Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides…
These parables depict the two great classes of men who become Christians. Some men are born merchants, others day labourers; some, i.e., are born with a noble instinct which prompts them to believe that there is infinite joy and satisfaction to be found, and that it shall be theirs; others, again, never look beyond their present attainment, have no speculation in them, no broad plan of life nor much idea that any purpose is to be served by it. This difference, when exhibited in connection with religion, becomes very marked.
I. The point of the first parable, and its distinction from the other, seems to lie in this - that while the man was giving a deeper furrow to his field, intent only on his team, his ploughshare suddenly grated upon the chest that contained the treasure. Or he may have been sauntering through a neighbour's field, when his eye is attracted by some sign that fixes him for the moment to the spot, because he knows that treasure must be there. Ages before this treasure had been hid; for him it had been prepared without any intention or labour of his, and now suddenly he lights upon it. Out of poverty he, to his own astonishment, steps into wealth, and his whole life is changed for a time without hope or effort of his own. So, says our Lord, is the kingdom of heaven. Suddenly, in the midst of other thoughts, a man is brought face to face with Christ, and while earning his daily bread and seeking no more than success in life can give him, unexpectedly finds that eternal things are his. We only think of what we can make of life, not of the wealth God has laid in our path. But suddenly our steps are arrested; circumstances that seem purely accidental break down the partition that has hemmed us in to time, and we see that eternity is ours. We thought we had a house, a hundred acres of land, a thousand pounds well invested, and we find we have God. We were comforting ourselves with the prospect of increased salary, of ampler comforts and advantages, and a voice comes ringing through our soul, "All things are yours; for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." How it is that the eyes are now opened to this treasure, we can as little tell as the ploughman how he has never till this day seen the treasure. A few words casually dropped, some pause which allows the mind to wander in unaccustomed directions - one cannot say what is insufficient to bring the wandering and empty soul to a settled possession of the kingdom of heaven. But this morning he was content with what a man can have outside of God's kingdom, this evening everything outside that kingdom has lost its value and is as nothing. We are apt to think that, as the acceptance of Christ is the most important attainment a man can make, there ought to be some proportionate effort or expectancy on his part - that so great a treasure is not to be made over to one who is not caring for or thinking of it. But this parable shows us that there may be a finding without any previous seeking; that the essential thing is, not whether a man has been seeking, and how long and how earnestly, but whether he has found. The question is - Does a man know the value of what has turned up before him? and is he so in earnest as to sell all for it?
II. The second parable introduces us to the man who sets out with the inborn conviction or instinct that there is something worth the labour and search of a life, something to which we can wholly, freely, and eternally give ourselves up. He refuses to be satisfied with the moderate, often interrupted, often quenched joys of this world, though he considers them as goodly pearls. He goes on from one acquirement to another. Money is good, but friendship is better; he parts with the one to get the other. The respect of his fellows is good, but self-respect and a pure conscience are better. Human love is a goodly pearl, but this only quickens him to crave insatiably for the love of God. He refuses to believe that God has created us to be partially satisfied, happy at intervals, content with effort, believing ourselves blessed, but to be partakers of his own blessedness. This spirit of expectation is encouraged by the parable. It seems to say to us, "Covet earnestly the best gifts." It is not for you who have a God of infinite resource and of infinite love to accustom yourselves to merely negative blessings, and doubtful, limited conditions. There does exist a perfect condition, a pearl of great price, and there is but a question of the way to it, a question of search. You are to start with this belief, and to hold it to the end. Under no compulsion, in the face of no disappointment, give up the persuasion that into your life and soul the full sense of ample possession is one day to enter. You have certainty on your side - simple, sheer certainty; for "he that seeketh findeth." The important point in these parables is that which is common to both - the incomparable value of the kingdom of heaven, and the readiness with which one who perceives its value will give up all for it. The merchant does not part with his other possessions reluctantly when he wishes to obtain some better possession; he longs to get rid of them. People may think him mad selling out at low prices, at unsuitable times, at a loss; but he knows what he is doing. The world is full of stories that display the ingenuity, craft, perseverance, consuming zeal, spent on winning the piece of ground coveted. But is this not rather a picture of what ought to be than of what is? We see men hesitating to part with anything for the kingdom of heaven, looking at it as a sad alternative, as a resort to which they must perhaps betake themselves when too old to enjoy life any longer, but not as that on which life itself may best be spent. Entrance into it is looked upon much as entrance into the fortified town is viewed by the rural population; it may be necessary in time of danger, but it is by constraint, not from love, that they make the change. What meaning has this "selling of all" in our life? For it is to be observed that there is always this selling wherever the kingdom of heaven is won. It is what you really love that you spend thought and effort and money upon, not what you know you ought to love and are trying to persuade yourself to love. In conclusion, this parable lets fall two words of warning.
1. Make your choice and act upon it. If there is no better pearl, no higher treasure than what you can win by devotion to business and living for yourself, then by all means choose that and make the most of it. But if you think that Christ was right, if you foresee that what is outside his kingdom must perish, and that he has gathered within it all that is worthy, all that is enduring, then let the reasonableness and remonstrance of this parable move you to show some eagerness in winning that great treasure.
2. If you have this treasure, do not murmur at the price you have paid for it. Having what worlds cannot buy, you will surely not vex yourself by longing for this or that which the poorest-spirited slave of this world can easily obtain. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.