Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 29. Hidden Treasure
Mt 13:44 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.
Sometimes parables are so simple we can hardly believe them. There is only one thing to be remembered in this tiny story and it is that treasure trove in those days belonged to the land owner, not the finder. So in this micro-tale a man discovers hidden treasure and realising how valuable it was, he goes and sells all he has in order to purchase the land so that he might have the treasure. Note two things: it is so wonderful, this treasure, that he wants to ensure that no one else could steal it from him and so hides it again until he can get the title to the land. Second, note again, that it is so wonderful that he is willing to sell absolutely everything he has to be able to buy the land.
I seem to remember it was South American Pastor, Juan Carlos Ortiz who immortalised this parable for me. I can’t remember the name of the book but I remember hearing him preach it. It was like the treasure seeker caught sight of the treasure that was available to the taking – the kingdom of heaven said Jesus – and he goes to God as the owner of the field and asks to buy the field. God says, “It will cost you everything.” The man thought and replied, “Very well, you can have everything in my bank account.” “Oh,” says the Lord, “you have a bank account. I’ll have that. What else have you got?” “Well, I suppose I have fifty pounds/dollars in my wallet.” “Fine,” replies the Lord. “I’ll have that. What else have you got?” “Well, that’s it,” the man replied, “you’ve got everything.” “Er, is that your car?” Well yes. I’ll have that. What else. Oh come on, that’s everything. You have a house. Yes, but you don’t expect…. I did say it will cost you everything. I’ll have your house. But what will my family say. I’ll have your family as well. Good grief, you’ll want the shirt off my back soon. That’s right. I’ll have all your clothes, all your possessions. But you’ll leave me naked, that only leaves me in my bare skin. Oh, that’s all right, I’ll have your body and your mind as well. Do you want this treasure? Well, yes, of course… then it will cost you everything.
When we read that little one line parable most of the time most of us don’t think it through. When Jesus said the man sold “all he had” he meant that the main gave up any claim to anything he had before he came cross the treasure. I wonder if we have ever thought this through, this little parable? I often talk about how someone comes to the Lord and surrender to him and are then born again but when I mean ‘surrender’, in the light of this parable, it means you surrender absolutely everything to the Lord: your plans, your hopes and ambitions and your dreams as well as everything that makes up your present life.
Have you ever wondered why you have never had a mountain top experience with God, or why you always have the feeling that there is yet something more in this ‘Christian thing’ that you just haven’t entered into yet? Has the ‘treasure’ of life in the kingdom fallen short of what the preacher said it would be? Is it perhaps because you have held on to parts of your life and so the blessing of God has not been able to reach them yet? If you imagine your life as a large plot of land. When you come to Christ you surrender it to him – except perhaps you don’t, not quite all of it. Maybe you are a young person and you have not surrendered to him your future partner. Maybe you have your eyes on someone who is not a believer, despite the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Cor 6:14-18. You have all this land to give God but you hold on to this little corner of it – He’ll understand. Yes, He’ll understand your disobedience.
I have a feeling this might be important for someone as you read these notes. This is a true story. When my wife was at university she shared a room with a non-Christian girl. To cut a long story short this girl came to the Lord and then confronted a problem: she was engaged to a non-Christian. As she saw the value of the treasure she had found, she went in tears to her fiancé and told him what had happened and said, “I can no longer marry you.” He was deeply in love with her and was so shocked by her stand that he went away and sought and found the Lord – genuine 100% conversion! I had the joy of being the best man at their wedding. They both went on to serve the Lord as house group leaders in churches they have belonged to over the years. Without going into detail I can tell you that the Lord blessed them materially and spiritually more than most people I know. They are both a major blessing to the community of God’s people.
The truth is that we may catch sight of the ‘treasure’ of the kingdom but we will never fully enter into experiencing the wonder of it until we are prepared to put literally everything into the Lord’s hands and trust Him with it all. When we let go of it, He sometimes gives us some of it back, sometimes he gives us something completely different, an utterly transformed life. We cannot bargain with God because He knows best.
In the next verse Jesus tells another equally brief parable to say the same thing: “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.” (v.45,46) Same idea, same message! It was left to the apostle John to remember this put in another way: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:24,25) That one seed is your ‘self’ – your ambition, your drive, your intellect, your cleverness, your beauty, your achievements, your name, your fame, your background – none of those things can get you into the kingdom of God, only giving them all over to Him for Him to either remove and destroy, or hand back, or transform.
The ‘treasure’ in the first parable or the ‘pearl’ of the second one? What are they? They are a) being put right with God so that you may have peace now and into eternity, b) receiving God’s power and the promise of God guidance and direction from now on, c) having a sense of direction and fulfillment as the Lord opens up His heart and reveals His perfect will for you, that which d) will bless you every day of your existence and bless others around you.
So much of the time, I believe, we are blinded by Satan, Sin and the world’s ways so that we just cannot see the wonder of all this. If you feel your sight is inadequate in this respect, pray and ask him to give you sight to be able to see these things because he came to “bring recovery of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18b) You want to catch something of the reality of this treasure? Pray, seek ask and keep on asking.