By Mike Willis
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the ,which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matt. 13:44-46).
Jesus taught these two parables to emphasize how men should treasure and value the kingdom of heaven. “The whole point of the parable is the joy with which the man finds the treasure, and his abandonment of everything else in order to secure it” (B.T.D. Smith, Cambridge Greek Testament: The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 141). There are several lessons in this parable which deserve our careful study.
The Gospel Is A Treasure
In both parables, the gospel of Jesus Christ or the kingdom of heaven is presented as a treasure or a pearl of great price. The riches of earth, the pleasures of life, and the praise of fellow men are not worthy to be compared with the blessings which God has prepared for man in the gospel. Many who have attained the riches of this earth, personal fame, and political power manifest a dissatisfaction down deep in their soul. The rainbows after which many seek cannot satisfy man’s deepest longings.
In contrast to the lesser treasures which most men seek, the Lord has provided a treasure for us in the gospel. The treasure was expensive from the point of view of the cost to provide it. God the Father had to give up His dear Son to suffer the agonies of death on Calvary. God the Son shed His precious blood in order that mankind could be redeemed from sin. As one considers the high price of the gospel, he is impressed that it is a treasure.
The gospel is a treasure when considered on the basis of what it does for its recipient. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides forgiveness of sin for mankind, a peace which passes all understanding, a guide to right living which provides for personal happiness now and eternal life when we die. The realization that there is purpose in life, the means of obtaining inner peace with one’s self, the hope for a bright tomorrow, the hope for justice to triumph, and other such human ideals can only find attainment through what God has provided for us in the gospel. Indeed, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a treasure, a pearl of great price.
The Discovery Of The Treasure And Pearl
The two parables have many points of similarity; however, they also have a significant difference with reference to how the two men found their respective treasures. The one man accidentally stumbled upon his treasure; the other man found the pearl after a long, arduous search for it. Let us consider the significance of each of these men.
1. The One Found The Treasure. The parable relates that a certain man found a treasure in a field. We do not know what he was doing in the field, whether plowing it for someone else, passing through it, or something else; that is unimportant. The point is that he accidentally discovered a treasure, recognized its value, and did everything necessary in order to obtain it.
There are men who find the Kingdom of heaven just as the man found the treasure in the field. They accidentally stumble onto the gospel. The woman at the well in John 4 did not go in search of eternal life; she stumbled onto it. The Philippian jailor was not looking for the gospel of Jesus Christ on the night when the earthquake freed his prisoners (Acts 16:26-34). There are many others who accidentally find the gospel. Some meet a friend who tells them about Jesus while on the job, some tune in a radio program, some pick up a tract, or otherwise happen to come in contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ without looking for it.
2. The One Who Found The Pearl. The man who found the pearl of great price was different from the man who found the treasure in that he was pursuing pearls. He found his pearl of great price at the end of a diligent search for valuable pearls. There are men who find the gospel in this manner as well. Lydia learned the gospel while assembled by the banks of a river in the worship of God (Acts 16:14-15). Cornelius was taught the gospel after diligently pursuing prayer, good works, and other acts of devotion to the Lord (Acts 10:1-2). The Bereans sought and searched diligently to be sure that the things which they were taught were so (Acts 17:11). These men were searching for the truth and recognized it when they found it.
There are men like that who find the gospel today. Some of them have wandered in and out of several denominations. Some of them put us to shame in the good deeds which they have done. In their searching for the truth, they come into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ, recognize it for what it is, and give up everything necessary in order to obtain it.
The Effort To Obtain The Treasure And The Pearl
The parables are similar in demonstrating the effort which each man made to obtain his respective treasure. The two men in the parables are alike in two respects: they know a very valuable thing when they see it, and they are willing to pay the highest price in order to secure it. The attitude of both men was to make the discovered treasure their own at whatever price it cost them. Each sold all that he had in order to obtain his treasure. The man who discovered the treasure was beside himself with joy at having found the treasure. Neither man be-grudged what he had to give up to obtain his treasure. Each man thought that his treasure was worth more than the things which he gave up to obtain it.
In order to obtain the gospel treasure or the pearl of great price, men have had to be willing to pay the price. Moses gave up all of the riches, political power, and fame of Egypt in order to be identified with the Christ (Heb. 11:24-25). Paul had to give up his position in the Jewish religion in order to become a Christian (Phil. 3:4-11). The rich young ruler was called upon to sell all that he had and give it to the poor in order to be Christ’s disciple (Matt. 19:16-22). Some men have had to sacrifice their families in order to be faithful to Jesus (Lk. 14:26). Other men have had to sacrifice life itself for Christ (Acts 7:54-8: 1; Acts 12:1-3; Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Yet, these men gave their lives joyfully because they valued the kingdom of heaven as being of more value than life itself.
“We are inclined to say that a person who discovers treasure anywhere or in any form and then walks away from it is a fool. But many do that with the gospel” (James Montgomery Boice, The Parables of Jesus, p. 32).
What we commonly find is that the kingdom of heaven is not so esteemed. We see men hesitating to part with anything for it, looking at it as a sad alternative, as a resort to which they must perhaps betake themselves when too old to enjoy life any longer, as what they have to come to when all the real joy and intensity of life are gone, but. not as that on which life itself can be spent. Entrance into the kingdom of heaven is looked upon much as entrance into the fortified town is viewed by the rural population. It may be necessary in time of danger, but they will think with longing of the fields and homesteads they must abandon; it is by constraint, not from love, that they make the change. In short, it is plain that men generally do not reckon the kingdom of heaven to be of such value that they sacrifice everything else for its sake (Marcus Dods, The Parables Of Our Lord, p. 104).
The fact remains that, in the minds of most people, the gospel is not worth nearly so much as the treasures of this life. Consequently, when they come into contact with the gospel, they have to be exhorted and beseeched to make them give up anything to obey the gospel. Churches are filled with “Christians” who are unwilling to weather three drops of rain to attend worship services, who would think nothing of missing an evening worship service to watch a ball game or attend a game, who never rind time to read their Bibles, and who pray very little on a day to day basis. The problem is that the gospel or the kingdom of heaven is not considered by them to be a treasure worth much of anything at all.
When sacrifices are made in order to “put Jesus first,” the sacrifices are made amidst groanings and complaints. What is sacrificed is done with a sour-puss attitude and disposition which is attractive to no one – not even to their own children who frequently grow up with this mistaken concept of Christianity and turn away from it, being repulsed by it. Christianity which makes a man miserable is not worth much to its owner.
Merchants who go from one end of the earth to the other, and venture everything in search of worldly gain, may well put to shame many Christians who care so little for the Lord, and their own salvation.
“The idea embodied in the parable is to this effect: the Messianic Kingdom, as being the most valuable of all possessions, can become ours only on condition that we are prepared joyfully to surrender for its sake every other earthly treasure” (H.A.W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book To The Gospel Of Matthew, p. 262). To adorn the body with pearls, but to forget the pearl of great price will bring one to shame in the day of judgment. What is your disposition toward the kingdom of heaven? Do you truly consider it to be a treasure or pearl of great price for which you are willing to surrender everything else in the world?
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 4, pp. 98, 114-115
February 16, 1984