As the Lord’s ministry progressed, the hostility of the Jewish leaders intensified. Accordingly, at a certain point in time, Jesus began to teach in parables.
Christ’s parables were human stories with a heavenly meaning. Their design was two-fold. First, his parables effectively communicated divine truths to those who were honest of heart.
Second, the story form concealed those truths from those who would abuse them, and thus seek the Savior’s death prematurely (Matt. 13:13ff).
In Matthew 13, there is a collection of seven parables which are intended to emphasize certain important spiritual concepts which God’s people need to appreciate.
Among these parables are two which are strikingly similar; and yet, they have a significant difference as well. These are the parables of “the hidden treasure,” and that of “the pearl of great price.” These one-sentence parables read as follows:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matt 13:44, 45).
Let’s consider some similarities and then a significant difference between these two parables of our Lord.
Similarities Between the Two Parables
Initially we are struck with the fact that both of these parables deal with the kingdom of heaven.
The term kingdom is employed in a variety of ways in the New Testament. It can refer to the reign of God over his people under the Mosaic system (Matt. 21:43). And it is used of the final abode of the saints, that is, heaven itself (2 Tim. 4:18).
Frequently, however, kingdom simply refers to the church (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:6,9). Clearly, it is this latter sense to which the Lord alludes in the collection of kingdom parables of Matthew 13.
Jesus is thus teaching some great truths relative to the church that he would presently establish (Matt. 16:18).
In these two parables, Christ is comparing the exceeding great value of the kingdom to a treasure and a pearl of great value.
The Value of the Kingdom
The kingdom is of inestimable value for several reasons.
First, because the kingdom of Christ cost the Son of God his very life. Jesus gave his blood to purchase the church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25).
In view of this, how could anyone ever minimize the Lord’s spiritual body? And yet it is done all the time by denominationalists who allege that the church is only one of many spiritual options in the divine scheme of things.
The kingdom is a treasure because it represents the state of salvation.
Observe the following line of argument. Salvation is found “in Christ” (2 Tim. 2:10).
Being in the Lord is equivalent to being “in [the] one body” (Eph. 2:15-16). But being in the one body is the same as being in the church (Eph. 1:22-23), which in fact is the kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19).
Those saved, therefore, constitute the kingdom (cf. Eph. 5:26,. Those who reject citizenship in Christ’s kingdom are viewed as the Lord’s enemies (Luke 19:14, 27).
How very tragic it is that so many utterly disdain the kingdom, claiming that it bears no relationship to the matter of redemption.
Another great value of the kingdom is that it provides an environment wherein we may find peace with God and peace with ourselves.
There are those in our society who would give all their earthly possessions for one day’s sense of peace. It simply cannot be purchased.
But justification through Heaven’s faith system can yield a profound sense of peace (Rom. 5:1; cf. John 16:33).
Note this word of consolation from Paul:
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
True peace is not based upon superficial emotionalism. Rather, it is grounded in a solid, biblically-based relationship with the Lord.
There is another great value of the kingdom. People.
There are thousands of people in our great cities who seem not to have a solitary kinsman or friend in all the realm of their associations.
I once conducted a funeral service wherein no one was present but himself, the deceased, and two others. So many lonely souls are utterly without companionship.
Consider, though, the precious blessing of all the kinsmen we have in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Lord taught that those who follow him have “houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children” (Mk. 10:31).
No one can put a price tag on this sort of spiritual companionship.
These things, and others too numerous to count, are great treasures to be found in the kingdom of heaven. Let us never depreciate it.
The Kingdom: Worthy of Our Sacrifices
Another similarity between these two parables is the fact that both emphasize the deep sacrifice that one must be willing to make to obtain the blessings associated with the Lord’s kingdom.
In each case the man was willing to sell “all that he had” in order to embrace his treasure or pearl.
What are some of the sacrifices that we must be willing to make on behalf of the Lord’s kingdom.
The initial sacrifice that we must make in order to partake of the kingdom blessings is that of the sacrifice of ourself. Jesus taught that the person who would follow him must “deny himself” (Lk. 9:23).
The hardest thing any of us will ever do is thrusting our own interests to the background and seeking the kingdom first (Matt. 6:33). But that is precisely what is required.
Paul left us a model for emulation: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that liveth, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 3:20).
There are far too many within the family of God who treat membership in the body of Christ as if it were a hobby, some sort of civic organization, or a mere weekend exercise.
Many years ago, a man approached me expressing an interest in being baptized. As we talked, he made it clear that he had no intention of ceasing some of his vile habits or even attending worship services. He felt that if he were simply immersed that would be sufficient to obtain his hope of heaven. Needless to say, I did not accommodate his lack of commitment.
Here is another sacrifice we must be willing to make. Sometimes, we must sacrifice our family and friends for the cause of Christ. Jesus demanded:
“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).
A young lady seventeen years of age was taught the gospel. She happily embraced it. But then her parents forbade her to attend worship. What did she do?
She would slip out of her upstairs window, climb down a tree, and make her way to services. Ultimately she won permission to serve God unrestricted. Today, she is a faithful Christian grandmother!
Of course, genuine Christians sacrifice their time, talents, and money in the interests of the kingdom of God.
The parable of the talents (Matt. 25) is a somber warning of the consequences of failing to use what the Lord has placed at our disposal.
Once we determine that we will truly give ourselves to God (2 Cor. 8:5), everything else will fall into place. As a favorite song has it, “heaven will be worth it all.”
We must all encourage each other attempt to better catch the spirit of these two parables. Clearly they emphasize the value of the eternal and the effort that must be expended in that interest.
A Significant Difference Between the Two Parables
A significant difference between the parable of the hidden treasure, and that of the pearl of great price, seems to be that in the former, the man accidentally found the treasure. In the latter narrative, the merchant was seeking the goodly pearl.
Perhaps this represents two classes of persons that are exposed to the gospel.
On the one hand, there are those who are going about their lives, busily engaged in daily activities, and who are wholly unaware of what they are missing by ignoring spiritual realities. They may be exposed to the truth by means of a neighbor, a website, or some other method of evangelism, and thus be thrilled with their new discovery.
They stumble over the Word of grace, recognize its value, and readily receive it.
The Samaritan woman in John 4 may be an example of such. When she went for water to Jacob’s well that day, little did she dream that she would find the treasure of spiritual water whereby her thirst could be quenched eternally.
Then, on the other hand, there are those who know their lives are disheveled. They are so unhappy and are searching for something to provide them with contentment of soul.
In their hunger and thirst for righteousness they discover, perhaps with the assistance of the unseen hand of Providence, the pure gospel and forsake all to possess it.
Nicodemas, who sought out the Savior by night (John 3), appears to have had this frame of mind.
What thrilling truths the Master’s parables contain. Let us explore them with great diligence.