That is what Jesus is saying in these two parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. 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, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In these two parables we find that one man stumbles upon the treasure whereas the other man is searching for fine pearls. But in both cases they quickly realize that what they found was far more PRECIOUS than anything else they owned. That is what the Kingdom of Heaven should be to every one of us. I once was talking about Jesus Christ to a teenager I met in a park in Queens, NY. It became apparent to me that he was not all that interested in God at that time in his life. I left him with the comment that if he understood how PRECIOUS the Kingdom of Heaven is he would sell everything he had to gain it.
What is the point here? Is it that the Kingdom of Heaven is for sale? Not at all! The Bible puts it this way in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” The Kingdom of Heaven is a free gift received by grace through faith. But it is only available to those who deem it as the MOST PRECIOUS gift they have. Luther wrote in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, “And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” The Kingdom of Heaven was obviously his MOST PRECIOUS possession.
What might be the things we have to “sell” in order to receive this great gift? It is different for each person. What are the things that are the MOST PRECIOUS in your life? For some people it is their possessions. They live for their stock portfolios, their two or three homes, their cars, their vacations, their designer clothes. But such things are passing away. The Pharaohs thought they could take it with them, but their stuff stayed behind in their tombs until tomb raiders broke in and stole it. The Kingdom of Heaven, on the other hand, remains forever.
For other people it is their status in life. They want to be looked up to, admired and praised. They might like to have things, but it is only because those things give them status, like a teenager who wants a $200 pair of designer sneakers instead of a $20 pair of sneakers from Wal-Mart. Sometimes even religious people live for their status among other religious people. Such was the Rabbi Saul. He wrote autobiographically in Philippians 3:4-6, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.” But Saul, also known as Paul, came to the same place as the man who found the hidden treasure and the merchant who found the pearl of great price. He goes on to say, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” For Paul there was nothing more PRECIOUS than the Kingdom of Heaven.
Then there are still others for whom it is family. This is probably the hardest one for us to grasp because we always think that our families are our most precious gift. And indeed family is a gift from God and we ought to love those who are closest to us. But even family must play second fiddle to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” There can be only one who is our MOST PRECIOUS, Jesus Christ our Lord, who offers us the Kingdom of Heaven. We may have family members who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ; we must have a faith that will not put our love for them over our love for Him. In A.D. 203 Perpetua, a young nursing mother, was one of 5 new Christians that the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus decided to make an example of in Carthage. At her trial her pagan father begged her to renounce her faith and give a sacrifice to the Emperor. Having heard this, even the judge felt compassion for a nursing mother and told her to just offer her sacrifice to the emperor and be done with it. She would not. He asked her, “Are you a Christian then?” She said, “Yes, I am.” She died in the arena. The Kingdom of Heaven was even more PRECIOUS to Perpetua than her own family and even her own life. Is that true for you and me?
Jesus began his ministry by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” The word “repent” means, “Change your thinking.” What is the MOST PRECIOUS thing in your life? If it is anything other than the Kingdom of Heaven then it is time to change your thinking. Being in the church is not enough. There is an old parable about a monkey trap. To trap a monkey they would put a banana in something that looked like a bird house. When the monkey reached in to grab the banana he could not get his clinched fist out without letting go of the banana. His longing for the banana kept him trapped. So repentance is letting go of one thing to have the MOST PRECIOUS thing. But there is good news. Jesus says to us that we are PRECIOUS in His sight, just like the old children’s song, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” You see, in an even higher way we can understand these two Parables of Jesus by flipping them. In other words, we can see that we are the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. He was the one who sold everything to win our hearts. He gave His life on that cross as the payment for our sins, for our rebellious and idolatrous ways, so that we might be in a relationship with Him, now and forever.
It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, Cyrus asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?”
“The half of my wealth,” was his reply.
“And if I release your children?”
“Everything I possess.”
“And if I release your wife?”
“Your Majesty, I will give myself.”
Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man!”
With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you – the one who was willing to give himself for me.” That, dear friends, is how Jesus becomes the MOST PRECIOUS gift in your life. Will you open your heart and receive it?