What do you consider to be of great value in your life? I suspect, most people would list things such as “Children, family; relationship with God; financial security; good health, and maybe reputation.” But it is easy to say that these things are the most important things in your life. What evidence would you give that these things are really the most important things in your life?
Suppose someone says that their marriage is one of the most important things in their life. But what if that same person is never home? What if they are involved in an adulterous relationship? What if they are spending all their money gambling or in the tavern so that their family has nothing to eat? What if a problem that took place years ago has resulted in alienation from a family member for years? Would you believe them when they said their family was one of the most important things in life to them? Of course you wouldn’t believe them.
In Matthew 13:44-46 I think Jesus is asking us through these two parables, “What is most important to you?” Jesus tells us about two men who stumble upon treasures. The first man is working in the field. While working he finds a buried treasure and immediately re-buries the treasure and sells everything he has to purchase the land. It was not uncommon in those days for people and armies to bury their valuables. When an invading army was coming near, the only way you could keep from losing your valuables was to bury them. The law was simple: he who owns the land also owns the treasure found on the land.
The next story is about a merchant who was looking for pearls. In his search, he found a flawless pearl. Knowing the value of the pearl, the man sold everything he had so he could buy that pearl. Perhaps the man knew that he could re-sell the pearl for a great profit. Maybe he planned to borrow on the value of the pearl. Whatever he was planning, he knew that this pearl was worth the risk he had to take.
I must admit, that the many different interpretations of these two parables surprised me. Commentator A.W. Pink explains the parable of the treasure this way,
First, we have the treasure hid in the field: that takes us back to the beginning of Israel’s history as a nation. Second, we have the Man finding that treasure; that is Christ coming to this earth and confining His message to the Jews in Palestine. Third, we have the Man hiding the treasure; that is Christ’s judgment upon Israel because of their rejection of Him referring to their dispersion abroad throughout the earth. Fourth, we have the Man purchasing the treasure and the whole field in which it was found, referring to the death of Christ. [A. W. Pink, The Prophetic Parables of Matthew 13″ p. 51]
This is certainly more than I saw in the passage. There are many who share this interpretation. Most of these men are a great deal smarter than I am. But I still think they are reading too much into the parables.
In Matthew 13:36 we are told that Jesus was speaking just to his disciples. And if these parables were spoken at the same time and he is still talking just to the disciples, it would seem to me he wouldn’t tell them a parable that they obviously wouldn’t understand. To be perfectly honest, even after these commentators explain the parable to me I still don’t see it! Perhaps it’s like one of those hidden pictures. You stare at this mass of color and people tell you the wonderful picture they see. Most of the time all I see is a bunch of colors! So, maybe I just don’t get it.
It seems to me that Jesus is making some simple points in these two brief stories. Let me point out what I see in these accounts and let you decide what Jesus was trying to teach us.
We Go to Great Lengths to Obtain What We Value
In both parables the man found something of great value. They did whatever was necessary to obtain that item of value. We do the same thing.
If we consider something to be of great value, we will go to great expense to obtain it. For example, we might take out a six-year loan in order to obtain a car we value. We might spend a great amount of money on a particular tool that we think will help us; a computer, a drill press, a Combine, a fancy lathe, a sewing machine with all kinds of gadgets. We might spend a lot of money on something we think will make our life more enjoyable: a big screen television, a state of the art sound system, exercise equipment, a hot tub, or any number of toys and Gadgets. We will spend a lot of money to feel better. We might spend money for elective surgery, we might travel long distances in order to find someone who specializes in the problem that have. We might invest heavily in an experimental medical treatment. We treasure our life and our health. In each of these examples, we show what we truly value by what we are willing to invest. It is rightly said that our checkbook often reveals what we really value. What does your checkbook say about your values?
We also reveal our values, by the time we invest. For some of us, time is more valuable that money. By giving our precious time to something or someone we show the value of that person or object. Let me give you some examples: we are willing to invest many years in education because we value a degree; we may be willing to get up early every day in order to exercise because we value good health; we may block out time in our calendar to spend with our family and we might plan vacation time months in advance because we value time together; and hopefully we make time for God every day because we want to build that relationship. Like our checkbook, our appointment book or calendar often shows what we value most.
We reveal our values by the things to which we give our energy. People who value the way they look, often put a great deal of energy into maintaining their figure, their weight, and their appearance. There are people who put a lot of energy into being successful in their work. Some spend a lot of energy on their hobbies or their investments. When you are out at any athletic event you can see which people want to win the most, by the energy they expend. They are the people that are yelling, jumping up and down, and getting red in the face. They value winning.
The two men in our stories showed that they considered the treasure and the pearl to be valuable by the way they responded. They immediately went and sold everything they had in order to obtain the treasure.
If We Value Christ, We Will Pursue Him Diligently
The natural application to what we have just said is this: if we value Jesus Christ, we we’ll pursue him diligently. If we value a relationship with God, we will pursue it with all our energy. If we really want to live in Heaven, then we will show that fact by the way we live here on earth. Jesus is telling us that a person who is part of the Kingdom of God views a relationship with God much like these men saw the treasure found in the field, or like the man who found an unblemished pearl. Jesus wants us to understand that having a relationship with God should be the highest priority. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus tells his followers, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the other things will be added to you.”
Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand that if they were truly going to follow Him they needed to be willing to follow completely. And if that is the case, can you think of a message that is more relevant to our day? We live in a day filled with superficial spirituality. We give a “nod to God” but that sense of commitment is lacking. We may be committed to our “church” but we are not as committed to our Savior.
Paul wrote to the Philippians,
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)
This is the kind of attitude that a person in the Kingdom of God should have. We should consider everything else as secondary to our pursuit of a relationship with God. But let’s be very candid here. I don’t think any of us has this kind of attitude toward our relationship with the Lord. These words should convict every one of us. We are all somewhat half-hearted in our commitment. We all like to conform God to our image rather than conform ourselves to Him.
The question we must ask is: “How do I move in the right direction?” The author to the Hebrews gives us some clear instruction,
since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.(Heb. 12:1,2)
Notice the steps. First we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” In other words, we are to eliminate the things that keep us from pursuing this relationship with God. We must eliminate the things in our life that are sinful and the things that are distracting. You can quickly see that this list will be different for everyone.
It may mean cutting back on commitments so you have time for God
It may mean changing what you enjoy as entertainment
It may mean moving out of an environment that drags you down spiritually
It may mean repenting of behaviors such as hatred, envy and bitterness that serve as weights holding your soul back.
It may mean going to bed earlier so you can be fresh to read and pray in the morning
It may mean working to control your spending so that your life is less controlled by the desire for things and more controlled by the contentment you find in Christ.
It may mean abandoning your excuses for sinful practices and taking steps to do what is right.
The point is, that no sacrifice should be too great! If our relationship with God is as important to us as we would have others believe, nothing should hinder that relationship.
Second, we are to “run with perseverance.” We are to be consistent. Athletes who make it to the Olympics get there because they persevered. They worked through injuries, they mastered technique, they disciplined themselves to practice and they fought through the “down” times. That’s what makes an Olympic Athlete. In fact, almost every champion is characterized by perseverance.
There are times in the Christian life when we must keep going even though we don’t see any results. There are times when we will feel like quitting. There are times when we would rather dive in to the sinful life and splash around for a while. But we must be determined.
Third, we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus”. This is the “how” of perseverance. It is a great picture. Those who have been through natural childbirth know that during labor you are to told to find a focus-point. It might be an object or a particular place. Focusing helps you to block out everything but the task at hand. It allows you to focus all your energy in one place.
For the Christian, we are to focus on Christ. We are to constantly remind ourselves of How He handled His enemies, How He related to the lost and hurting; How He put God first in His life. But we must also focus on the facts,
That He loves us
He died for us
He rose opening the door of life to us
He wants the best for us
He waits for us
He is preparing for our arrival
He will take us to be where He is
He is coming again someday to rule the world
If we can remember who we are serving, what He done for us, and where He is leading us, then we discover point number three:
We Pursue What We Value Out of Joy and Not out of Obligation
Do you notice the spirit in which these men pursued their treasure? In the first parable, we are told that the man went joyfully and sold all he had so he could buy the property. It seems the second man quickly went and sold all he had. They did not act out of a sense of drudgery. There is no dragging of feet here! They joyfully and eagerly sold everything so they might obtain the object of their desire.
What length would you go to save the life of your child? Would you donate blood? Would you donate bone marrow? Would you give one of your kidneys? Would you be willing to give your life in order to save the life of your child? A parent loves their child so much that they might be willing to do all those things. And most parents would do those things willingly, eagerly, and joyfully. There is no resentment when it comes to helping your children because you consider your children to be your greatest treasure.
A brief news item told how an express package from England came to a South African town. The man to whom the box was consigned refused to pay the delivery charges, and for about fourteen years the box was used as a footstool in the express office. The consignee died, and later the box was put up at auction with other unclaimed articles. Out of curiosity a man bid it in at a low price. When he opened it he was greatly surprised to find several thousand pounds of sterling in English banknotes. Because the consignee had refused to pay comparatively trifling delivery charges, he had missed a considerable fortune. —Erville E. Sowards [Tan, Illustrations]
Don’t you wonder how much better our lives would be if we simply did what God tells us to do? We don’t want to pay the price. But that means we miss out on the treasure. God offers us,
Life beyond the grave in Heaven
Forgiveness from our past rebellion
Guidance in difficult decisions
Strength and peace in trying times
Opportunities to be used by God to impact the lives of those around us
And most of all, He offers us a real relationship with the Creator of the Universe
If we understood what God is offering, if we grasped what is available to us, we would do whatever it takes to obey the Lord, and we would do it all, joyfully.
Have you ever watched the TV show “Survivor”? The show features a group of people who agree to do crazy, dangerous, and disgusting things all for the possibility of winning a big cash prize. These people enter into their journey with gusto and enthusiasm . . . and all they can win is cash! The treasure, the prize, the goal before us is much more valuable. So why do we let anything distract us from the goal?
I want you to see a couple of things in conclusion. First, these two men “discovered” the treasure differently. The first man found the treasure by surprise. You could say that he stumbled upon the treasure by accident. The second man was searching for his treasure. It is the same way in our relationship with Christ. Some people search for God. They examine the facts, they try different religions, and they engage in religious disciplines in the hope of finding God. Other people seem to be surprised by God’s grace. Like the apostle Paul, salvation almost sneaks up on them. All of sudden these people feel like someone turned on a light.
I don’t know which experience is closer to what has happened in your life. But I want you to realize that it doesn’t matter how you find the treasure, it is that you lay hold of that treasure once you find it. It doesn’t matter whether you searched for the Lord or whether you just bumped into Him one day. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in the Sunday School or spent your life on the streets. It doesn’t matter if you had a dramatic conversion experience or whether you came gradually to faith. What matters is realizing that living in God’s Kingdom, possessing eternal life, and walking with Jesus is the greatest treasure you will ever find.
Second, it is important that we understand that God calls us to radical commitment. He is not concerned about getting more people to join a church . . . He wants more people who are willing to trust and follow Him. He is not asking us to like Him. He is asking us to place our faith, our confidence and our lives in His hands. He is asking us to put all our hope for Heaven in what He has done for us. He asking us to trust His wisdom for our day to day lives . . . even when His ways are so different from the way of those around us. He wants to be our treasure.
Is it time for you to make a real commitment to Christ? Is it time to stop playing at faith? Is it time to go beyond religious words and actions and actually trust Him enough to do what He asks you to do? How valuable is Jesus to you? Why not pause right now and make the most important decision of your life? Decide right now that you are done playing games and give God everything you have, so that you might possess the treasure of being a child of God.
As I said before, there may be more to these parables than what I am able to see. But I’ve got to be honest, what I do see, will be instructing and challenging me for the rest of my life.