We'll be reading several of Jesus' best stories (a.k.a parables) this month on the blog as we focus on the power of stories, but for today's story time, I'd like to turn our attention to a little tale about treasure.
Matthew 13:44–46 actually tells us two great stories, tied together with one moral.
"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.
"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."
Jesus was a little light on the details in these stories. I guess He didn't want us to miss the point, but let's read between the lines a bit and see what we can learn.
Story number one finds a man digging in a field. His shovel hits something hard. He hears a "chink." Maybe he stoops and starts digging with his hands. What he finds takes his breath away. Treasure! Gold. Pearls. Rubies. Diamonds. There is so much treasure he gets the giggles. But the laws of the land aren't in his favor. It isn't finders keepers, but rather whoever owns the land owns the treasure buried in it. So the man sells everything he has. His house. His donkey. His favorite trinkets. He uses the money to buy the field and the treasure is his. He has to give up everything to get the treasure, but it is a good trade.
Story number two tracks a pearl merchant. It's his business to know a good pearl when he finds it, and one day he cracks open an oyster to find the mother load. It's the most beautiful pearl he's ever seen. It's more valuable than any other pearl in the sea, but buying it would cost him dearly. He sells everything. His boat. His nets. His home. He uses the money to buy the pearl of great price. It is a good trade.
Let's think through the story behind the story. What is the treasure? What does the pearl symbolize? Jesus tells us that both represent the kingdom of heaven.
His followers thought He meant an actual kingdom with castles and armies and a throne, but Jesus was referring to the inheritance we receive when we accept Him. He was talking about the gift of knowing and being known by God.
That all sounds very much like a Hallmark card. It's lovely to think of being a Christian is like striking it rich or digging up a precious pearl, but don't miss the rest of the story.
Following God will cost you. In fact, it may cost you everything you have.
So the lesson in these stories is really two-fold. Following Jesus will cost you. (It may cost you everything.) It is worth the cost.
A good story gets us thinking, and these stories have me thinking about the cost of faith in my life. If faith isn't costing me anything, I think I can assume that I'm digging up the wrong treasures. If there is a cost, I need the reminder that God and His kingdom are worth it.
How about you? What is following Jesus costing you? Do you know what it's like to forfeit everything for the treasure of knowing God?