The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. - Matthew 13:44
This might be my favorite parable out of all of Jesus’ teachings. It is so short and simple, yet so profound and convicting. In it we see the value of God’s Kingdom. It is truly more valuable than anything else we can possess. We also see the joy of having God’s Kingdom. When we allow Jesus to be king of our lives and when we begin living in the way of Jesus’ Kingdom, it produces a deep joy in us unlike anything else. The biggest teaching point I see in this parable, however, is the cost of God’s Kingdom.
So how much does God’s Kingdom cost? Is it a one-time fee or an annual subscription? Do I have to pay now, or can I just wait for the bill? Is there a discount if I have good behavior or good church attendance? The parable of the treasure in the field does not provide us with a dollar amount, a payment plan, or a discount structure for gaining God’s kingdom in our lives. These items are not addressed. Instead, the picture we see in this parable is that gaining the Kingdom costs everything else that we have. It requires that we surrender to God every other potential treasure, to make God our primary treasure.
God clearly does not want to be one treasure among many in our lives. God wants to be our only treasure.
This is not an easy teaching to live by in our current consumer-driven society. Everywhere we look, there is something calling out to be another treasure. There is always one more purchase that promises to increase our happiness. Social media platforms know which products and ideas we are most likely to get addicted to (anyone seen The Social Dilemma?). Politics today pushes us to the extremes on both sides, inviting us to hold our political identity as a treasure of sorts. The allure of safety and financial security is a popular treasure in the American suburbs. It is easy to allow any of these other treasures slip into our lives and take God’s place. All of us (including myself) need to look within us to recognize what other treasures are taking God’s place in our lives, so that we can take steps to surrender them once again and allow Jesus to be our only treasure.
As we move through “stewardship season” at Bethany this October, I want to invite you to see this as more than a fundraising effort for the church. At its core, being generous and committing to generous living for 2021 is a spiritual practice that leads us into a deeper relationship with Christ. This is an opportunity to examine our hearts and consider what competing treasures might be trying to take Jesus’ place in our lives. As we consider our commitment to generosity for 2021, will we let Jesus and his kingdom be our only treasure? It is only when we are willing to let go of everything else that we can hold on tightly to God with all that we have.
Consider the following questions for applying this parable to your own life:
- What competing treasures are in your life that sometimes take the place of Jesus?
- Is there something God is inviting you to let go of so that you can find even more joy and satisfaction in Him?
- How is God wanting to stretch and grow you spiritually as you consider your generosity commitment for 2021?