”The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-45)
Not, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who found a treasure, so he sold most of what he had in case it didn’t work out.” The man sells all he has with joy! In Philippians, Paul talks about all the ways in which he was an amazingly religious person – his pedigree was pure, and he was blameless in obeying the law. He had power and reputation. But after became a follower of Christ, he wrote:
“I regard everything as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish in order that I might gain Christ and be found in Him.” (Philippians 3:8)
The first point is that the Kingdom of Heaven demands all of us. Everything on earth is worth the trade-off. There is no giving up all we have - except for our money, our job, our friends, our sex life, our vacations, our retirement plans, our temperament, our appearance, or our dreams. If there is an area that we won’t gladly give up for the sake of knowing Christ and living in the life He has called us to, we are clinging to idols, and we will never understand what it means to live in the Kingdom of God.
“There is a condition for having the kingdom… the condition is not wealth or power or intelligence or eminence. The condition is that you prize the kingdom more than you prize anything else.” (John Piper)
The second point has to do with how the treasure is found.
In the first parable, the treasure is found unexpectedly in a field. Not in a bank, not in a lawn, not underneath the floorboards of a house. It was found unexpectedly in a common field in the midst of labor. We rarely stumble upon the Kingdom in the midst of luxury, ease and distraction. It often happens when we are in a field, in the midst of the ordinary toil of life, faithfully putting one foot in front of the other. This treasure was not found during a spiritual retreat or at a conference or even a Sunday morning service. The Kingdom of Heaven – the beauty of Christ and the richness of the life he offers – is often stumbled upon while you are doing life:
- pulling out your hair dealing with your kids
- doing the hard work of marriage
- punching the clock at your job
- talking with your doctor
- grinding away at homework
- navigating loneliness or depression or grief.
The field is hard. Going back to an earlier parable - there are thorny people who leave marks. There are things that sting us and bite us (words, glances, snubs, misunderstandings). There is sweat, pain, loneliness, loss, grief, depression, frustration. There is stony ground and hardened people. But the Kingdom of Heaven is there because God is present and Christ is available, and the treasure – salvation, forgiveness, and restoration - will be revealed if we faithfully work the land.
The man in the field stumbles upon the Kingdom; in contrast, the merchant has already been searching diligently for it among the beautiful, costly things.
This merchant knew what beautiful things looked like, but he was not content with ordinary. He didn’t want to just get by. He wanted the only one that really matters. The beautiful pearls around us might be our toys, reputation, beauty, sex, family, entertainment, America! Other religions can offer what seems to be a very compelling path to peace or hope. A distracting a beautiful pearl in our current climate is our reputation among our friends – we are reluctant to talk about Jesus, or about sin and the need for salvation, or even share the story of our life with others because we don’t know what will happen. But those are small pearls indeed compared with Christ, in whom all the true treasures of life are found.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is valuable and costly.
- Whether stumbled upon or searched for diligently, Jesus Christ and the salvation and hope He offers are worth the cost.
- Nothing matters more than the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. (Philippians 3:8)