I think I loved these parables of Jesus the first time I heard them because I knew exactly what he was talking about: “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.” “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46) Having made some costly trades myself, I knew both the desire to make the trade and the thrill of giving it all to get the new item. That is the way Jesus wants people to approach his kingdom: recognize the value, desire it above all else, sell it all, make the deal!
And if you do, the people around you will think you have lost your mind. But you will know that you got a great deal and you will always treasure the kingdom.
Jesus followed those two stories about trading with a fishing story. Here it is: “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” (Matthew 13:47-48) This is still a story of looking for treasure, but just from a different angle. The fishermen fish to eat and to earn money. Every fish in the net is potentially valuable. The men sort through and cull out the fish that are bad (read: that no one wants to eat). The good ones, they keep to either sell or eat.
But notice the explanation of Jesus concerning this story: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50) It is not really people are doing the fishing, people are the fish. The angels are doing the sorting and it is, therefore, God who is looking for treasure! This story often frustrates Christians, because we want to be the ones doing the sorting – picking out who is saved and who is lost. But in reality we are all in the net among the fish that are being sorted. It is not our taste that decides between good and bad, but God’s taste alone that makes that distinction.
Jesus seems to be saying that the best way to live is to give up everything for the kingdom of heaven. Then live in such a way to match the taste of the one who gave up everything for you, the treasure he was seeking!
- Kenny Payne