The Treasure of the Church

The kingdom of Heaven is not the kingdom of this world. Many things that seem religious or good from the world’s perspective are actually contrary to Jesus’s teaching about the kingdom of Heaven. If I were to ask you what you treasure, how would you answer? Do you treasure family, friends, your house, food, comfort, or entertainment? Perhaps you treasure your religion, goodness, wealth, material possessions, or preferences. As Jesus closes his kingdom of Heaven parables according to Matthew’s account, He shows us what marks a true Christian, someone who is in His Kingdom.

Matthew 13:44-50

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Our treasure (v. 44-46)

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

These two parables are very simple, and there is no need to complicate them. The kingdom of Heaven is illustrated by a person discovering a treasure, selling all that he or she has, and buying that treasure. The kingdom of Heaven consists of all three components:

  • the person who discovers the treasure,
  • the treasure, and
  • the loss of everything that was previously owned.

Since Jesus is telling a parable, we must ask what these things are parabolic of. We will consider in the context of this discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. (1) The individual who discovers the treasure is already a part of the kingdom, even before he or she discovers the treasure. This is the one who has ears to hear, to whom it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (13:11). (2) The treasure is the word of God (Cf. 13:8, 23). (3) The forsaken possessions are all of those things that defined the individual before he or she discovered God’s word and experienced conversion. Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has been addressing the heresies of legalism and materialism. Of legalism, He claimed not to call the righteous but sinners (9:13). Of materialism, He revealed that no one can serve both God and mammon (6:24). Conversion, turning to Christ, necessitates turning away from worldly religion and riches.

Like Jesus has been teaching, those who have ears to hear come forsake religious and material gain. Why? God’s word, correctly understood and rightly applied, is sweeter than our selfish religions, riches, convictions, habits, preferences, pleasures, and identities. Jesus doesn’t describe a works based system whereby we must forsake the things we love in order to somehow gain entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. No, those who will see the kingdom see it, and its worth far surpasses the worth of anything else. So, we count all else as loss to sit at Christ’s feet and learn from Him. Jesus invited all those who were weary and burdened to come to Him for rest—not to be encumbered by the expectations of people but to simply sit at His feet and learn from Him (11:28-30).

The summary parable (v. 45-50)

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The parable of the fishing net resonates with the parable of the wheat and the tares. In fact, Jesus’s last kingdom of Heaven parable in this discourse summarizes all the other parables. Jesus begins by saying, “Again,” indicating that He is getting at the concepts He has already revealed. The net, like the seed, is scattered everywhere and gathers the wheat like it does the weeds. Individuals who are part of the Kingdom will remain and the wicked will be taken up and thrown into the furnace of fire—where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The kingdom of the world, then, consists of three components:

  1. the individual to whom it has not given to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven,
  2. human works and wealth, and
  3. self-justification rather than repentance.

People and churches, then, that habitually justify themselves and cling to their religions, riches, convictions, habits, preferences, pleasures, and identities do so because they have not discovered the sweet treasure of God’s unadulterated and correctly understood word. True Christians have not left the things of the world because they must in order to gain eternal life. They have done so because the life they have been given is of such value that he or she willingly sells everything he has in to take hold of it. We don’t give up everything to discover a great treasure. We count all as loss because we have discovered a great treasure. The treasure of the church is Christ’s word.

In response to this passage, we can only ask: What are you invested in? Christ’s word or something else. May we seek first Christ’s kingdom and righteousness. Christ’s word is the preeminent ministry of His church. That is why Christ’s people desire to sit under Christ’s teaching in community with one another; Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light.

Questions:

  1. What attitude marks those who have really discovered the true Gospel?
    1. Does the same attitude mark local churches if they really know the true Gospel?
  2. What attitude marks those who have not actually discovered the true Gospel?
    1. Does the same attitude mark local churches if they do not actually know the true Gospel?
  3. What is the treasure of the church?
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