Life Through Death Sermon Series Sermon #1 December 27, 2015
Reconsidering Your Treasure Matthew 13:44-46
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Suppose that you had never read the Bible; that you had never heard about Jesus Christ; and that you didn’t have a clue as to the teachings of Christianity. Imagine if all you knew about life was “Look out for #1” and “Live for today.” And then someone shared with you the following proverbs, and challenged you to live by them:
You can only experience life through death.
Good will often come out of evil.
The only way to real freedom is through slavery.
If you want to experience exaltation then you must humble yourself.
The road to gaining riches is by losing everything that seems valuable.
You’ll know abundance through giving away.
What would you think? Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But what if all the stuff that you treasure and cling to is actually junk, and you’re ignoring vital truths and incredible assets that could be yours?
This morning I am beginning a short series of sermons that I am calling “Life through Death.”
In the gospel, Jesus Christ challenges us with the truth that what the world says is valuable is really expendable, and even a mirage, and what most people think is foolishness and weakness is actually full of joy, glory, and riches. Therefore, I’ll start this morning by asking you to “Reconsider your Treasure.”
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Great Pearl Matthew 13:44-46
44 “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. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
In these two mini-parables, Jesus Christ challenges us in two ways:
First, He calls us to reconsider our treasures, and…
Second, He challenges us to make a radical response, based on that reconsideration.
Let’s think first about the details of each parable:
First, to understand the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, we need to remember that back then, people did not put their riches in a safe-deposit box in the bank. Rather, valuables such as coins and jewels were often hidden in a jar or a box in the earth, sometimes to be forgotten about, until discovered much later by someone else. In fact the discoveries of such buried treasures were a favorite theme of popular stories. That’s the situation here: the man finds buried treasure in a field, and realizing how rich this would make him, he gladly sells everything he owned, in order to buy the field, and thus be able to claim the treasure for himself!
Imagine the scene here: he’s walking through a field one day, and he happens to glimpse the edge of a metal box sticking up from the ground. Immensely curious, he starts digging around the box, and eventually uncovers a chest. He opens it up and to his amazement he finds rubies and diamonds, gold and silver, worth millions of dollars in today’s currency! He knows immediately what he’ll do: He’s going to sell his house, his animals, his furniture, his cart, and everything else he owns, in order to buy this field and the treasure it contains.
Why does he do that? Because the treasure in the field was worth a million times everything he owned. It doesn’t matter if he just remodeled the house, or if he had just purchased four new donkeys, or if he had bought gold jewelry for his wife’s birthday as a surprise. He was going to sell it all… ALL… so that he could buy that field and have that treasure.
Note that it was a joy, not a sacrifice, for this man to sell all he had, in order to buy the field with this great treasure in it. Here is a picture not of renunciation but of reconsideration. The discovery of this buried treasure radically changes his perspective on his possessions and on and values. Suddenly his possessions look cheap and paltry. Therefore he was thrilled as he sold all that he had; he was singing the Hallelujah Chorus and doing a jig, because in giving up everything he had, he would be able to possess something of far, far greater value! Wouldn’t you do the same thing?
Now let’s move on to the parable of the Pearl of Great Value. We need to understand that pearls were highly valued in the ancient world. Long known as the “Queen of Gems,” pearls possess a history and allure far beyond what today’s wearer may recognize. Throughout much of recorded history, a natural pearl necklace was a treasure of almost incomparable value, in fact it was the most expensive jewelry in the world. Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost exclusively for the noble and very rich… At the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, an historian wrote that a certain Roman general financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings. So you can appreciate why Jesus uses a pearl here.
Now like the man in the previous parable, this merchant realizes what a valuable prize this one pearl is, and he too, has no doubt that his only possible response is to sell everything he owns, in order to obtain this precious pearl. For this merchant, “prudent calculation gives way to extravagant action.”
What do both of these parables have in common? There are three steps that both men followed:
1. They both recognized the inestimable value of what they had found: treasure/ pearl.
2. Both of them were determined to possess these objects of great value, whatever it would cost them. They re-evaluated all their priorities and values accordingly.
3. They joyfully sold everything they had to obtain it. They closed the deal, they pulled the trigger; they didn’t flinch at the thought of losing everything they had in order to get the one thing they wanted. They followed through on this monumental, life-changing decision. Note that it was not enough just to acknowledge that the treasure or the pearl were very valuable; they had to make it theirs! There is a vast difference between knowing that a certain pearl is of great value and selling all that you have in order to obtain that pearl. Let me give you an analogy: You may understand that ice cream is a smooth and delicious treat; you may tell others that ice cream is a wonderfully sweet treat; but until you have actually tasted that luscious ice cream, it’s only head knowledge; and you’re not really all in! These men in the parables were “all in.”
Jim Elliot, who gave up his life seeking to bring the gospel to the Auca Indians in South America, once wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” He also said this: “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.”
Application: If we really understand what glories are ours in the gospel and in Jesus Christ, then we would realize how silly we are to cling to our toys of dust and rubbish…right? (Anyone who discovers treasure and walks away from it is a fool, and that is what many do with the gospel.)
So if that is true…why are we so slow to give up earthly treasures for the sake of heavenly ones? Is it because we really don’t believe in heavenly realities?
And do you know what we often have the hardest time letting go of?
Usually it is our own self-righteousness. It is my sense that I am a good person. It is my pride that I’m not as bad as other people. It is my accomplishments. In fact, even when you have a low view of yourself, that can actually be a form of pride and self-righteousness, because you cling to it as if it were your identity.
So listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Phil. 3:8-9 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
Do you remember what Paul was writing about in the verses before this? He was writing about his own righteousness before he knew Jesus Christ: Of the chosen people of Israel, a law-abiding Pharisee, and “Faultless with respect to legalistic righteousness.”
That’s what Paul now reconsidered as rubbish…in light of the treasure of real righteousness that comes from Christ!
Therefore, are you willing to reconsider your pride and self-righteousness, in light of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and then make a radical response, by faith in Christ and Christ alone?
Are you willing to walk away from whatever might hinder you from fully possessing the glories of Jesus Christ in the gospel? What are you not willing to part with?
As professing Christians, we say that we believe that Jesus and the Gospel are more valuable than our possession, our freedom, and our life. But what do our priorities and actions say? This is not to drive us to think negatively about our things, our freedoms, and our very lives. No. We can enjoy them as gifts from God (See Ps. 104:15- wine, oil, and bread; Acts 14:17 – “(God) has shown you kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy;” 1 Tim 6:17 “God…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”). Rather, it is to make us think more highly of the riches of Jesus Christ!
“Soldiers in wartime must forgo pleasure not because pleasure is evil, but because more pressing claims demand their attention.
“In positive terms the Way of the Cross is: (1) the discovery of incomparable treasure at the cost of everything else in life and (2) the discovery of freedom at the price of selling myself into slavery (to Christ).”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”