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Lessons from the Parables: Selling All for the Kingdom of God

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Lessons from the Parables

Selling All for the Kingdom of God

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Jesus had been speaking to His disciples about land, fields and tangible, earthy things like seed, leaven and weeds. Matthew 13 contains some of the most famous examples He used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven and the Word of God. The Kingdom, He said, is like seed sown in a field, or "the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed."

Everyone who knows a farmer understands that land and seed are the essence of their life. You cannot be a farmer without land, and you must know how to sow good seed in a proper manner to, as is hoped, yield a good crop.

In fact, of the two, land is probably the heart of the unique life of farming. A farmer and his land become one. There's a line from the famous novel Gone With the Wind where the father of Scarlett O'Hara takes her out to the fields and talks of the importance of owning, working and fighting for one's land. The land, he explains, is "the only thing that lasts."

That makes sense. And yet Jesus Christ presents something that contradicts this.

"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).

And as if the point is not made, He said it again with another example: "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).

Note the repeated word "again." It is almost as if Jesus didn't want to stop talking about the Kingdom without driving home a key lesson. He had gone into much detail in relating parables about the Kingdom being like the sowing of seed (Matthew 13:18-19) and "like a man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matthew 13:24). Both these parables required lengthy explanations. Yet the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke is so vast a subject that it cannot be fully explained in two examples.

Yet it is so simple that He could condense a point into one sentence.

To drive home the lesson, He adds two powerful word pictures to illustrate the all-in approach we must have to gain the Kingdom. "Sell all!" He says, and with whatever we then have, "buy that field" or "buy that pearl"!

It's not the land itself in the parable that's of highest value. It's what is hidden in the field that makes it so valuable.

With the pearl merchant, it's the one great pearl, among many pearls, that he finds and buys. In both short parables there is one action that has to be done. In both, a person had to "sell all that he had" to buy the treasure of ultimate value—and in real life that treasure is the Kingdom.

There is one great lesson for us. Are we willing to sell all that we have to gain the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke? If not, we could find ourselves falling short of this most important goal.

Getting rid of stuff

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a transfer in my job to another state. After 22 years in one home we had to get it ready for sale and prepare to pack all our possessions for the moving company. In 22 years you accumulate a lot of stuff. It's amazing how it grows in the closets, garages and basements of our homes. We quickly realized there was no need to move all this stuff. If we hadn't used it for years in the old home, why would we need it in another?

So we sorted through the stuff. We gave some away, especially any items of value that our children might want. We boxed up stuff and delivered it to the various charities that redistribute what you no longer need. After a few days we looked around the house and realized that we still had too much stuff and that perhaps a garage sale would help us get rid of the rest and put a few dollars in our pocket as well.

So we set up tables and put out the items for sale—and over two days sold most of the stuff. It was amazing. People came from our suburban neighborhood, and we met people who for all those years had lived just a few blocks from us but whom we never saw nor knew. They came, they looked, and they bought our stuff. But in the process my wife and I noticed something deeper.

Many of those who came were not there merely to buy. They were there because they needed to talk to someone about what was on their mind.

One lady had recently lost her husband to cancer and was lonely. She stood in our yard with our insignificant little castoff in hand and told us how much she had loved her husband and how lonely life was now that he was gone. We were friendly strangers, but she felt she could talk—and on this sunny warm day and she had come looking not for a little trinket but for human contact with another person who would listen to her for a few minutes.

So we listened. She paid the 25 cents for our stuff, got into her car and drove off. The next day, I told my wife, she will be at another sale looking for someone else to hear her story.

Another man came to the sale and was interested in buying a set of stereo speakers I no longer used. He offered a lot less than I wanted, and I held out for something closer to what I thought was a proper value. We bargained for a time and finally, after about an hour, agreed to a price.

I thought he would put them into his truck and be off, but I was wrong. He asked for a glass of cold water. And while he was drinking he started telling me about his personal life.

His wife had recently left him. He was left to raise their teenage daughter while at the same time coping with the rejection by his wife. On top of it all, his business partner had recently absconded with the money from their business, and he was facing bankruptcy. All these revelations came within the few minutes it took him to drink the glass of water.

What did my wife and I conclude after two days of conversations like this as neighbors came to our yard to look through our accumulated stuff? We learned that relationships are more important than stuff. People are more interesting than all the possessions we can accumulate and hoard through a lifetime. We concluded that things, trinkets, stuff—whatever you want to call it—are of most value when used to direct us to the true values of life.

People are valuable. They are created in the image of God. Shared experiences of life are rich in lessons when they draw empathy and compassion from one to another. It isn't how much stuff you have at the end of your life that's important. What is of most value are the relationships you've gathered, maintained and preserved through a lifetime of focusing on others, on God and on His Kingdom.

We learned that the essence of God's Kingdom of Heaven is found in the shedding of stuff. We understood that when we do this, we are more able to clearly visualize the coming Kingdom. We finally grasped what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus also directly stated that "one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).

Life is not about stuff!

Christ's two parables about ultimate treasure in Matthew 13 are telling us quite clearly that we must be willing to part with all that we have to buy the great treasure or pearl of great price.

God's Kingdom is infinitely more valuable than any physical things we might obtain. Until we're willing to part with what we value above the Kingdom, we won't be able to capture the vision God holds out to each of us. When we're more interested in accumulating and holding onto money, cars, homes, status or pride and ego—all the modern idols our culture erects and worships—then we will not see nor possess the Kingdom of God.

Where are you in this story? Look around your room right now. Look at the car in your garage or the home you own. What do you see that you cannot part with, that you would not want to sell? What, among all your possessions, is more valuable than the treasure hid in a field or the pearl of great price?

Fix your gaze on that item and ask yourself: When it is old and broken, or tarnished and decayed, will it make you happy? Will you put it—whatever "it" is—before God and the one hope of eternal life He gives you? When you're struggling for your final breaths of life, will this thing comfort you with understanding about what your life has been about?

If you can honestly answer no to the above, then you are ready to buy the right field and the great pearl.

So what's holding you back?