls us in these parables to sacrifice anything and everything in order to have him as our King. We need to seek his kingdom first of all. Yet if all we have to empower such a change of priorities an “ought to,” we are not likely to do it very well. The parables do not say that the man found treasure and knew intellectually that it was extremely valuable and so felt like he ought to be willing to sacrifice everything in order to have it. Rather, he truly recognized its value and therefore willingly and gladly gave up everything. The beginning point for a sacrificial commitment is to see the value of being ruled by God.
This calls for time in prayer and meditation, begging God to enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may see the true nature of things. It also calls for the humility to recognize how easily and often I rule my own life in a mediocre way at best and a destructive way at worse. God help me to see the need and worth of Jesus actually ruling my thoughts, emotions, words, and actions. Our Teacher said that there is nothing more val