“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44 NIV
On 22 September 2015, a slightly damaged 9-inch oil painting was put up for auction. The painting had sat in the basement of a New Jersey house for years and after the homeowners had died, their children asked the owner of an auction house to auction any valuables he found in the house. The auction house owner found the painting “remarkably unremarkable” and expected it to sell for just $500 to $800. However, once the painting was put up for auction, some art dealers from Paris got excited because they immediately suspected it to be an early work of Rembrandt, the Dutch Old Master painter. They bought the work for a bargain price of $870,000, but later sold it to a New York financier and art collector, for a reported $3 to $4 million. Conservationists had discovered Rembrandt’s initials under a layer of varnish, proving that the painting was indeed his work.
It is interesting that the oil painting was unappreciated for many years until someone noticed its value and was prepared to pay handsomely beyond the expected price to obtain it. In the same way, in the parable of the hidden treasure, when the man found the treasure hidden in a field, he recognized its value and that set off a chain of actions he undertook to acquire it. Do we appreciate what the kingdom of heaven means to us? The kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God, refers to the rule of God both in our lives now and in its final manifestation and consummation in the future. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man has tried to live his own life and rule the world without God, and failed. Sin makes the effort a lost cause. God had to redeem us from sin, and He paid a great price for it – no less than with the precious blood of God's own Son, Jesus. God gave us a great treasure that we did not deserve … and paid for it.
So why did the man in the parable had to pay for the treasure he found? In fact he buried it, and with joy sold all he had and bought the field that hid the treasure. Had he taken the treasure, it would have cost him nothing (assuming it was legal for him to do so in the first place!). It would be doubtful if he had recognized its true value and that he would hold on to it for long. Instead, he knew that whatever it cost him, the cost he incurred would pale against the value of the treasure.
In Mark 10:17-31, the rich man was not willing to part with his wealth to follow Jesus. He wanted to inherit eternal life, but he didn’t appreciate its value. On the other hand, Peter declared “We have left everything to follow you!” and Jesus replied that no one who gave up what was precious to them for Him and the gospel would fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come external life. You can’t out give God. That is also why the man in the parable paid for the field in which the treasure was hidden - he couldn’t afford the treasure!
But buying the field means having to deal with the responsibility of owning it. In the same verse in Mark where Jesus promised a hundred times return, He also warned that it will also come “along with persecutions” in this present age. To own the treasure, we must own the field. But we understand also why there is a purpose in “buying the field” from James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
If we truly knew what we have received and would be receiving from God, we would pay for it with joy.
Lord, You are more precious than silver.
Lord, You are more costly than gold.
Lord You are more beautiful than diamonds,
and nothing I desire compares to You.
- Lyrics by Lynn DeShazo