As we move into the last few parables about the kingdom of heaven that Jesus talks about, there are two parables that are very small in length and can seem insignificant. However, the meaning of these two parables can transcend all assumptions of their value. The two parables are about a hidden treasure and a pearl.
Let us remember that these parables are part of a collection of parables about the kingdom of God. Jesus starts out these parables by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” and then tells the parable. Everything we read in these parables should be in the context of the kingdom and how earthly items can be compared to the kingdom. Let’s dig in to these parables.
The parable of the hidden treasure appears first in Matthew 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.” The parable about the pearl immediately follows, “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.” These two short parables come right after the other and they share a common theme.
In the first parable, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man happened to find it, which would be us, he went and hid the treasure and then sold everything to buy the field. The treasure hidden in a field is the kingdom of heaven. There a couple things to notice here. First, the man found the treasure in a field, hid it, then went and bought the field. He did not just take the treasure or buy the treasure, he bought the field where the treasure was. We cannot buy our way into heaven. We cannot do some great deed or somehow “pay” our way into the kingdom. Being part of the kingdom takes sacrifice. The man had to sell everything he had just to buy the field. The man did not buy the field out of wealth he bought it out of poverty because he had nothing. The kingdom will take great sacrifice to receive but it is truly the only we will ever need. Jesus’ point was not to get rid of everything we own, but this was a warning that following Jesus comes at a cost. It comes at a cost of reputation, relationships, jobs, and even our lives. Jesus is worth everything, just as the man sold everything to get the treasure.
The second parable of the pearl is much like the first. A merchant was looking for pearls, he found one that was worth a lot, and he again sold everything and bought it. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for pearls. We are the merchants looking for pearls and the kingdom of God is the most valuable of pearls. Again, it will take much sacrifice, but Christ is worth it.
Many times these two parables are interpreted this way. Something must be sacrificed to get the kingdom. However, there are other ways of looking at these parables. In one sense, the kingdom is free because of the free gift of Jesus (Luke 12:32). In another sense, the kingdom costs everything because it changes us. If we think about the possessions the men sold not as objects, but as lifestyles and habits and sin that lead to death, they sold all that to become transformed by the kingdom in a new life they now had to live.
The two men were also different in how they found the treasure and pearl. One was surprised to find the treasure in the field, the other was looking for the treasure. It is the same way in life. Some are looking for something like the kingdom they just could never have imagined how valuable it actually is. In other cases, we are not looking for anything, but we happen to find it and we find that it is more valuable than anything we ever had. The journey to the kingdom is different but the entrance is the same, through Jesus.
What seems like parables about treasure, money and selling is actually about the kingdom, life, and joy. Yes, these parables could be interpreted as being about life in the kingdom taking sacrifice and that is true. But we cannot buy our way into the kingdom. The kingdom is more valuable than anything we will ever know and it doesn’t cost anything to find it, but it will cost everything to let it transform us. Jesus is announcing the kingdom with these parables and we must keep that in mind. Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God coming through him is surprising, but the message he brings is like a hidden treasure or a precious pearl. It is worth everything.
Here is a link to a great article about these parables: https://www.thingsofthesort.com/bible-studies/2017/8/25/the-hidden-treasure-the-pearl-and-the-net