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The treasure of God's kingdom, although buried underground for many years, holds its value for all time and is forever new.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matthew 13:44 NKJV
The Joy of Selling All!
Here was a man, a tenant farmer, too poor to own the land on which he labored. Or so he thought. He wasn't searching for treasure, at least not out in the fields where he worked every day. Yet in true storybook fashion, while he was digging up the terrain for other purposes, he actually hit upon something of great value.
We can picture this. He may have been tilling some new acreage, or attempting to bury a dead animal. Who knows what he was doing, except that he was toiling over a piece of earth that hadn't known a pick and shovel for a long, long time. We could assume one thing, it was packed down hard. Which meant he was exerting himself even harder--tired, thirsty, sweaty, and most likely grumbling and cursing because the boss wanted this stupid patch dug up. He worked alone, and his brain waves were getting a little numb from lack of stimulation. After all, how many exciting ways are there to loosen the soil.
Until, with the abruptness of a lightening strike, he heard a ringing sound which woke him up. Suddenly he was no longer digging dirt; now he's looking at this hole in the ground in a whole new way. Curiously he poked and scraped until he uncovered the culprit which turned out to be not a culprit but a priceless marvel buried right under his feet. The monotony of his workload gave way to enthusiasm and joy, then diligence and secrecy. Wealth always brings it's problems! How would he handle this gem of a find?
His immediate impulse was to hide his discovery so no one else could claim it. Later he would think about what to do next. First he must note well the place, cover his tracks and finish the day as usual out there in the sun. He must do nothing to reveal the amazement and great joy he concealed within himself.
The fact that he was too poor to own land was yesterday's outlook. Now he must do the impossible and buy those acres at any cost. In the time it took him to sell all that he owned, his family's normal life would have been severely disrupted. Piece by piece, everything was taken from them. Until finally he accumulated enough to buy the prize, and the celebration could begin.
Possessing the field demanded his all--time, energy and resources. It required sacrifice, giving up everything to gain the great bounty he had miraculously stumbled upon. Yet this is a story about the poor man's happiness. For joy over the newfound treasure, he did everything necessary in order to possess the section with the hidden wealth. No one ordered it. He made the decision and did it with joy. Nothing he owned was too precious to give up in order to gain that reward.
Dramatic changes lay in store that will affect his life forever. He knew what his old life was like. He didn't know what the new one held. Yet he eagerly traded his old miseries for the joy of his new possession. The kingdom of heaven is like that. When Jesus called his disciples, they dropped everything and followed him, with similar joy and gladness.
I met two such disciples in August of 1992 while on a church-sponsored mission trip. Our destination was Redbird, a United Methodist outpost in southeastern Kentucky. There we were warmly welcomed by a man and his wife who had sold all they owned and moved to this place to spend their retirement years in useful service to the poor of that area. When listening to the man talk, it was obvious he had found treasure, too, hidden in the mountains and the people of Bell county. The joy on his face told me he was wealthy beyond measure, even though his earthly possessions were very few.
The kingdom of heaven is like that. It's a treasure hidden away and sometimes we are fortunate enough to stumble upon it. But beware! A find like that will require a decision which could, for a time, be uncomfortable and disruptive. What will it be? Same old, same old; or newfound joy? As Jesus told this parable, he seemed to be cheeringthe man on to go for it. He does the same for us.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Name one thing you value which you would never want to give up?
In a brief paragraph, finish the story. What do you think happened to the man with his newly-acquired wealth?
What are some things which you stumbled upon in your life without looking for them? Describe any resulting decisions or risks that were required?
Fear of the unknown always seems to be part of decision-making. What fears might the man in our story have had? What excuses could he use if he decided not to pursue the purchase? When have you had similar fears or made the same excuses?
How he reacted to the discovery of the treasure changed his life forever. What decisions have you made which had a similar impact?
Have you ever been afraid of the cost, or felt the risk too great, when you thought God might be leading you to accept some challenge? Is there any penalty for postponing our decision when God calls? Is there such a thing as a more convenient time to say "Yes" to God? If you can't go the whole way, what is one small step you could take now?
Did you ever sacrifice anything, or have your life disrupted, for Jesus' sake? If so, what was that like? Was there any joy associated with your sacrifice? If not, what made the man in this story so happy, and not you? Is the kingdom of heaven really like finding a pot of gold?
If the kingdom of heaven is about joy, why do so many Christians have long faces? Are you able to remember a time in your life when your faith brought you great joy? Is the joy of discovering God's kingdom just an initial emotion that wears off? Or does it last throughout to the end?
Regrets! If the man had not possessed that field, he would have regretted it the rest of his life. What does that say to us about our decision to accept or reject this message of Jesus?