“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Remember when you were a kid and you found a coin on the ground? Didn’t you just feel like the luckiest person? When you don’t get a paycheck, that coin can make you feel pretty special, right?!
My kids were like that.
Sometimes it got annoying – I’m trying to juggle groceries, watch for traffic, and get out of the rain, but my kid sees a penny on the ground and is dragging me to it so he can pick it up! To me, it’s “just a penny”, but to my child, it’s a treasure. He doesn’t care that it’s raining or there are things to be done, he’s not walking away without that coin!
It brings to mind the first parable. The man is walking in a field. We’re not told why he is walking there, but he’s walking in a field that doesn’t belong to him. He sees a treasure (we aren’t told what it is) and he immediately responds by burying it. While that may seem odd to us, it was customary in those days for a man to bury his valuables in order to protect them because they didn’t have banks or safes. This behavior would have helped the original audience to more fully understand the value of what had been found. Jesus says that the man buried the treasure, “…and then in his JOY went and sold all he had….”
It begs the question, what kind of treasure would be so great that you would joyfully sell everything to keep it?
To this man, the treasure was more valuable than the cost of purchasing the entire field, a sacrifice he deemed worthwhile. But we can’t assume that the value of the treasure was purely monetary. He still had to eat, right? What if he had sold everything for something that would never financially pay him back? Does that change the scene a bit for you?
Let’s pause and look at the second parable since Matthew puts them together.
In this parable, the merchant is looking for a prize. He knows his trade and he is on the hunt. Like the first man, the merchant finds a pearl of great worth, sells everything, and buys it. But consider this: while the first man was likely someone of more modest means, the merchant is a businessman who deals in an expensive trade. We can easily conclude that his net worth was fairly substantial. And he sold it all for this one pearl.
Why did Jesus tell the second parable? After all, it’s a two-sentence example that seems to parallel the first.
I think He did it to draw our focus to the value of the treasure.
The monetary value of each treasure was different for each man, but the personal value was equal. Both treasures, to their finder, were worth the sum of their whole lives. The Greek word used in the passage is “panta” /pás/. It denotes totality, everything, holding nothing back. In fact, if the merchant sold everything, it means he likely also sold his business, his livelihood, his identity as a merchant, much like the apostles who walked away from their nets to follow Jesus.
Are we starting to understand the cost? Can we comprehend something so valuable?
What is your pearl of great price? What is your treasure? What is that which you would sell everything for and hold precious for all your days?
Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. The treasure is no longer found through a priest in a temple. It’s a guy in a field, it’s a merchant, it’s everyday people like those listening that day. It is eternity with Him and the Father made available to everyone.
This treasure is found by us when we seek, and God reveals.
The first man may represent those of us for whom God simply shows up and we recognize our need. The second, perhaps those who search far and long for the answers to their questions and finally “see.” The experience of the journey is unique to each of us, but no matter how the treasure is obtained, the response of these men is the same – reckless abandon of all this world had given them, for the opportunity to keep it.
Saul, a man of great rank in society with a bright future ahead of him in Jewish leadership, was brought to his knees by the truth of Jesus while walking down the road to Damascus. After his conversion he walked away from it all. When discussing all that he had before he had come to know Jesus, he said to the Philippians,
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him….” Philippians 3:7-9a.
Years later, he still fully understood the value of the treasure he found on the road that day.
Do we recognize the treasure of Christ in our lives? Do we treat it accordingly? Do we give our relationship with Jesus the superiority that it deserves; one that is worth giving it all away for?
Hear Jesus reminding you of this,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
How then do we live? Are we to conclude that we must give everything away to follow Jesus well?
Mark 10 tells of a rich man who approached Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, “and you will have treasure in heaven.” The man walked away sad, unwilling to let go.
But before Jesus gave that directive, we see this moment: “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack…’” (Mark 10:21) Jesus invites him to give it all away because He knew the treasure of the man's heart was not the kingdom of heaven standing right in front of him. He knew the man recognized Jesus as a treasure, but not the treasure worth surrendering all other securities and identities.
The Bible is full of examples of wealthy people who followed Jesus: Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, Lydia, Joseph of Arimathea… As far as we know, Jesus never asked them to give their wealth away, and yet their actions show their generosity and willingness, had they been asked, to do so. Letting go of wealth isn’t what Jesus wants. He wants our devotion.
Are you willing to let it all go? Is there anything you are holding on to that you have made a greater treasure than Jesus?
Those coins, which were so precious to my children upon finding them, where most often found again on laundry day by me, having been forgotten in pockets. The distractions of the day had led them to forget the valuable treasure they had found so soon before, and the next new thing caused them to forget.
Let’s take some time to sit before God and bravely ask if there is anything we need to surrender, anything we have allowed to take the place of the joy we had upon discovering the treasure of the kingdom of heaven here and now. Pray for discernment to know the truth of how you are treating your treasure, not in condemnation, but in purification. Let us desire to return to our first love this month. I am praying for you!