The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)
A man stumbles upon a priceless treasure in a field. A merchant discovers the most impressive pearl he’s ever seen. Both of them immediately sell everything they have to take hold of this priceless treasure. These stories of discovery highlight the indescribable value of God’s Kingdom, above and beyond anything this world has to offer.
The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
“By selling all that he has to purchase the field, he is gaining something far more valuable than any of his possessions and far more valuable than the field itself.”
-Michael Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary (Matthew), p. 487.
In Jesus’ time, there were no formal banks or safety deposit boxes, so when you needed to keep your valuables safe, you might dig a hole on your property and bury your treasure for safekeeping (e.g. Matthew 25:25).
Sometimes the owner of the house would die (or be captured) without anyone knowing about the buried treasure, so it would stay hidden until someone accidentally discovered it. While we might play by the “finders-keepers” rule, Jewish law dictated that anything pulled out of the ground belonged to the person who owned the land. When the man stumbled upon this priceless treasure, he knew he couldn’t just grab it and go. He had to sell everything he had to buy the land.
I’m sure his friends and neighbors thought he was crazy—that land is way overpriced! You’re wasting your money! They had a low view of the land’s value because they were unaware of the measure beneath the surface. But because the man knew about the treasure, he knew it was worth everything.
Is there anything that I could offer you that you would trade everything you owned for? What could make you cash out your entire life savings and write the biggest check of your life? Jesus wants us to think about how valuable that treasure must have been for this man to immediately sell everything to buy it. What could possibly be worth that much to us today?
If we were to ask the Apostle Paul that same question, perhaps he’d answer with his words in Philippians 3:8:
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
For Paul, everything was worthless compared to knowing Jesus. And all the valuable things of the world are garbage in comparison to having Jesus in his life. Are we able to honestly say the same thing about our lives today?
The Priceless Pearl (Matthew 13:45-46)
“Whatever cost a person expends is nothing in comparison to the benefit of belonging to it. Salvation and the righteousness of the kingdom is a greater treasure than all that the world has to offer, and it is the source of greatest joy.”
-Michael Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary (Matthew), p. 505.
Jesus only talked about pearls twice in his life. In Matthew 7:6, Jesus tells us to stop wasting our expensive pearls on pigs who would never be able to appreciate them. They simply don’t have the ability to recognize their true value. On the other hand, in Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus tells a parable about a trained merchant who knows exactly what he’s looking for. He has the expertise to know the immense value of the pearl he’s just found. And because it’s so extraordinarily valuable, he sold everything he had to buy it.
Pigs treat pearls like dirt. But the discerning eye of a trained merchant can recognize their intrinsic value. Which one are you? Are you able to see and understand the immense value of a relationship with God? That’s the question that Jesus invites us to consider.
Two men. Two priceless treasures. Two immediate decisions to radically upend one’s life in order to take hold of the treasure. Jesus is telling us that treasure is waiting to be found for those who are willing to dig deeply. And it’s a priceless treasure that far exceeds anything the world has to offer. But what exactly is this treasure?
The straightforward answer is that the Kingdom of God itself is the priceless treasure. Jesus wants us to know that our life with God is more valuable than anything we could hope to possess in this life. More valuable than our career, our house, our cars 401k, even our family and our friends (cf. Matthew 12:46-50)
Take a moment and read through these four passages. Notice the way they each describe the Word of God and our life of faith as much more valuable than all the treasures the world:
- Psalm 12:6, “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.”
- Psalm 19:9-10, “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold…”
- Psalm 119:72, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” (see also 119:127)
- 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT), “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.”
Are you ready to let everything else go so you can take hold of the priceless treasure God is offering you today?