“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.” NIV
The Kingdom of Heaven was a central theme of Jesus’ teachings; the expression “Kingdom of Heaven/God” is found in 61 separate sayings in the Synoptic Gospels.
As He taught about the Kingdom, Jesus looked for many ways to describe what it was like because He knew it was like nothing anyone could ever imagine. And so, as was His practice, He painted word pictures of what it was like. He likened it to a pearl of great price, a mustard seed, and to leaven. He compared it to a farmer who sowed good seed, a householder who brought out treasure from his home, a king who wanted to settle accounts and a landowner who hired labourers for his field.
In one parable, He compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a great treasure hidden in a field which a man stumbled upon one day. The field was not his, so he reburied the treasure and then went and sold all that he had to buy that field and claim that treasure.
Picture the scene: the man rushing off to sell his house and, perhaps, all his furniture, his donkey and his work tools as well. What if that still wasn’t enough? Did he plead with friends and relatives to lend him the balance? In effect, Jesus was saying the man gave up everything he had just so he could possess that field and claim that treasure. Was it a sacrifice or a hard decision to make? Of course not; he was giving up something of lesser value so he could gain something far more valuable.
Can you imagine what it would be like if you accidentally stumbled upon hidden treasure in some isolated field that was worth millions of dollars? Imagine trying to contain your joy, your excitement. Imagine rushing home and trying to raise money to buy that field. Wouldn’t it dominate your thoughts and define your actions? What would you sell? What would you give up? How far would you go to raise the money you needed to buy that field? Would you think it reckless or extreme to go to such lengths just to own that field? Would you vacillate about the sacrifices you might have to make?
And that was the point Jesus was making about the Kingdom in this parable. He was saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is so precious, so incredible, so awesome, that it is worth giving up everything to attain, worth every sacrifice, worth all the time and effort.
It’s hard for us to grasp how incredible the Kingdom of Heaven really is, for surely if we did, it would dominate our thinking and define all our actions to a far greater degree than it now does. We would be like the man in the parable who stumbled across hidden treasure – suddenly all our priorities would change and we would become single-minded in the pursuit of possessing so great a treasure.
Socrates remarked that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We all need to regularly stop and take stock of our lives – what is it about, what are our priorities, how are we investing our time and resources, where do we stand in terms of taking hold, in greater and greater measure, the Kingdom of Heaven? Are we taking hold of eternal things or merely holding on to what is here today and gone tomorrow?
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” – Jim Elliot, missionary & martyr [1927-1956]