Tag Archives: treasure

Joyful Treasure: Thoughts on Matthew 13:44

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

  1. God’s Kingdom has more riches, more wonders, than we may notice at first and
  2. 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.

God Hasn’t Called Us to Morality

Ok, maybe it’s a little bit of clickbait, but in a way, it is true. God has not called us to morality, or at the very minimum: moralism. He has called us to faith. He has called us to faith in Christ Jesus the Lord. Morality is a good thing, but it is not the ultimate thing. It is not the goal. There are many people in this world that are moral people. They have high standards for themselves, their families, their job. They are ethical and polite and endearing. But that isn’t what we’ve been called to be.  We are called to be faithful followers of Christ–imitators of God as beloved children.

I have often heard people say that someone they know–who is nice, kind, or moral–must be a Christian (this could also be said of some politician, professional athlete, or rock star).  That assumes that only Christians can be nice, kind, or moral. That is a bad assumption because it is simply not true. I have known atheists who were kinder than many of those who proclaimed to know Christ–more hospitable, more encouraging, more helpful.  The question cannot be simply do they “act” like what we would assume Christians should act like. In reality, what we assume to be Christian qualities are often simply decent human being qualities.

We must look for a commitment to Jesus. When Jesus told us about what the kingdom of heaven was like, He told two very similar parables.

“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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it,” (Matthew 13:44-46, ESV).

In both of these parables, Jesus describes Himself as that which is valuable, but also that which is costly. It is of such great value that no matter the cost, the buyer would gladly pay the price, even if it meant giving up everything for which he’d ever worked. That’s what we have been called to. We have been called to see the treasure, believe it is treasure, give up everything for the treasure, buy the treasure, and treasure the treasure.  Moral people, who are simply decent human beings, do not do these things. Morality may be costly in this day and age, but Christ is much costlier–too costly to treasure.

Matthew told a story in his gospel account that describes many moralists.

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions, (19:16-22, ESV).

Notice that he was a moral man (at least in his own eyes, and the eyes of others who knew him). But when he was told to give up all to follow Jesus, he changed his mind about heaven; morality was all he really wanted.  Jesus didn’t base this rich young ruler’s salvation on his keeping of the law–his morality, but on his unwillingness to faithfully follow Him. Neither should we.

That being said, part of that faithful following is obedience. It’s what Paul described as “obedience of the faith,” (cf. Rom 1:5).  By following Christ, the Holy Spirit has come to live within the believer. In doing so, He has put the law of God upon our hearts to obey and strengthens us to do so. We don’t always listen or utilize the strength that’s for sure, but with that law written on our hearts, the Spirit also brings us an escape route from sin (cf. 1 Cor 10:13).

The difference is that the moral person, without Christ, sees morality as his/her end-goal. The Christian has Christ as their end-goal. They want to be like Him–love as He loves, stand as He stood, give as He gave, live as He lived.  The Christian treasures Christ, not morality. Morals come with Christ as Christ is perfect, and the growing Christian will be ever-growing in morality but only because their focus is on the Righteous One. Morality is simply one of the grand jewels within the treasure. It is simply one of the glints of the pearl of great price.

So then the questions: are you a moralist or a Christian? Do you know a person who is a moralist but assumes they are Christian? Have you assumed a moralist was a Christian? What shall you now do?

Let me know your thoughts below. I love to interact with my readers.