Insert text here.
The high cost of finally finding what you have been searching for!
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Matthew 13:45-46 NKJV
One Price Fits All!
Was he a jeweler who bought and sold pearls for a living? Was he a collector with a passion for fine pearls? We do not know; Jesus did not elaborate, so it must not matter. We do know he was on a search, looking for something it took him a long time to find. Never fully satisfied, always knowing there was something more out there. So he persisted. We can assume he was reasonably wealthy and traveled extensively, going out of his way with an eye for those smooth, hard, off-white gems.
The more he handled those magnificent pearls, the more he loved them and appreciated their beauty. In his searching, he had seen the best of the best. But one day he was utterly dazzled when one of his sources uncovered an absolute knockout. Eagerly he picked it up and reverently rolled it over in his hands. It was by far the most resplendent pearl he had ever seen. He wanted to clutch it to his heart and never let it go. His searching was over; his appetite satisfied.
It's value was exquisite; the price out of sight. Yet this connoisseur of fine pearls knew at once he had to possess it. Not to sell to others, but for himself. Regardless of what anyone thought of such foolishness, he must have it.
Experiencing the kingdom of heaven is something like the merchant finding the pearl he had always been looking for. From Jesus' perspective, the kingdom of heaven is our heart's greatest desire. It excites and delights, and shines like a great treasure before our eyes. So much so that we joyfully do whatever is necessary to stake our claim.
How much does it cost? Our merchant, just like the poor man in the previous verse, had to empty himself out and sell everything he held dear, including his lesser pearls, in order for the kingdom to be his. Everything he owned for 1 super-fine pearl.
But does this mean we all have to sell everything we own if we want to participate in God's kingdom? Must we sell our possessions? I believe that line of thinking interprets Jesus' parable a bit too literally. Rather, look at it this way. Ask a performer or athlete, "What does it require to become a star?" The answer will be, "Everything you've got!" That is the sense in which we can take these words of Jesus to heart. What will it cost you? Everything you have!
The poor man's parable and the rich man's parable are back to back. The tenant farmer and the merchant were as different as night and day. One filled his life with the basic needs for survival. The other was free to search and travel and go wherever he willed. One needed land for food and shelter. The other needed pearls to satisfy his soul. Yet for all their differences, their story is the same and Jesus repeated it twice. We must note the repetition and listen again.
It doesn't matter how much we have, in order to possess the kingdom, it will cost every bit of it! The price and the process is the same for everyone. Whether you dig furrows or sell pearls, hang out on Beale Street or Wall Street, live in a cottage or a castle--the price is the same.
In the kingdom of heaven we live life God's way. So what does that mean? The people in the crowds wondered that too, and one day someone asked him what the greatest commandment is? Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." That sounds like we are to love God with all we've got! Jesus continued with a second commandment, "And love your neighbor as yourself." That will surely take all we've got! On another occasion Jesus gave us a Golden Rule, "Do unto others what you want others to do to you." Of course, you know what that takes.
We read in a prior study that the doorway to God's kingdom is very narrow, and we can't carry our old baggage in with us. In this parable we get a similar picture; we must make a change and put the switch on empty in order to fully receive God's kingdom. How much space in our lives does God need? All of it! Jesus was an all-or-nothing kind of guy!
We give our all for the all of our Father in heaven. And in the exchange we get the better deal, because God always gives, by far, much more than God takes or requires of us.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: The last time you went to a jewelry store, what did you buy?
When you go to yard sales, swap meets or antique shops, what kind of things are you looking for? What would be a considerable find for you? What was the last little gem you found?
Do you identify more with the tenant farmer in the previous parable or with the merchant in this story? Explain your answer.
To what degree are you seeking for something more in your life? What is the passion that drives your search? How will you know when you have found what you are looking for?
Is it more likely you will find the kingdom of heaven by searching for it, or by accidentally stumbling over it?
The merchant sold all his lesser pearls for the one pearl of greatest value. Describe some of your lesser pearls?
Jesus told us we must become empty to become full. What did he mean by that? Why would Jesus associate joy with something we consider a sacrifice?
Jesus also described the kingdom of heaven as a treasure, in fact, the greatest of all treasures. What percent of religious people today would agree with that? From what you observe, do you think people take Jesus seriously? What are some things which compete for #1 position in your life? What would it look like if you gave your all for God's all?
Just as when you have a tiff with someone, you must leave yesterday's baggage behind in order to reconciled, so it is with entering the kingdom. What is some old baggage you need to empty out of your life?
What is the biggest sacrifice you ever made in order to purchase something? Was it worth it? Did that experience have any parallels to your spiritual life?