“God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.”
Matthew 13:44 MSG
Have you ever accidentally stumbled across something cool? Last year I found a rock shaped like a butt on the beach. I won’t say it’s the highlight of my life, but it was pretty novel. This is why I haunt our SPCA’s used books shop: the idea of finding a hidden treasure – a classic among a sea of Solly Ozrovech and well-thumbed Westerns – appeals to some deep-seated part of me that is both incredibly geeky and a cheapskate.
This parable Jesus uses strikes some visceral notes for me. Imagine finding a random treasure in a field, like that scene in The Shawshank Redemption! Just thinking about it makes me slightly nervous with excitement. I can imagine this man in the parable’s energy as he reburied the treasure and ran off, making plans to sell all his things and buy the field and the treasure in it. I can understand both his joy and his haste. If he were the hero in some story, I wouldn’t put the book down until I was sure he had gotten to keep the treasure.
But this is a parable. It tells us one thing by telling us another. I’m sure Jesus, knowing hearts as well as he did, understood what kind of chord this parable would strike in the hearts of those listening. Marketers and movie makers are still using (and abusing) this same basic desire: of finding, and keeping, something glorious. The dice falling in our favour for once. Luck, we call it, and hunt casino aisles for it, trying to appease this odd creature with even more odd superstitions.
We have hit the jackpot, though. That’s what Jesus is trying to teach us here. That jackpot is the kingdom of God. It is both the promise of eternal life, and the ability to live a resurrected life now. This is treasure we have stumbled upon. It’s not something we deserved to find, and it’s not something we could earn. But do we experience it as viscerally as we would finding actual treasure? Do we even still think about it as treasure, or has it been put up on a shelf to collect dust while we fruitlessly search for something shinier?
Why would we put something like the privilege of belonging to the kingdom of God on a shelf? Probably because we don’t realise how much of a privilege it is! But what if it was something we could lose? What if this treasure could be reclaimed by its owner? What if, one day, a person belonging to one of the names scribbled in the front page of those second-hand books I buy ten at a time, showed up at my door and wanted them back? I would be outraged! But what if this person reasoned that, since I wasn’t presently reading them (having bought ten at a time) and since I wasn’t actually using them… Since they were just sitting on a shelf, gathering dust…
You get the picture. I would tell this person all sorts of (colourful) things. Like, how dared she? They were mine! I found them! I’ll read them at some point!
In this chapter of parables, Jesus also told one about a net gathering up fish (Matthew 13:47-50). This fish-filled net would be hauled onto the beach, where the good fish would be collected and the bad ones thrown away. Now, I don’t think Jesus is going to show up at our doors to demand the kingdom of God back. But he is going to show up at some point, and he’s going to want to know why we’ve put our greatest treasure up on a shelf next to pre-owned Joyce Meyer books.
We have found something far greater than a butt-shaped rock washed up on a beach: we have found the treasure of knowing and being known by God. Living for and with him. Let’s not leave this reality up on a shelf. Jesus gave up literally everything j=he had so we could get it. Let’s take it down and write our names all over it.
Prayer inspiration: “A little kingdom I possess”, Louisa M Alcott
Dear Father, help me with the love
That castest out my fear!
Teach me to lean on Thee and feel
That thou art very near.
That no temptation is unseen,
No childish grief too small,
Since Thou, with patience infinite,
Dost soothe and comfort all.