Matthew 13:44-46 Parables of the Value of God’s Kingdom
Jesus is sitting with His disciples in a home. He just finished explaining a parable He had used with the crowd a little while ago. His disciples asked for an explanation and He willingly gave it to them. But He didn’t stop there. He told them a few more parables to better emphasize His point. We are going to look at two of them today. Both have to do with how precious God’s word is. I want to paint a picture of each of them, and then address a couple of questions they both raise in me.
Our first story starts with a man digging in a field. Jesus doesn’t specify what the treasure was or why the man was digging there in the first place. I’m going to take a real life story I know and adapt it a little to fit our scenario.
Once upon a time there was an old man who was afraid of being robbed. He lived a very simple life, even though he was actually very wealthy. To keep others from knowing of his riches, he would use old jars as a hiding place for his money. He would then burry these jars on his own property to keep them hidden from thieves. He also varied the place where he buried his treasures, thinking that if he buried everything in one place and thieves found that one spot, he would then be penniless.
After several years the man died. He had no children to pass his property on to, so the county seized it for back taxes. It was put up for sale but was so rundown that there was little to no interest in it.
Years past and the property sat empty. One day a young man who had grown up in the neighborhood was walking by. He remembered the old man and the times he spent talking with him as a boy. The young man decided to take a walk “down memory lane” by peeking into the windows of the old house and walking around the property a bit. When he came to an old tree in the back corner, he thought back to the times the man had spent under the tree tending to the flowers. The young man kicked the dirt with the toe of his shoe and noticed some glass sticking up a little. He bent down and dug around in the dirt a little until he had uncovered a glass jar. As he pulled it from the ground he noticed that it was FULL of money. Not just coins but dollar bills too. There looked to be at least a couple thousand dollars there! In his excitement, the jar nearly slipped out of his hands. He quickly looked around and reburied the jar. He had heard stories as a boy about the man burring money on his property but he thought it was just neighbors talking. No one really believed those stories. It took every ounce of restraint the young man possessed not to shout for joy or run from the property. He had to keep this quiet or he would risk others finding out.
Now that he knew the stories were at least partly true, he wondered how much more money was buried there. He knew he couldn’t just go digging all over the property without someone getting suspicious. He didn’t even have a right to be there in the first place. Somehow he had to find out what else the old man had hidden. He went home and did a discrete search of property records and found out that the property was for sale by the county. It wouldn’t even cost a lot to buy it. That was fortunate too, because he was just starting out in life and had hardly any money of his own.
Our young man went through his apartment, scouring it for things he could sell or at least pawn for now. He even sold his car his parents gave him as a graduation present in an effort to raise enough money to buy the old dilapidated property. He was able to raise just enough money to afford to pay the tax bill and claim the property. The young man had been schooling his countenance for days as he gathered the money. No one would have guessed at the true joy hidden inside as he made his way to the county assessor’s office. He quietly paid the fees and completed all the necessary paperwork to legally acquire the property. Now that it was his, he could dig to his heart’s content. He had no idea of the extent of the riches awaiting him, but the facts of the first find and the stories of his youth were enough to keep him digging for years to come.
Our second story is about a man engaged in the pursuit of buying pearls. He is employed by a master jeweler and the pearls he purchased are brought back for use in the employer’s business. Our man’s searches for the best pearls have taken him throughout the land. He has traveled from one ocean town to the next as he diligently searches for the perfect pearl. He has found many that are acceptable for his employer’s use in their designs, but he is always in search of the ONE that is so special it dwarfs the value of all others. This one will be for himself. This will be the one that will get him out of this job for good.
Our merchant has a dream. He dreams of one day ceasing his wanderings and finding someplace to call home. He has been on the road for so many years. He has no family of his own. He has a small room that he rents from the master jeweler he purchases for. This is where he stays when he brings his finds back to his employer. He has very little in expenses but loves to relax in comfort when he comes “home.” He has furnished his room with the best he can afford on his salary. He is also storing away items he will use in his “new home” when he finally realizes his dream. One has to be prepared for retirement after all.
One day while walking the familiar roads, our jewelry merchant comes upon a shop he has visited several times before. He approaches the shopkeeper and asks to see the pearls available for sale today. The merchant brings out several pearls that he has collected this week. There are several fine pearls available but one pearl in particular catches the man’s eye. It is larger than the rest and seems to fairly glow with beauty.
These two men have a long history together as our merchant stops by every couple of weeks to purchase pearls for his employer. The shop keeper told our merchant that he held this pearl back with him in mind. The price is high, because it is so special, but that he is willing to allow our man time to arrange its purchase. Our merchant quickly buys several others for his employer and tells the shopkeeper that he will be back in three days to purchase the other for himself.
Our man rushes home and begins to sell some of his belongings. He dare not tell his employer or anyone else for that matter, what he has found lest they swoop in and try and buy it out from under him. The few belongings he was intending to sell didn’t bring in as much money as he hoped so he is forced to sell everything he has to meet the merchant’s asking price. He is hoping he can talk him down just a little, but he is willing to pay whatever it takes to acquire that magnificent pearl. He also has to keep coming up with plausible excuses for selling his belongings whenever he passes his employer during the process. He is dying to tell someone but he knows better.
Finally it is time to meet with the shopkeeper. His dream becomes a reality today! Once he has the pearl in hand the world is his oyster!
I hope you enjoyed the stories. I had fun writing them. I have a harder time understanding what the future holds for our jewelry merchant/precious pearl owner than I do for the neighborhood boy. There are a couple of questions I want to ask about these stories now.
Jesus said that in our first story the man re-hid the treasure. In both stories the characters wanted to possess the treasures for themselves alone. I can understand this behavior in the natural world, but in the spiritual world, wouldn’t Jesus want them to share what they had found? Jesus tells us to share the good news with all men. Maybe our characters, AFTER acquiring their treasure, share the news of their find with others. That would fit with Jesus’ commands.
Second question I have pertains more to the pearl merchant than the man finding the treasure. But it could apply to both, depending on what treasure had been found in any other rendition. What do these men live on now? They have “sold all they have” in order to own their treasures. In my “field story” the young man could live on the money he digs up. The merchant, however, wouldn’t want to sell the pearl he searched all his life for after finally possessing it. Short of charging admission to see the pearl or continuing in his previous employment, I don’t see how he will support himself. His employer would probably also fire him for holding back the best pearl for himself when he discovered it “on company time.”
Lord Jesus, I know I probably read too much into Your stories, but that is also part of the imagination You gifted me with. My questions remind me of one my aunt asked my grandmother one day. She was a curious child and wanted to know everything possible about the world, and what better way to learn than to ask. So one day she asks, “Momma, why is there snot in my nose?” She didn’t get an answer, but she didn’t stop asking questions either. That is how I am. I know a lot of my questions won’t be answered here, but during our “bench time” when we meet face to face. But I have also noticed that You answer many of my questions in my spirit as I write. Thank You for those golden moments. If I don’t ask You don’t answer. Sometimes I think children ask questions just to hear their parent’s voice. I certainly understand that motivation. I LOVE hearing Yours.
Thank You for keeping me digging and searching. Our two characters will spend a LOT of time examining and exploring their treasure. That is how it is with Your word and Your Kingdom. Finding it is just the first step. Getting in and digging for more of the treasure is so important. If the young man stopped at the tree after his first find he would have missed so much. There is much more out there than is on the surface. Is that why You taught in parables? To cause us to question and to dig for the hidden meaning? That is how we truly get to know You. Keep me digging God, every day.
May 2, 2016 @ 2:27 PM
Yours is the basic interpretation of these parables that I had always heard: that Jesus IS the Treasure, and Jesus IS the Pearl of Great Price.
However, in the mid-80s, I heard Evangelist Dennis Burke expound on them with a different perspective: In his interpretation, God was represented as “the Man searching” who gave everything HE owned in the person of Jesus to purchase the treasure and the pearl…that the treasure and the pearl was us. He went on to explain that “The value of an object is based on the price one is willing to pay to possess it. Thus we are of extreme value to God because He paid the ultimate price for us with the death of His Son.”
I’m not sure if ‘one’ explanation is accurate and the other isn’t–but I do know that Sacred Scripture does proclaim (in the Book of Hebrews) that in sending Jesus, God “emptied” Himself. I also know that it changed my perspective on my own self image: how could I continue to see myself as a ‘worm in the dirt’ if God saw me as a treasure worth the cost He paid to redeem me?
Just food for thought…
May 3, 2016 @ 12:18 AM
That is an AWESOME interpretation! I never thought of it that way but it certainly fits with all He has done for us. I think both interpretations are valid, however, Jesus states in the beginning of each, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” This would lead me to believe He was implying the traditional meaning. If He had said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of…” I would lean to the alternate interpretation.
Either way, Jesus demonstrated both meanings in His life, death, and resurrection. I’m holding onto the second, and like His mother Mary, pondering these things in my heart.
Thank you for sharing this with me.