When I was a teenager, our family hosted a Saturday night Bible study for the youth. Since my dad was a pastor, we had dozens of Bibles so if anyone forgot to bring theirs, they simply borrowed one of ours. I remember that on one Saturday night, one teen found $20 in a Bible. He informed my dad of his discovery and got up to hand it back to him. He told him to keep it. He explained that he purposefully put the $20 in the Bible a few weeks prior as an object lessons. “There’s treasure in the Scriptures; greater treasures than a measly $20.” You probably know what happened next. Everyone with a borrowed Bible began thumbing through it looking for $20. Perhaps they missed the point.
Jesus told a parable as well. An object lesson of sorts. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field,” (Matthew 13:44, ESV). The kingdom of heaven, God’s kingdom (his domain, his realm, his rule) is like a treasure hidden. It is of great worth. It’s more valuable than we know.
If you’ve ever seen the Marvel’s movie The Black Panther, you know that the nation of Wakanda looks like a poor African kingdom, but in reality it is technology and monetarily wealthy. It has weapons and technology no other nation in the world has. Yet it is purposefully hidden in East Africa using the technology that comes with harnessing Vibranium. I am not a fan of comparing reality with comic books, but I want to make the points that
- God’s Kingdom has more riches, more wonders, than we may notice at first and
- Those riches and wonders are purposefully hidden and must be found.
Just as Wakanda and just as my dad placing the $20 in the Bible were purposefully hidden, so the kingdom of God is hidden as well. This is why Jesus told parables. “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand,” (Matthew 13:13, ESV). Mark expresses it even more emphatically, “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven,”‘” (4:11-12, ESV).
However, once someone sees–truly sees–the treasure that is God’s kingdom, nothing can keep him from having it. In the parable, the man covers the treasure up and runs to sell everything in order to buy the field. Some people get hung up on his covering and buying without informing the owner. Don’t. Parables have a point. They are not to answer every question that may arise. Not everything has a specific meaning in parables. The main focus is on how great the treasure of the field is, and it should be on that which we concentrate.
The treasure was so great that the man sold everything! He abandoned everything he knew and had to gain the treasure in the field, and he did it with pleasure. Like those teenagers who began to flip through their Bibles joyfully expecting a surprise, this man joyfully bought a field. He was willing to pay any price because he knew that nothing he owned could compare to what he found. Even if everyone else thought he was insane to sell everything, he knew the truth. Do we see heaven like that man saw the treasure?
I wonder if many of us simply see some shiny metal, maybe a sparkle here and there and do not see the treasure that is heaven. I wonder if we have not inspected the treasure to see how valuable it truly is. I say that because of how casually many Christians treat the kingdom.
I watch Survivor and see men and women cast away for 39 days. They suffer hunger, pain, sleep-depravation, loneliness, betrayal, and more to win $1,000,000 and often to prove something to themselves or others. They cry, they get angry, they laugh at times, they push themselves to the very limit, always talking about coming home with $1,000,000 and self-respect. Not everyone wants to be on Survivor, but watching that show can give us an idea of what the man in the parable felt. If someone came to you and simply told you that you could have $1,000,000 if you sold your house and all your possessions, would you be willing to do so? The kingdom of heaven is much greater than that, and in reality, most of us will never have to sell a thing. Instead, we must see it for what it is: priceless–invaluable, and then be willing to give all (even if we are never called upon to do so). I hope this year, as I grow in my Christian walk, I see God’s kingdom ever more valuable and may the joy that brings to my soul be such that I can easily part with whatever called upon to do. I hope the same for you.