November 12, 2017
Today we are focusing in on two little parables. We find them among a whole group of parables in this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Here we find “The Parable of the Sower,” “The Parable of the Mustard Seed,” and “The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” (or as we would call it, “The Wheat and the Weeds.”)
The other thing we find in this chapter is that the disciples are starting to ask Jesus a lot of questions. “Why are you speaking in all these parables?” they asked him. “What do they mean? And I think that’s great. Too often we see the disciples as the “great saints of the Church” – the way we think of them now. But remember this is long before anyone made statues of them. This was all new to them. They were just learning about Jesus. They were experiencing all of this for the first time. And sometimes they just didn’t get it!
So, after several longer parables and several different explanations, we find these two short parables about “The Treasure Hidden in the Field,” and “The Pearl of Great Price.” And both of these parables are about the great value of the kingdom of God. And as brief as these are, I believe they are very important! The reason I say that is that this is a big problem that believers often have – both in Jesus’ time, and in our time.
Think about it. People of faith believe in God, of course. They love God. They seek to learn about God. They try to follow Jesus. But, when it comes to seeing the value of the kingdom of God – as they place that in the list of the many important things in their lives – that’s where they fall short. The kingdom is not very high on that list. And when read these two stories, we are compelled to think about our own lives, and we are compelled to think about how we value God’s kingdom, and where we place it in our own list!
So, think about these two stories. And then ask yourself, is God’s kingdom, for you, like this man who found a treasure buried in a field, and sold everything and bought it? Is the kingdom of God, for you, like the one pearl of great price? What do you think?
Think about how our world places value on “things.” And many of the “things” in this life even come in different levels of value. Some people drive a Rolls Royce, and some people drive a Yugo. (Remember the Yugo?) Some people wear a Rolex, and some people wear a Casio. (Casio makes some great watches, by the way!) And there are all kinds of examples of that. And advertisers are always telling us that their product is better than the other guy’s! And of course, don’t you want to have “the very best?!”
It’s hard for us in the church to compete against Madison Avenue! It’s hard to say God’s kingdom is above all those “things,” things that inundate our senses every single day of our lives, from our TV’s, our radios, our computer screens, and our mailboxes!
I’ll never forget the moment my little daughter first pointed at something on a TV commercial and said, “Daddy, can I have that?” I remember thinking, “She’s now a consumer!” “It’s started!” It was a sinking feeling!
The fact is that there are so many “things” all around us telling us of their “great value.” And “the things of God” don’t “measure up” in a lot of people’s minds!
Tony Campolo once wrote a book entitled, “Who switched the price tags?” The premise of the book was that somebody seems to have gone around and switched all the price tags in this life. He said that the things which should have great value, things like people and faith and God, have been assigned a lesser value, and things that should not have a great value, things like “things,” have been given a greater value. He likened it to going into a store and finding the price tags all switched around. Imagine being in that store and seeing paper clips with a price tag of $1000 and TV’s with a price tags that say $2.
Think about life in those terms. Has someone indeed switched the price tags? It seems like they have. People do put that greater value and lesser value on the wrong things? That’s what Jesus was getting at here in these two little parables.
We talked last week about “what we treasure” – with the word “treasure” used as that verb. So this week, I’m asking you to think, not just about what you “treasure,” but about the “price tag” you put on the various things in your life. What do you value? What is of greatest value? What is of lesser value? And where does God’s kingdom fit into that scale? Is the kingdom for you like like that treasure in the field, that you would sell all you have to buy? Is it like the pearl of great price?
These are simple parables – simple examples. But they have a powerful message, don’t they? They ask us to examine things we might not really want to examine. And they challenge us to consider the great value of being God’s people, of being called into his kingdom. They compel us to see the things of God as being “things of great value.”
May we consider those important questions as we think of our part in the ministry God has entrusted to us here in this place. We are stewards of that which is truly of the highest value!
Eternal God, help us to see the infinite and eternal value of your kingdom. May we truly know the joy of being your people, called to be the stewards of your kingdom as Jesus portrayed in his many parables. Grant us the strength we need to do the work you have call us to do. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.