Week 4 – The Treasure and The Pearl
This week we’ll be looking at a pair of parables, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The parable pairs in Matthew 13 utilize parallelism, reiterating material while viewing it from two different positions, meaning it’s equally important to observe similarities within the pair as well as differences.
The commonalities between the treasure and the pearl are pretty plain. In both, the main character is willing to put everything on the line to obtain something worth immense value. In both the commitment is full (“sold all that he had”), immediate, and joyful. You can imagine the man in the first parable walking through some forlorn field and stumbling across a massive amount of gold poking out of the ground. He would’ve stared in shock, looked around to see if anyone else was watching, then covered it up and raced away giddy, hoping with all his might that he could buy that field without anyone getting wise. The second is similar; immediately the merchant stakes all he has on what he knows will be the best business decision he’s ever made.
Both parables describe characters who put all their eggs in one basket. This is something many of us desperately avoid for any number of reasons, perhaps the two biggest being avoiding commitment or ensuring security. We exist in a culture where we’re taught to keep our options open; that’s why picking a restaurant to eat at or a Netflix show to watch can be so exhausting. Whether this is from a grass-is-greener mentality, a fear of missing out, or being stingy with where we spend our time/energy/etc., for many of us being slow to commit is simply par for the course. The idea of putting all your eggs in one basket might feel like an irrevocable decision, like it might ask more of you than you’re ready to give, or like it’s just not that cool.
In case you missed it…
The Bible Project recently did a 7-episode, in-depth podcast series on the parables of Jesus. You can start at episode 1, or jump right in at episode 6 with “Finding Meaning in the Parables.”
In the realm of security, many of us have backup plans upon backup plans, just in case some catastrophe should befall us. “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” is the mantra. If you’re familiar with this you know it can have an edge of cynicism, a need for control, or an undercurrent of anxiety to it. To a security mindset the thought of putting all your eggs in one basket seems naive, destined for disappointment, even dangerous.
For those reasons and more, we’re typically slow to want to be all in with the Kingdom of God. And this idea of being all in with the Kingdom is incredibly relevant for all of us, believers and non-believers alike. For believers, almost certainly there’s some piece of us we’ve been unwilling to devote to the Kingdom, perhaps out of fear or embarrassment or sinful desire. For non-believers the idea of committing to something as crazy as some guy who claimed to be God sounds far from a sure bet. But, based on these parables, there’s something about the Kingdom of God that is meant to engender an all-or-nothing, all-eggs-firmly-in-one-basket commitment.
Moving on, the differences between these two parables are worth assessing. For instance, in one parable a man stumbles across a treasure, in the other a professional is seeking after one. Thinking of the implications, you might have struck upon the Kingdom having searched high and low for it, or you might have stubbed your toe on it and been giddy over your good luck. But perhaps the most remarkable difference between the two is the benefit-cost ratio. In the first, a man buys a piddly field but ends up with a massive treasure. It’s a great deal. But with the Pearl of Great Price the merchant sells all he has and ends up with . . . a pearl. That’s it. If he really sold all he had then he’s now homeless, with no money for food, no storefront to sell his pearls, nothing. Just a $100,000 pearl riding around in his pocket.
These two parables communicate the kind of reaction the Kingdom of God has upon those who find it. It is worth everything to them. In an eternal sense it’s a great deal; God gets piddly old me, but I get him and his presence forever! In a temporal sense it’s worth bankrupting myself, what the world might call a terrible deal. These parables should cause us to pause and reflect: is God’s rule and reign that precious to me? Not to stir up guilt or doubt, but to really wonder if we’re seeing the Kingdom the way Jesus intended us to. Perhaps in some way we can inhabit these stories and see the riches of grace that have come upon us through God’s kindness towards us in Jesus Christ.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Matthew 13:44-46 for us?
• What stands out to you from these parables?
• What is Jesus telling us abut the Kingdom through these parables?
• What do you find convicting about these stories?
• What could it look like for us to grow in our joy over God’s Kingdom?