Although I was a young boy at the time, I remember all the excitement when Robert Ballard discovered the underwater remains of the HMS Titanic in 1985. Ballard invested everything he had for seven long years before he found it.
Have you ever longed for something so much that you invested much of what you had in order to get what you wanted? I am tempted to give my all whenever I see one of those fancy new Camaros. When one passes me (with that V-8 growl…), I start doing the math in my head in order to figure out whether I can afford the monthly payment.
I start negotiating with my budget–if I give up that, then maybe I can afford this. Although I’m not willing to sell all that I own for a car, there are moments with I think that the possibility exists!
The joy of a discovery and the depth of one’s desire sit at the heart of two parables that Jesus tells in Matthew 13:44-46:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
We immediately recognize that both parables express life-changing finds, and it would do well for us to take note of how they can impact our own life.
In the first parable, the kingdom is likened to a hidden treasure that a man finds on his way to work. There is nothing special about the man except for the fact that he is quick to sell all that he has to buy the very field in which the treasure is found. I imagine him doing the math on the way home, how to tell the wife and kids that they have to move. Like, right now.
In the second parable, the kingdom is compared to a merchant who made a living by traveling far and wide to buy precious commodities to bring to market. The merchant is searching for a great pearl specifically; and upon discovering one, he too sells all he has and invests everything to purchase it.
What is interesting is the zeal that both characters have in selling all that they have for their treasure. One is a schemer who purchases a field without figuring out who the treasure belonged to in the first place; the second is a merchant who gives everything he has for fossilized sand.
Jesus compares both to the reign of God, and we are left baffled at the comparison. In the first parable we get the sense that the kingdom of God is something we stumble upon, something we get by carelessly surrendering our resources.
The second one is different in that the kingdom is compared to a merchant, a businessman who makes it his life’s work to find valuables.
I’d like to think that the two parables point to a deeper mutual search that reveals the real source of a person’s longing. While we long for so many things that don’t seem to satisfy, the parables challenge us to give all we have for God. Meanwhile, God is gives all that he has–even his very son–in order to claim us as his own.
We are as valuable as a pearl just as the kingdom is as valuable as the most precious treasure. In the place that the two intertwine–the place in which the man or merchant, treasure or pearl meet–a celebration erupts and surrender leads to incomparable joy.