Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background This week we continue on with the list of parables in Matthew. Last week we talked about how the kingdom of God spreads throughout like mustard seed and leaven. This week the parables take us into the value of the kingdom here on earth. This line of parables is fascinating because they highlight things that tug at us without even really knowing why. These stories tend to get under our skin and stick like a really good story does. I don’t know about you but I kept reading and rereading to try to figure out the connections to each other and to my life.
The Gospel of Matthew is a master at the parable piece. Parables allow us to experience something rather than just hear it straightforward. We will really get to delve into more of Matthew’s parables during Lent. They work on us sideways until it finally nags at us and won’t let us go. Parables transform when we identify what is strange about them. When we identify what is strange about the parable, it becomes a window into the kingdom of God.
The strange element of the first parable, the parable of the treasure, is the behavior of the seeker. Why would someone give up everything to have access to a treasure that they couldn’t really have by the laws of the day? It would have been extremely hard for the seeker to buy the land where the treasure has been hidden. Why would you sell all to possess this one area of land? This is the same as with the parable of the pearl. If you sell everything to own that one pearl, you will have nothing left except for the pearl. This pearl is valuable but doesn’t give you food, shelter, and other amenities. But then, once you have the most valuable pearl, what else would you need? This makes me rethink all of what I think is valuable. God’s kingdom is a search and then an extremely valuable treasure or item. The kingdom holds the most value and gives abundant joy. The kingdom is an extravagant response to the search of the treasure.
God’s kingdom is something so valuable that when we prioritize it, we don’t need much of anything else. Value is placed on priority and stewardship of what we have. Notice that the one who finds the treasure, is a steward of stuff rather than accumulation on top of the treasure. Each steward values what is most important and sells off the rest. The merchant who finds the perfect pearl doesn’t just acquire the pearl but sells all other possessions. There is nothing to acquire or consume.
We are constant searchers for what is of value and we are given great treasure. We are called to be stewards of what we have and to prioritize what is valuable. When we find the valuable new treasures, we will rejoice in where we find God. This series of parables makes me think about what would be so valuable that I would give up everything else to be around the valuable thing. During our stewardship campaign, I am doubly reflective on what I value and I how I am a steward on this earth. What will I do with my gifts? What will I do with what has been found? What will I continue to seek? How will I prioritize my values? And when I find the kingdom of God, what will I do with that treasure?
Quotes of the week
“There is all the difference in the world between treasure and money.” ― Roderick Townley
“There is no greater treasure in this world than somebody who loves you as you are.” ― Eric Micha’el Leventhal
“Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing.” ― Barbara Kingsolver
Matthew 13: 44-52 (NRSV)
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; 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; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Questions for the Week
What do you value?
What do you dedicate your life to? Where is God in that dedication?
What is your greatest treasure?