November 4, 2018
Today we’re looking at two short parables of Jesus. And we’re thinking about “things we value.” As we’ve been leading up to Stewardship Dedication Sunday, I’ve had us look at several passages where both Paul and Jesus ask us to think about the value of God’s kingdom. And particularly the value of God’s kingdom in comparison to the value of things on earth. And these two parables are two final thoughts about that
I referred to this first parable a few weeks ago. The Parable of “The Treasure Hidden in a Field.” Notice that both these parables are about the kingdom of God. In fact, many of Jesus’ parables begin like this one. “The kingdom of God is like…” In this case it’s “The kingdom of God – or the kingdom of Heaven – is like a treasure hidden in a field…”
Now, one of the things I want you to see in this parable is that I think there’s some back door humor going on here! I believe Jesus could be a down to earth, funny guy! And I can see him telling the people about this man – as Peterson says, “a trespasser,” perhaps – somebody who is walking across a field which is not his own. And he finds a treasure. And what does he do? He covers it up. He hides it! And he’s looking around, maybe, to see if anybody saw him! And then in his “joy,” as the RSV says – and I think “excitement” could work here as well, maybe even better – “in his excitement he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field!”
Now, the question is, what do we do when we find something of great value? What if we found that Picasso in a yard sale. What if we found that letter from George Washington in an old desk drawer? And of course, the bigger question is, do we see the kingdom of God in such a way? Jesus is trying to get us to see that the kingdom is of immense value! It is of “selling all that you have” value! The only question is whether or not we see that! Do you? Do you see the kingdom of God as being of “immense value?”
Of course, we’ve heard a lot of news lately about something of “immense value.” I think somebody won the billion dollar lottery, didn’t they? That’s a pretty significant value, isn’t it? It’s beyond our imagining how much a billion dollars is!
I was going to do some calculating, but I found that my cell phone calculator doesn’t go that high! So, I found another one, and I figured out that, if you counted one number per second – “One one-thousand, two one-thousand… Or maybe “One one-billion, two one-billion… – if you did that, it would take you almost 32 years to count to a billion! That’s counting nonstop, 24/7! And that’s only if you could say a number once a second. At first it would seem slow. But think about how long it takes to say a number like 324,245,178! And you’d have to count numbers like that 100 million times!
So, in terms of value, is the kingdom of God anything like that? Is the kingdom, for you, something of immense value? Is it something you would “sell all you have” to obtain? That’s not an easy thought, is it?
So, that’s the first parable. Then, almost to emphasize that one, Jesus tells this second parable. And again it’s a one sentence parable. This one is about the “Pearl of great price.” “The pearl of great value!”
Well, I’ll always remember this one as the parable that was quoted on Star Trek! That’s right, folks! Star Trek! Does anybody remember that? You get extra points today if you can tell me who quoted it! I’ll give you a hint. It was in the original series, season three, and it was in an episode entitled “The Empath.” Anyone? Who said it? How about… Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott. That’s right, Scotty said it. “Have you never heard the story of the merchant? The merchant, who, on finding the one pearl of great price, sold all he had and bought it!”
Well, that’s this story. And in this case the merchant was looking for fine pearls. He didn’t just happen upon this one. And when he found it, like the man who found the treasure in the field, he sold everything he had and bought it! He saw in that pearl great value!
Jesus is using some hyperbole here. Do you know what hyperbole means? It means exaggeration to make a point. Selling “all that we have” for the kingdom is hyperbole! But then again, maybe it’s not. Think of the words of Paul we read a few weeks ago. “Indeed I count everything as loss” he said “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!” (Philippians 3:8) At the very least, that’s a recognition of the great value of the kingdom of God!
What in our lives is of “surpassing worth?” What do we value the highest? And what do we value so high that we would almost sell all that we have to obtain it? Can we imagine doing that? If you could sell all that you had, and be reasonably sure you would buy the winning lottery ticket, would you do it? Would you take that chance?
Is it possible to see the kingdom of God that way? As I said a number of times lately, this is a matter of perspective. Jesus didn’t say he didn’t want us to have “things.” He wants us not to stress over them. He wants us not to “treasure” them, but to “treasure” the things of Heaven. And there’s that verb again! It’s not just “What do we have?” It’s “What do we treasure?” What has, for us, the greatest value?
We come now to the time we bring our pledges forward, and dedicate them to the work of the Church. As we do so, I invite you to think of Paul and his statement about the “surpassing worth” of the kingdom. Then, think about the words of Jesus, his story about the man who found the treasure in the field and his excitement of selling all he had to buy that field. Think of the merchant finding the pearl of great price. Think of the things you value. And think of the value of God’s kingdom. May it be of great value – of surpassing worth – to all of us!
Eternal God, as we prepare to bring our pledges forward, help us to know the surpassing worth of your kingdom. We thank you for the words of Jesus in which he tried to show us how important your kingdom really is! We thank you for all that you have given us in this life. Bless us we ask, and prosper our efforts. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.