The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
My parents moved out of the house that I grew up in right before I went to college. The process was arduous and sad, a whole mix of emotions. But a bright spot came when I was packing and found money I had hidden between the pages of my books. In an effort to resemble the sleuth-like heroines of favorite mystery series, I had tucked away money in my books in hopes of discovering my own buried treasure one day. The largest bill I found was $10, but the joy and anticipation of discovering something unexpected, especially in an unexpected place, was a memorable experience.
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to discovering a treasure here in Matthew 13, and although money wasn’t a commodity back then, it was a medium of exchange and often hidden to keep safe. Jesus tells us the stories of two men who liquidate all they have to get a treasure. Both men, the hired worker and the pearl merchant, are illumined; they find something of value that other people miss, and they sacrifice in joy, selling everything they have in order to get it.
No one tells the men to sell all they have; they do it of their own volition. Why? Where does the motivation come from? Out of joy of obtaining this treasure and from the overwhelming beauty of what they will get. It is certainly a sacrifice, but it doesn’t feel like one because what they are getting is so much greater than what they are giving up.
Many of the college students I counsel week-to-week struggle with a range of issues from depression to promiscuity to drug and alcohol addiction to disordered eating, and on and on. I’m often preoccupied with wanting to see some behavioral change in their lives, tangible evidence that God is at work in them. Fruitfulness would indicate some measure of life at work underneath the brokenness of their sin, but it comes at a cost, doesn’t it?
One student recently described her struggle in this way: “I really understand this. I am a Christian. I have put my faith and trust in Christ, I have a guaranteed place in heaven, and I am delighted in by my Father in Heaven. But what good is it when guys don’t give me a second look?”
Her question echoes a sentiment deep within all of our own hearts. Oftentimes, the truth of what we know doesn’t match the reality of what we want and how we live. We’ve all set our sights on where life is found, and too often they are set on where it can’t be found. You may wonder like me, “I’m a Christian… but what does it matter if I don’t have _________?”
According to Jesus, sacrifice is a part of discipleship and part of belonging to the Kingdom of God. Paul understood this and in Romans 8:19 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The glory and riches that come from knowing Christ compelled Paul to give his life to Him. But how can we have joy when we watch things being sold off? We must be moved into sacrifice, and we find in Jesus the power to do so. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross.” Like the hired worker who “in joy” sells all he has for the treasure he finds, so too Jesus gives His life for the joy, for the treasure before Him, which is us! This is the beauty of Jesus that motivates us to surrender our lives, our ambitions, even our longings to be noticed to Him, so that we may partake of His Kingdom of heaven and experience exceedingly more joy than we could imagine.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way in Mere Christianity:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of …You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
May we give ourselves to the beauty of Christ and discover treasures beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.