Summary: God recreates the whole life of those who give up small ambitions and admissions.
Read Matthew 13.44-46. Pray.
Matthew again pairs two parables to press on us all the more forcefully one point. Last week we heard two parables of hidden and growing power. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, small and insignificant, but hidden in the dirt it grows to become the largest of cultivated plants. The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, hidden in a bushel of flour, seemingly lost and useless; but with time, leavening the whole. The work of God, though not explosive like dynamite, grows insistently and powerfully in the soul of his people. True grace, begun by the “insignificant” hearing of the gospel, burrs into the heart to transform the whole life of the true Christian.
Again in Matthew 13, two parables: a treasure and pearl. Both speak of searching and finding, and both reveal the same general point. But unlike the earlier parables, even though the pearl and treasure are unseen, the main point is not hidden, growing power. These parables focus on the surpassing worth of the kingdom. The treasure is hidden, to be sure, but the point is the treasure. The pearl was found, yes; but the story emphasizes its great value. Together these demand that we ask, “What do I value above all else? What is it I simply must have? What do I love so much that I would give up all to have it?”
The first man finds a treasure in a field. Eager to possess it, he sells all he has to buy the field and make it his own.
Parable convey cosmic truths with concrete stories; they are not intended to be interpreted as literal events. So we do not want to ruin the story by dissecting every detail. At the same time, we may be misled about what this parable means if we picture a man walking around the neighborhood with a metal detector in his hands and headphones over his ears, until he finds a hidden treasure in someone’s yard. Then he buys their house and cashes in on the reward. Maybe a few details about life in those days will make more sense of this story.
First, there were no real banks in these days. Money, when it was had, was hidden, often buried on property which you may or may not own. Especially if you heard of an invading army, you would likely bury your valuables in a field. Additionally, these were times when whole villages could be slaughtered in war or wiped out by disease. So though we should not think of it as common, it was not unheard of to find a treasure that someone had hidden decades earlier then died without digging up. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,” people nodded their heads. They knew about that; they could relate.
And when the man sees what he has, he knows it worth, and though impoverished to get it, he does so with joy. Joy because what he will obtain is of such great value.
In contrast to this poor man who is surprised to find a treasure, the second man has some wealth; he buys and sells pearls. Like a baseball card collector who rises early every Saturday morning to visit the yard sales and dig through dusty boxes rescued from attics. Each day he pushes aside the piles of relatively worthless and mass produced cards until one day he discovers a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. And when he found it, he drained his savings to purchase the shoebox for $10,000. The cost was high, for the seller knew the cards were valuable, but he did not appraise the ’52 Mantle at its selling price of nearly $300,000.
Let’s notice, please, one relatively minor principle from these parables, then we will focus on the main point.
First, notice that God hides spiritual treasures in unexpected places. The reward of the kingdom of God is not out and obvious for everyone to see; it hides under the most ordinary of people and messages.
The world looks for value on the surface – what is external and seen. Beauty, articulate speech, polished and personable presentations – these land the great job, make for success in politics, win friends and influence people.
It makes almost laughable the description Paul gives of the kind of people God brings into his kingdom: “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1Corinthians 1.26-28).