Matthew 13:51-52 Old and New Treasures

Treasures come in all forms and sizes

Treasures come in all forms and sizes

Jesus is continuing to teach His disciples in parables. He started by explaining one He had shared with the crowd prior to retreating into the home with His disciples. That first parable was about the wheat and the weeds. He is preparing to share the fourth one since the initial explanation.

Before Jesus begins this parable He asks if His disciples if they have understood what He had been sharing with them. I find this question interesting because when Jesus finished explaining the original parable He said, “He who has ears, let him hear” (verse 43). Usually this statement was reserved for the crowds listening and denoted that the message was actually hidden from many of those listeners. When Jesus asked the question of, “did you understand” to His disciples they said they did. Did they really understand? Did a few of them understand while a few remained confused? Or did they say they understood so they wouldn’t look foolish?

I think it is interesting the timing of Jesus’ question. The previous parables appear pretty straight forward, but this next one leaves a bit of room for interpretation. Jesus doesn’t bother to explain it and His disciples don’t ask Him to either. I have several questions I want to ask about this one. Let’s just jump in and see where this takes us.

Jesus’ parable starts off with a “therefore.” So what is the therefore there for? I think it is there because they said they understood all that He had told them. I see no other reason for that word in our text. Jesus’ next speaks about “every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven” (verse 52). As I was typing this I realized that our disciples listening to this parable would become the very authors, or scribes, of the New Testament. They would record for us Jesus’ words and deeds. They would commend and correct the church through letters. They would put down prophecy handed down by God Himself. They were being trained by Jesus in the Kingdom principles, which they would one day write down for our benefit. They had a front row seat of the stories that would be recorded in their first person perspectives. They were Jesus’ scribes, even though they didn’t know it yet.

Jesus says their training makes them like “a master of a house, who brings out of his treasures what is new and what is old” (verse 52). Let’s try and take this one phrase at a time. That is the only way I can think of to proceed. I am not going to claim ANY interpretation I present was what Jesus was saying. I’m just going to think through my fingers, as I often would through my pen.

The master of a home is in charge of what goes on within it. He is responsible for any upkeep or repairs of the home. He owns the content of the house and is free to do with it as he pleases. He is also responsible for the people living within the home.

Bringing out one’s treasures reminds me of my cedar chest as many of my treasures are kept there. I believe each one of us has something they treasure. It can be something as simple as a favorite toy from childhood, to photo albums, to precious heirlooms jewelry passed on through the generations. I read a book once titled The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance by Ginger Marcinkowski, where the treasures passed on were buttons collected over the years and placed in a tin box and the stories associated with those buttons.

While remembering The Button Legacy story, it brought to mind how I could more easily relate to this parable. In the story of the buttons in the box it was the responsibility of the owner of the box to initiate the exploration of the box. It was also the owner’s duty to ensure that the stories connected with each button in the box were not lost, by diligently telling them to the succeeding generations. They were the oral scribe of the family’s history. Another responsibility of the owner was to impress upon those succeeding generations the actual treasure held within the box and to add to those treasures with buttons and stories of their own while the holder of the box. The final duty of the holder was to observe all those who shared in the exploration of the box, to ascertain who would be the next to hold and cherish this treasure. The buttons themselves were not worth much, but the stories linked to each wove a rich tapestry of the life of the family.

This would be Jesus’ disciples’ duty, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They would record the stories of Jesus, including looking to the past generations and prophecies that spoke of Him, to bring clarity to Jesus’ works and words. The stories they chose from the past would bring understanding and remembrance of God’s promises. (The old treasures.) Then they would weave them into the stories they experienced personally while walking with Jesus, to illustrate how He alone could be the fulfillment of that promise. (The new treasures.) They would then guide the direction for future generations through the establishment of the church. They also observed those with whom they shared their stories and treasures to ensure they chose wisely when the time came to appoint successors. (Treasures yet to come.)

Father God, thank You for showing me one interpretation of this parable. I have no idea if I am understanding what exactly Jesus was saying to His disciples that day but I trust that I am hearing what You are saying to me today using those same words. You also just prompted me to share how that same process looks and works in my life.

I am the holder of the “button box” and have all the stories of the past memorized. I remember all the amazing times You demonstrated Your love to me in tangible and intangible ways. The treasured moments You provided me with, including the sparing of the life of one or another of my children from time to time. I carry those memories into today and can trust You with the challenges I face now. I also share these stories with my children, extended family, and friends to point out Your faithfulness. In sharing the stories, You have the opportunity to soften the listener’s hearts and bring new treasures when my loved ones finally reach out to You too. Even the simple time spent together is a treasure. As I grow older I see the speed at which my children and their children grow and move away from me as their center. I cherish the memories of moments spent together when they were younger. But I also cherish the new moments I have with my grandchildren. I pray there will be many of them that find the true Treasure of Jesus. I also pray they treasure the words I have penned over the years. After I am gone will they hear my voice when they read them? Will they see my smile in their mind’s eye? Will they hear Your voice too? Will they feel Your arms encircling them as I have often felt from during our times together? Who will I pass my “button box” to?

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3 Responses to “Matthew 13:51-52 Old and New Treasures”

  1. Victoria says:

    I love that term “Keeper of the Button Box.” Just this morning I was talking with a colleague about how the new generation of bosses in our organization really don’t know our history. There are very few of us left on staff that do have a sense of continuity, knowing how the ‘now’ ties into the ‘past.’

    I also think that’s what Jesus was talking about in His discourse on the Householder bringing out both old and new treasures: the ‘now’ has more meaning when it is interpreted in light of it’s history. There is an often heard phrase in Georgia, “…that’s how OLD money does it.” It’s generally used in regard to household management: “OLD money doesn’t rush out to purchase the latest and greatest; old money mends, repairs, and makes things last as long as they will.” Versus “NEW money is showy, flashy, and stands out in the crowd.”

    The common thought is that new money lacks foundation and substance; it is flighty and as quick to desert as it was to arrive. Whereas old money is rooted in doing things the right way and preserving a heritage for new generations to build on.

    New treasure–all on its own–may be beautiful and bright. But the Householder presents it alongside the old treasure. Thus the old is the foundation of the new, while the new is a natural outgrowth of the old.

    I too, have been the Keeper of the Button Box for the Walters family. Gratefully, two of Royal Lee’s granddaughters have demonstrated interest in hearing and learning from their history. For a couple of years, now, I’ve been transferring buttons to them to preserve for their children and their children’s children. They may not be ‘blood’, but they have chosen me as the matriarch of their family. I am honored.

    • avincent says:

      Thank you for sharing another example of Jesus’ meaning. I love seeing Jesus’ stories and how they are still relevant today. I know the bible is timeless but seeing how the stories of then still play out today brings them home more concretely.

      Your comment about the old being used to give meaning to the new by being interpreted in light of history brings a quote to mind. Those who do not remember the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. By looking at the old treasures, which are often forged through great adversity, one will remember those times of struggle, will carry the lessons learned into the challenges of today while forging new treasures. Without those lessons we will complete stay stuck on step one and never advance beyond the rudimentary beginnings.

      I am so glad you have found someone to pass your “button box” on to. I think my daughter will be the one to receive mine. Mine will mostly be in written diary form and pictures. I have SO MANY of both of those!

      The last time my grandsons Damion and Jared were here I wanted to bring out the old pictures and go through them with them. I also wanted to share the stories contained in my cedar chest with them but didn’t. I thought they wouldn’t be interested, even though when I suggested it the first night Damion said he would like to do that. I WILL do it next time they spend the night here. They need to hear our family’s history as much as I need to share it. I will somehow weave a bible message in there for them to ponder too.

  2. Victoria says:

    Sigh…I can envision you doing that and it warms my heart.

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