There is a parable in the book of Matthew that I think strikes most of us today as awkward. I know that I've read right past it several times, until this past week when it showed up in another story and I really stopped to think about it. The story is in Matthew 13.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. When a man discovered it, he buried it again. He was so delighted with it that he went away, sold everything he had, and bought that field. Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who was searching for fine pearls. When he found a valuable pearl, he went away, sold everything he had, and bought it.
Maybe it's just me, but these verses always left me with questions. Questions like...why did the guy bury the treasure again instead of just take it with him to get the money to buy the field? And...why was he buying the field in the first place? Was there more treasure in it? And...what's the deal with the guy with the pearl? Was it really worth everything he had? What was he going to do with the pearl?
...Like I said, I was reading right past this story without a second thought.
I think it strikes most of us as odd to buy the field. I don't think we really think about it. This guy found this tremendous treasure and he risked to put it back where he found it until he could afford to buy the whole field. And I think part of me still immediately jumps to the idea that he was about to start an archaeological expedition in that field, searching for more treasure. That's where my postmodern, 21st-Century, entitled mind goes. Dude wanted to maximize his investment; he wanted everything that field had to offer.
Then it occurs to me he already found it.
Then it occurs to me he refuses to steal it, which is something else that I think strikes most of us as odd. If you found a treasure in a field and you were confident enough to bury it again and trust that no one was going to steal it in the time it took you to get back, shouldn't you also be just as confident to tuck it in your pocket and walk away? I mean...what good is a field if you already have its treasure?
A valid point. On the surface.
I think this is the question so many people are asking about Christianity today. About God, about church, about salvation. I think we're wondering why so many people buy the field when it would be just as easy to tuck Christ in your pocket and walk away. People want to come to the Cross not for the passion but for the promise. They want heaven, the treasure buried in the field. They have no need of the dirt.
Then they're carrying around this Christ without the investment of having actually bought into Him and...I don't know. The whole thing is cheap.
I'm not saying you can't have the treasure. The grace of God is free. Go ahead and take it. But there's something about buying the field. There's something about selling everything you've got, cleaning your own house, clearing your closets, putting everything out there and stripping yourself to nothing just to get this one thing. There's something about investing all you've got in the field, about giving all you have to the work of God. There's something about having this place where you know there is treasure...and you also know it is yours.
You've heard it said that so-and-so is outstanding in their field? Well, I'm more interested in the persons out standing in their field! I'm looking for people who have bought the field! I'm looking at those who know that when God said He was giving man this land to tend, He was talking to them. I'm looking to the men and women with the dirt on their hands, the sweat on their brows, the cuts on their feet who have found treasure in the field and sold themselves out to buy the whole thing. Now, they're standing there working it and there's something growing. They are cultivating the kingdom of heaven itself. In their own little place. On their own little plot. In their field. Because they know the promise of tomorrow's heaven is no answer for today's hell on earth unless we're invested in this place. Unless we're all in.
And I'm hoping to be the kind of person to make such an investment. I hope I am. The treasure is great, don't get me wrong. The kingdom of heaven is marvelous.
But there's something about buying the field.