Summary: Worldly treasure is nothing but trash compared to the treasure of the eternal kingdom.
Stories Jesus Told:
Cash in the Attic
Cash in the Attic. Have you seen it? It comes on HGTV, and the premise of the show is the producers go to a person’s house, clean out their basement or attic, or some other clutter from their home, and take it to auction in the hopes of raising money to do another project that the person wants to do like paint a room, or take a trip. It is thirty minutes spent discovering if what they chose was trash could be turned into treasure.
There is a plethora of these types of shows on television now. I think of a program called Flea Market Finds. The hosts scour the nation’s flea markets in search of elusive treasures that someone thought was trash, because we do know that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Vanessa’s and my favorite past-time when we lived in Kentucky was to spend our weekends going to flea markets in the area. There were quite a few of them, and it was lots of fun to browse through the rows and rows of stuff, pilfering, looking for anything that might catch our eye. Unfortunately for us, we never found any treasure in any of our searches. Usually what was another person’s trash ended up being our trash, too. But we never stopped searching because we believed that one day we would find a treasure that would make us rich, or at least, make enough money to take a week-end trip.
You see, we’ve all heard stories of people who lucked up and found something hidden away in an attic that turned out to be really valuable, and we figure, if it could happen to them, it could happen to us. We hear stories like Ted and Virginia from Arizona. There story was found on Antiques Roadshow on PBS. Ted inherited a blanket from an aunt, and not caring much for the blanket, just threw it on a chair in the bedroom. There it stayed for years until the Antiques Roadshow came through Tuscon. Just for kicks, Ted and Virginia carried the blanket (the aunt told them it was Kit Carson’s) to see if it was worth anything, thinking perhaps it might be worth a couple of thousand dollars. Donald Ellis was the appraiser that day, and he almost fainted when he saw the blanket. Turns out the blanket was an original Navajo creation dating to the early 1800’s, of which only fifty remain in existence, and none in the condition of Ted and Virginia’s. Mr. Ellis appraised the blanket on the show for $350,000. Ted and Virginia sold the blanket at auction for close to half a million dollars. From trash to treasure, indeed.
Stories like the man and his maps are similar to the stories Jesus told in today’s scripture. As Jesus told his stories to the disciples (remember, he has moved from the crowd into a house and is having a discussion with his disciples about the parables he has spoken), he tells two stories concerning the Kingdom of heaven, and the stories feature elements and characters that are familiar and plausible to the disciples. There is the man who discovers the treasure hidden in a field. We can’t quite make sense that a man would discover treasure in such a place, but when we recall that there were no banks in first century Palestine, it can make a little more sense to know that people held their valuables in the ground near their homes. And, to know that whenever an army would invade a land, people would hide their valuables in the ground before fleeing in the hopes that they could return to the land one day and retrieve their valuables. Both were common practices in Jesus’ time.
Pearls, too, were immensely valuable and desirable in the ancient world. They were desired not only because they were valuable but because they were beautiful, too. People found pleasure and joy in handling pearls, and in simply possessing them. This was another image that would capture the disciples attention.
And Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who discovered this treasure hidden in a field…,” and “The Kingdom of heaven is like a pearl merchant on the look out for choice pearls…” So Jesus wanted to communicate another truth about this Kingdom that he was initiating. He wanted to use common pictures to say something about what these disciples were getting into as they became his followers. What did Jesus say about his kingdom?
With the telling of these stories, Jesus communicated to his disciples that there is a treasure worth possessing, yet not as the world counts treasure. There is something of inestimable worth that exists for which every human heart longs. I am reminded of the MasterCard commercials we’ve seen—priceless! You know the ones that say, “Some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.” Those commercials, which are masterful at capturing our emotions and our core values, communicate what we believe in our hearts in this over-commercialized world—that some things are just priceless. That is what Jesus is communicating to his disciples—that there is something that is priceless.