A pirate captain was out to retrieve his buried treasure. After months of hard sailing his ship caught site of land, the land to which his treasure map had been leading. He and his first mate disembarked on the island to search out the buried treasure, which was supposed to lie hidden deep within a swamp at the center of the island.
Sure enough, at the center of the island was a swamp. The Captain and his first mate entered the swamp. As they walked farther, the swamp began to get deeper, and the pirate’s feet, then ankles, and finally entire leg below the knees was covered in swamp muck. Then the Captain banged his shin against something hard. He reached down, found the object, and pulled up a treasure chest. Prying the lock open, the chest revealed gold and jewels beyond imagination.
The Captain turned to his first mate and said, “Arrrr, matey, just goes to show ye that booty is only shin deep!”
Hidden treasures today are rare. In the ancient biblical lands, however, things were different. Palestine, which was a land bridge between Egypt and the great empires, was repeatedly invaded, ravaged, and captured. Multitudes buried gold. There were no banks. The government, nobility, clergy, and invaders all robbed the common people often and without warning.
Because of this, the people quickly buried treasure in the ground, in walls, in tree trunks, or wherever they could. Earthquakes could cover up entire cities and bury gold with them. All kinds of people quickly buried what they had in the face of invasion or political change. They left, they died, they were captured, and no one knew where the treasure was hidden.
This is the actual world in which Jesus lives and why he creates a parable in which he likens finding hidden treasure to the kingdom of heaven. The people listening would have been very eager to hear about this hidden treasure and what it means.
The Gospel according to Matthew gives eight parables that no other Gospel gives. This is one of the reasons why Matthew is known as the teaching Gospel. Matthew also appears to be written toward a more Jewish audience than say Luke’s, which is why Matthew’s Jesus takes on a Moses type of image and action.
The thing is, this stuff about hidden treasure is true. Now I don’t mean treasure as in pirates and maps, or buried stuff left behind because there were no banks and invaders kept stealing people’s wealth.
What’s true is you and I know there is treasure just below the surface, buried twenty years, or forty years or sixty years deep in our living. The treasure isn’t gone; it’s just buried.
That’s what’s amazing and so much fun about being parents of young children, and why we enjoy it so much. They’re discovering, like we were back then, what a treasure they are. We get to watch them explore and blossom in their sense of their own worth and value.
Of course, parents also get to see unfortunately much of that get hidden, buried over and beneath an invasion of social pressures, the earthquakes of family problems, the fierce conflicts of personal changes. Now while we all go through this, we ought to also all go through a desire to search for and uncover the hidden treasure buried in us.
When Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is near you or inside of you, he wasn’t exaggerating. The kingdom of heaven, the treasure of God’s kingdom, is simply that close.
A woman met with a gifted painter who had put her career on hold in order to raise a family. With the last child gone, she was ready to start again. In anticipation of this day, over the years she had collected art books and supplies; so much that her studio was now clogged with the collection. Even though people were in line to give her commissions for her work, she was unable to begin her life again as an artist.
She was meeting with this person in order to get an idea of what was stopping her moving forward. The painter told her she could organize her studio. So why don’t you organize your studio? Because I’m overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I’ve collected. Why not hire someone to help you? Because only I can sort through what’s really valuable. How long have you put off sorting through the material? Nine months. The last time I went through all the stuff I found a check for $45. If hire someone, they might just throw away a check with the old papers.
Silence. The woman asked, “How many paintings are not being painted because of your clutter problem?” “Countless,” she replied. “So the fear of tossing away a hidden $45 check is keeping you from actualizing your lifelong dream?” “Yes,” she said, “I guess it is.”
“Then,” said the wise woman, “You are guarding the wrong treasure.” Jesus, Entrepeneur, LBJones
Don’t replace a false treasure for a real one. Don’t give up on the better dream, the fuller hope, the deeper truth of your life. You’ve got God-blessed treasure and the Lord’s is waiting for you to dig it up. They’re truly is more to us than meets the eye.
I want to show you a clip from the movie Ray. As an adult, Ray Charles is played by the incredibly talented Jamie Foxx, who sings in the movie. You would think it’s Ray himself singing.
When Ray was 6 years old, he went blind from an eye disease. In this scene we will see his mama Aretha have to decide what to do when her very recently-blind boy calls out for help.
She believed in him. She believed he had that treasure inside of himself. You see, if she hadn’t done that she would have stolen from him his treasure because he wouldn’t have known he had it in him. In spite of her desire to give him her love in terms of comfort, she chose the tougher and wiser path of giving him her love in terms of seeing if he would discover his own strength, his treasure, and the possibility of a new world beyond that of his handicap.
What is the kingdom of heaven like? Jesus seems to have a lot of different answers to that question in today’s Gospel. The whole of chapter 13 is spent in telling parables. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Or, it’s like yeast. Or like seed sown on ground. Or it’s like weeds among wheat.
After all this, Jesus leaves the crowd behind and goes into an unknown person’s house. Even though he had spent much of the day in a boat sharing parables to the large crowds on the shore, his disciples question him. After answering their question, he decides to tell them a couple of more.
So he tells them of the hidden treasure found on accident, and the lucky finder who hides it again, sells all he has and buys that property. He also tells of the hard-searching person who at last finds what she’s been looking for her whole life and sells everything in order to have that treasure above treasures, the pearl of great value.
Hidden treasure. Who doesn’t love the idea of finding something so valuable that it’s treasure? The truth is, if it’s real treasure you better believe it’s going to be hidden, buried, and not easily accessible. We of course want the good stuff to be right on top, right there in front of us, easy pickings, but for most people, it’s just not that way.
The good stuff is going be below the surface, hidden away, and it takes a day and a night, it takes a journey and a trip, it takes digging and scratching to bring treasure up to the light.
And then when we find it, we often have to bury it for awhile. We can’t just bring it up to the surface and hold it up to the light and stare at it. It doesn’t work that way frequently. No, we have to leave it where we found it because in order to get that pearl or that treasure we will have to buy all that it involves, all that it means for our lives. We have to buy the whole property, all of what the treasure touches in our lives in order to be able to bring the treasure up and be given it.
It’s an amazing story. So beautiful, simple and true. But….
But we’re resistant to it. Oh I don’t mean we’re resistant to the story itself. We like that. We enjoy hearing it and considering finding such treasure, ruminating on finding such a pearl. We all like the idea of it, the shiny, shimmering possibility of it.
We just don’t want to pay the price to make it happen.
We don’t like taking so much time to find something else, or having to dig in the ground to get at it, or then having to bury it again, or having to sell everything else, that is, to trade in so much other stuff we like in order to get that what we really need and really want.
We’re resistant to the whole process. We don’t want to work that hard, to take this treasure hunting stuff so seriously. We don’t want to pay such a price. Can’t there be an easier way, Lord?!
So we hesitate, and then we’re off doing whatever we always do, and the moment passes, or the week passes, and then summer goes by and the holiday seasons starts, and another year has come by, and not one shovelful has been dug, not one trip has been taken to find that pearl.
And even if the pearl was come upon or the treasure had been found, still how often are we willing to give away one thing in order to be given something better? After all, what we have may not be exactly treasure but at least you know what it is, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
Are we hard-headed or are we hard-hearted? Perhaps both.
A small company in the early days of gold mining in South Africa sank shaft after shaft in different locations, finding only a small amount of gold in each shaft. Ultimately, the prospectors discovered that all they needed to have done was to go deeper in the first shaft. As they did, they found gold in abundance.
Don’t run away from where the real treasure is. Stop guarding the wrong treasure. The kingdom of heaven is inside of you. Dig deeper. It’s