In Matthew 13:44-46, Matthew records two of Jesus’ shortest parables. However, while there isn’t a lot of drawn out detail or extended storyline, there is profound gospel truth here. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in these parables. But upon further review, we can easily overturn that call and say that the most important truth in the entire universe is summed up in these two parables. The greatest news for those in Christ and the worst news for those not in Christ are each found in these parables.
Over the next four days, I’ll be offering four separate reflections on the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Value. My goal is not merely to (hopefully) say some helpful things in the unpacking of these verses. I also hope to teach you to linger on a passage. Meditation fans the flame of affections for God in the heart of a Christian. And true biblical meditation takes time. Slow and intentional lingering in the Word is a good and necessary discipline for anyone wanting to draw nearer to God.
Within the two parables of Matthew 13:44-46, there are four elements that convey one main point. I’ve outlined each of these elements in the following chart. While these parables differ in specific detail, they include the same four elements and convey the same truth.
|FOUR ELEMENTS||TREASURE HIDDEN IN A FIELD||PEARL OF GREAT PRICE|
|Seeing||A man stumbles upon a treasure||A man seeks after a great pearl|
|Savoring||He rejoices in what he sees||He rejoices in what he sees|
|Sacrificing||His joy compels him to sell all he has to get it||His joy compels him to sell all he has to get it|
|Seizing||He buys the field to get the treasure||He buys the pearl|
In short, the main point of the parables of the hidden treasure and pearl of great value is that the kingdom of heaven is so valuable that losing everything you have, but gaining the kingdom is a bargain.
The four elements within these parables include seeing, savoring, sacrificing, and seizing.
Sacrifice Anything That Keeps You From Getting the Kingdom
See the kingdom for what it is. Savor the kingdom as your supreme treasure. And now, thirdly, sacrifice anything that keeps you from getting the kingdom. Notice that both men go to extreme measures to possess their treasures. The point here is that they were not going to let anything get in their way of grabbing hold of these treasures. Their joy compelled them to sell all they had to obtain the treasures of their hearts.
Now, to clarify what this element of the parable is not saying. Selling all they have to obtain their treasures does not directly teach us that we should sell our possessions as a means to gain the kingdom. This is far too narrow. Remember, the main point of the parable is centered on what is of supreme value. So, selling everything is a testament to the worth of the object gained.
Jesus is also not teaching a works-based salvation here. Entering the kingdom is not based on your level of commitment. Jesus is not saying you can earn the kingdom by the depth of your commitment. A willingness to sacrifice all is the way you receive the kingdom not the way you merit the kingdom. There is something you must do to receive the kingdom, but there is nothing you can do to earn the kingdom.
So, the point of the sacrifice is to highlight the supreme value of the kingdom. But there is an important truth we need to bring out here. The kingdom of heaven creates joyful sacrifice. We’ve already seen this. Seeing the treasures for what they were led both men to joyfully sacrifice radically in order to get them. The men literally beggared themselves. But in the process they became incredibly rich. Here we need to see that entering the kingdom of heaven is always worth it, but never easy.
The way is narrow and hard, Jesus would say in Matthew 7. The conditions Jesus places on discipleship are truly radical. He says if you don’t deny yourself and bear a cross, you can’t follow him. He says, if you don’t hate your family in comparison to the love you have for him, you can’t follow him. He implies here and directly states elsewhere, that if you don’t sell all your possessions, you can’t follow him. I truly believe all of these conditions find common ground in these parables. What could lead a person to deny himself, carry a cross, abandon his family (if necessary), and sell all he has? Joy in a superior treasure. That’s it.
The call to discipleship is a call to abandon lesser pleasures for greater pleasures. The command to renounce and kill sin is a call to walk in true and lasting joy. It is a call to eternal satisfaction. Jesus’ command for self-denial is just another way to call us to relentlessly pursue our deepest and most lasting joy. Self-denial is hard. It is a true sacrifice. The call to discipleship is a call to joy, but it is also a call marked by suffering. The joy of finding the kingdom leads to true abandonment.
Do you think it was easy for the men in the parables to sell all of their prized possessions? Do you think following Christ will be easy? Will it be easy for you to love those who have personally hurt you? Will it be easy to forgive someone who has deeply wounded you? Will it be easy for you to abandon a worldview you have held for years? Will it be easy to oppose your own family if they opposed your entrance into the kingdom? Will it be comfortable to kill sin in your life on a daily basis? Does the call to cut off your hand and gouge out your eye sound comfortable?
All of these sacrifices and more will be real and difficult. Oh, but having Christ and submitting to the sovereign reign of Christ is so valuable that giving up everything to gain it is a joyful sacrifice. The main point of these parables is rooted in the glad-hearted response of the men. The main point of these parables is that if it costs you everything to have the kingdom, it’s worth it. It is a true bargain to give all you have to gain the kingdom. In this case, true loss is great gain. And when you find Jesus you have found someone worth losing everything for.
Question: How does your life show that you have seen and savored Jesus as the supreme treasure of your heart?
Receiving a new treasure means forsaking old treasures. When the object of your affections changes, the trajectory of your life changes. Gaining Christ results and expresses itself in radical transformation. Do you want Christ as Lord and Savior, but not necessarily as Treasure? Do you feel like you have enough in your life to satisfy you? The sobering reality of the gospel is that if you don’t have Christ as Treasure, you don’t have him as Lord and Savior either. Do you treasure Christ more than anything else? When was the last time you checked the temperature of your heart? Is your heart burning red-hot with affections for God in Christ? Or, has it cooled? A good test is to see how your heart responds to sin. How does your heart respond to sin in the world and in your own life? If your heart is cold to sin, it is cold to God.
I urge you, if there is anything in your life that is keeping you from rejoicing supremely in Christ, sell it now. You will never regret giving up lesser pleasures to gain the greatest treasure.
This is the way forward in light of recent events in our nation. Our nation need people who treasure Christ more than even their own lives to express kingdom-love and work for kingdom-justice and kingdom-peace. We need people who are infused with God-centered joy to live in light of the kingdom right now. God-centered joy frees us from fear and compels us to love our neighbor, even those who don’t look or act like us.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.