The Kingdom of God costs you everything because, when you find it, you can’t stay who you once were. Your life is radically changed. Your loves are altered. Your purpose is different. The Kingdom of God costs you nothing because Jesus paid the price to give it to you. He gave you the right to be called a child of God (John 1:12). Now, because of him, it’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
“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
Here we have a simple parable. A man finds a treasure in a field, covers it up, sells all he has, and buys the field, buying also the treasure within. Simple though it is, this parable raises many questions. Why would someone bury treasure in a field? When he found it, was the man ethical in covering and then purchasing the field? What does the treasure represent? Interpretations have varied throughout church history. And while those are important things to consider, I’d like to summarize the answers quickly so that we can consider what I believe to be the real power of the parable.
In Jesus’s day, no one put their money in a bank. If they needed to keep it safe, they would bury it in the ground. We see this in the parable of the talents, where the man with one talent is fearful of losing it, so he buries it until the Master returns (Matthew 25:25). To find treasure in the ground would not have been surprising to Jesus’ audience. Furthermore, the man would not have been considered unethical for covering it and purchasing the field. Jewish law stated, basically, whatever you find outside someone’s house is yours—finders keepers.
Now, what is the treasure? This is the big question of the parable. What is worth so much that the man sells everything he has and, in joy, buys the field? Here in chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells parables to explain the Kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven, in Matthew’s words). Considering the context, we must force ourselves to stay inside the kingdom lines and listen to what Jesus is saying. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13:9).
Jesus is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that the kingdom is very valuable. It is also, apparently, very accessible. The man who found the treasure did not travel to a faraway galaxy. He didn’t change his situation. He went about his day and, to his surprise, dug up the treasure.
Out of these seven parables of Matthew 13, four of them feature a field as their location. Coming after the sower, the weeds, and the mustard seed, Jesus must want to communicate something about the kingdom using fields. What is it? Tim Keller talks about the ordinariness of the ways of God. Just before Jesus tells these parables, he has miraculously healed people. That’s not ordinary. But when he gets to his teaching about the Kingdom of God, he puts away talk of miracles and begins speaking about ordinary things. Why? Because the normal working of God is found in the ordinary. He can work outside of that, but his normal workings are inside of everyday life.
A field is something we take for granted. We pass by them all the time, and we give almost no thought to what’s inside. The kingdom of God is like that. It’s always around but seldom on our minds. In these parables, Jesus is bringing the Kingdom of God to the forefront of our minds. He’s telling us what it’s like and how important it is.