“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” –Matthew 13:44
People go to extreme measures for joy. They change their faces, jobs, spouses, (you name it!) in order to fulfill the desires of their hearts. However, constantly these joys come and go. They spend countless amounts of time and money in seeking joy that lasts. Life for some is a never-ending pursuit of joy and satisfaction, which twists and turns at different points. Radical risks are taken to obtain satisfaction that does not fail. But the truth is, all earthly pleasures ultimately end and fail. Even the most joyous of marriages end in death. Some go through life gulping down salt water only to be more thirsty after the drink than before. Temporary pleasures are not enough for the desperately thirsty human soul.
But what if there was a joy that never ended and never failed? What would such a joy be worth? What price would you put on something that brings this kind of joy? According to Jesus, such a treasure does exist and it is worth risking all.
Matthew 13:44 is a passage that brings unparalleled good news to the hungry human heart. Let’s look at it together and see how this passage should be interpreted.
The first important observation that must be made is that this passage is indeed a parable and should be interpreted as such. Secondly, since it is a parable, there are a few steps to take in order to correctly interpret this passage. Before getting caught up in the frill of the story, it is important to stay focused on the main point of the parable. The main character should be noted—“a man.” Then it should be observed that at the end of this parable, this man buys a field that has a treasure hidden in it. In this relatively short parable, it is important to notice there is no dialogue or other characters so the attention is primarily on this man and his actions following his discovery of a treasure. The main point of this parable seems to be that the treasure this man found brought him tremendous joy and was very valuable; so much so, that he sold all he had in order to have it. Another guideline that follows this is to seek to understand Jesus’ meaning in this parable. From this main point, it is easy to see Jesus’ meaning. He compared this treasure to the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, Jesus was conveying to his hearers that the kingdom of heaven is exceedingly joyful and valuable and is therefore worthy of sacrifice of other riches. Jesus expresses the superiority and supremacy of the kingdom of heaven in this parable. It is also important to note Matthew’s theology in order to correctly interpret this passage. Since the kingdom of heaven is central to Matthew’s gospel, it makes sense that this exaltation of the kingdom of heaven would be a correct interpretation of this parable.
Finally, some implications should be drawn. This parable is a challenge to all believers. Questions follow: Do you find joy in Jesus who has ushered you into his kingdom? Are you treasuring earthly riches at the expense of treasuring the things of the kingdom of heaven? Are you willing to risk all and give all for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? This parable is also highly evangelistic. The kingdom of heaven is not merely a pleasant place absent of sin and it is also not merely your ticket out of hell. The kingdom of heaven is a joyful reality above all others—a treasure that brings lasting joy and is eternally supreme, worthy of the most radical of sacrifices.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.