Matthew 13:44, “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.”
As a guitarist, I’m always on the hunt for that rare gem of a guitar that someone’s selling at a fraction of the cost because they don’t know what it’s worth. Every guitar player has a story like that it seems.
There's always that friend who happened upon a garage sale one Saturday morning, only to find a pre-war Martin dreadnought with a sticker that says, “Grandpa’s guitar. Has some scratches. $400.” I’ve got a buddy who finds these little treasures all the time. A Marshall Plexi for $200, an old tweed Princeton for $150, a late 60s Strat for $500.
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is just like that—a hidden gem—its true value goes unnoticed by so many. When your eyes are opened to the kingdom that’s all around us, the kingdom that God is building where Christ will rule in peace, you begin to notice its true value.
Isaiah 25 says that the kingdom of God will be built on acts of justice and righteousness, I talked about that a few blog posts ago. The kingdom of God is made up of every kind interaction among strangers, really.
Every time that peace was chosen over violence, every moment of selflessness to the aid of someone in need, every blessing of God, every defense of justice, every effort on behalf of the poor, needy, orphaned, widowed, anxious, ill, and oppressed—that's kingdom building.
When I find that pre-war Martin dreadnought at an insanely low price, you better believe I’ll make a beeline to the ATM to draw out the cash, gritting my teeth and clinching my hands and walk-running that awkward walk-run of a middle-aged woman in Best Buy on Black Friday to get back to that garage sale!
Lol, that walk-run like a kid who’s been told not to run in the hallway, but it’s pizza day in the cafeteria. There’s an urgency we feel we find a treasure, an urgency to keep it all to ourselves. Jesus draws on that to show us how truly wonderful the kingdom of God is.
Jesus says, “then, in his joy…” I love that phrase. “Then in his joy.” When you find that treasure and you feel that urgency, it prompts immediate action. It’s not, “The next day, in his peaking interest” or, “After some thought, in his curiosity…” No. It says then right then in his joy.
The man was so elated with what he had found that he straightaway sold everything he owned to buy this field. It was an immediate action, unhindered by the anxiety of analysis.
The man didn’t have to deliberate. He didn’t have to run it by his friends, his family, or consult a financial advisor. He didn’t make a pro’s and con’s list. He didn’t sleep on it. When you find that precious treasure and you feel that sense of urgency, you act.
Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God is something to be acted on right now. It’s not a decision to make—who could say no to such a treasure? It’s not a suggestion to mull over, to chew on a bit, to deliberate on. Discovering the kingdom of God is a “Don’t delay, supplies are limited, act now” sort of situation.
Minus the telemarketer losing his voice into the camera, of course.
The offer: True peace in Christ, life forever in communion with God, the chance to see a world-made-right, rid of all the suffering and hardship that plagues our present world. We’ll even throw in the streets of gold and heavenly mansion for free when you call now.
The man in Jesus’ story joyfully gave up everything to own his treasure. Have you noticed that so very few things really bring lasting joy? I have. Sadly, I’m like that kid on Christmas day who gets exactly what he had asked for, only to play with it for 15 minutes before moving on to the next thing.
I’ve tried everything I thought would satisfy me and it was the same with each new toy. I’m entertained for a few minutes before returning to my discontentment. The kingdom of God is a treasure, not a toy. It's not a momentary bit of entertainment.
And when you truly see and know the kingdom of God, you won't want to come and go from it like an on-again-off-again relationship. It’s a pursuit that God guarantees will bring us lasting satisfaction. It's a pursuit worthy of our obsessive interest.
I think joy is a bit different from happiness, but I've been struggling to find ways of articulating that thought. Shouldn't having joy be significantly more satisfying than having happiness? Happiness is a satisfaction with our circumstances, while joy is a satisfaction regardless of the circumstances.
If happiness is predicated on things going right for us in the moment, then it has a fatal flaw, right? Happiness says, “This is good. Things are going right. I like what I’m seeing here. I like what I’m feeling here.” Joy says, “Good or bad, I know I my hope is secure.”
Both make reference to circumstances, but happiness floats above the waters of our circumstances, rocked up and down and taken under by every wave, while joy torpedoes us through calm and rocky waters alike.
Happiness can be taken away in an instant, joy can never be taken away. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a choice. Happiness disappears in a time of suffering, joy can carry you through a time of suffering. Happiness is the opposite of sadness, joy and sadness can coexist. We can be sad-hopeful, that’s joy.
Recognize what a gift it is, that we can participate in God's kingdom. All the benefits given to us in Christ—think on those blessings for a bit.
Then start praying "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" like Christ did. A "thy kingdom come" mindset looks forward to the eternal weight of glory that's ours in Christ. A "thy kingdom come" mindset has abiding joy and unshakeable hope.