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April 12, 2011

Treasure in a Field

There are a lot of things that I find confusing in the Bible.  The idea that all of the laws in the Old Testament were written to bring us closer to the heart of God is so strange to me.  I can't imagine how stoning someone to death for breaking a rule brings me closer to the heart of God.  I've come to the understanding that Christians really like to pick and choose what we follow in the Bible.  Of course when someone asks why we don't do this or that anymore, the stock answer is always ready to pull out of our hat..."We don't live under the law anymore.  We live under the new covenant."   I have to be honest because I find it frustrating and sort of a cop-out answer.  


It isn't just the Old Testament that is confusing though.  In Matthew 13, Jesus is telling a series of parables.  If you've spent time in a church, you have probably heard at least one sermon taught on some of them.  There's the parable of the weeds, the parable of the pearls, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast...all talking about what the kingdom of heaven is like. The ones that I find confusing right now is the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44.


The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 


I find this confusing because it just doesn't seem very "Christian" to me. If following Jesus is supposed to be about taking care of people, about giving, serving, sacrificing, sharing and loving, where does this parable fit in?  I'm wandering in a field and find something valuable but instead of telling the owner of the field, turning it in, or ignoring it, I decide to hide it again, get some money together and buy the field so I can have the treasure in it.  Essentially, I'm hiding the fact that I know there is something important and valuable there and I'm going to screw over the guy who owns it.  That doesn't feel very "Christian" at all. 


Is the treasure supposed to be the kingdom of heaven...If so, don't you think I'd want to have the owner of the land celebrate too?  Am I really supposed to keep it a secret and dishonestly gain it all for myself?  What am I missing in this passage?  What do you think it means?

12 comments:

Matt Coulter said...

Hey, I've been pondering this for a little while, and here are some of my thoughts...

Jesus came to institute his Kingdom in opposition to kingdoms that were already in place: the kingdom of the religious leaders, the kingdom of the Romans, and even the kingdom of Satan who the Bible refers to as the prince of this world.

Jesus began this Kingdom in a small way and then said it would spread like yeast through dough... that it would grow like a plant coming up through the ground...

So I view this parable like this: the treasure buried underground is the subversive, underground Kingdom of God. The field it is found in is the field of the world. Or of the Romans. Or of Satan. Take your pick.

It's kind of like another parable Jesus told of someone breaking into the strong man's house and binding up the strong man to steal his stuff -- where Satan is portrayed as "owning" something that Jesus is subverting.

In that light, why would we want to alert the kingdoms of this world? We give up whatever it takes to get this treasure, recognizing the whole time that we are pulling one over on the worldly authorities.

What do you think?

Thanks for opening up dialog about this, bro!

Jon Kelly said...

I like the idea in theory, but isn't the point to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. This would almost make it seem like the Church is functioning today...keeping it hidden and pretty much not sharing the beauty of the treasure with anyone.

The Enslingers said...

Interesting perspectives....

I find it interesting (and awesome) that you automatically think of others. You and Sandra always seem to do that. What a great quality. I on the other hand, (maybe selfishly) read the parables and personalize them, apply them to just me (which I sort of think is what Jesus wanted us to...) They are speaking to me only as I read them. So with that in mind...here is how I take it....

I focus more on the line "...in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." Once he saw the treasure, that is all that mattered. He was willing to give up all else to have the kingdom of Heaven, which is the ultimate goal. I think about what sacrifices are WE willing to make to obtain the treasure of the gospel, to get to the kingdom of heaven?

Gosh. I would love to sit down with you guys and the Coulters sometime and just have a gospel chat. I think it would be awesome and enlightening!

Gretchen said...

The two parables that are found in Matthew 13:44-46 are both about what awesome treasure it is to find and know Christ. That we should be willing to give up all that we have for that relationship! Nowhere in these parables does it say to hide the knowledge and gospel of Christ from anyone. It is all about what WE will do to have and keep the treasure that we have found. However, all through the new testament we are called to be salt and light and to make disciples of all men. They are both simple parables about how amazing and unfathomable the treasure of Christ is.

Also, I would be very careful about your interest in Rob Bell. If you cannot VERY EASILY follow what someone is teaching as "gospel" in God's Word, then it is not truth. There is only ONE gospel, and it is offensive and hard, but there is only one. I love you and Sandra and do not want you led astray by a false teacher. 2 Peter 2:1-3 talks plainly about this. The bible is not something to be pondered and interpreted based on who you are and what life has handed to you. It is the same for everyone, and should be read as absolute truth.

Jon Kelly said...

I do like the idea of giving up everything in order to be a part of the Kingdom. I read this passage several weeks ago and it has just stuck in my head. I keep thinking of it in terms of how the guy reacts and responds to the treasure, rather than what it cost him to get. It would just seem that if someone discovered the Kingdom of God and what that entailed, they wouldn't want to just keep it a secret buried in the field. Obviously the story doesn't go much into how the man responded after he finally owned the field and the treasure, so it could be an amazing story of converting entire nations to be part of the Kingdom. Thanks for that perspective.

Matt - thinking in terms of someone living in that culture, the idea of pulling one over on the worldly authorities. For them it was actually about persecution and potentially death rather than what most of us today call persecution.

Gretchen - I have to admit that I'm not sure what Rob Bell has to do with this post, but Velvet Elvis is one of my top books talking about Christian faith. Have you read any of Rob Bell's books?

martinfamilyfour said...

I'm a friend of Gretchen, I read your post and I must ask, whether you are questioning the authenticity of the Word of God based on your personal theology, or are you questioning the theology of others based on the Word of God?
Gretchen's comment was adequate. The purpose of the parable in question is simply that the cost of Christianity is everything you own for an investment that is worth 1,000,000 times more (if you could put a number on it). A far as the Old Testament goes, there are Biblical reasons why we do not follow the law (see Ez 36 and Jer 31:31 for starters)
Questions like this are honest and appreciated as long as they are real questions and not just doubt for the sake of skepticism. I hope you find what you are looking for friend.
-Sam

Jon Kelly said...

For starters Sam, who is questioning the authenticity of the Word of God? Nothing in this post is about questioning theology, and nothing in this post is attacking someone else’s theology. It is simply wrestling with a passage of scripture.

Yes Gretchen’s comment was adequate, and I replied in a follow up comment that I like the idea of giving up everything for the Kingdom. I’ve read this passage dozens of times over the years and for whatever reason, the idea got stuck in my head…not about what he gave up to get the Kingdom of Heaven, but why he hid it again and didn’t tell anyone. What better thing to do with scripture than to study it, wrestle with it, and dialogue it with other people?

I also don’t have any issue or questions as to why we don’t follow Old Testament law because I understand the concept of covenant. No offense, but I also don’t need to justify my reasons for posting discussion about passages in scripture, or my motivations for doing so. The purpose of scripture isn’t to blindly follow what a church or denomination tells me, and there are always new ideas and perspectives to learn. It’s an open discussion and I welcome Gretchen’s ideas and yours as well.

Matt Coulter said...

Part of the problem the modern church has is that we tend to care more about giving out the right answers instead of caring about the people who asked the question. I get a lot of that sense from your response, @martinfamily. Folks with relationships are able to speak truth in love into one another's lives.

Outsiders tend to view pastors simply as religious professionals who care more about doctrine and pat answers than walking alongside people in their questions (and oftentimes rightfully so).

martinfamilyfour said...

Jon-My refrences to Jer and Ez were to help foster a more Biblically based answer than "we don't follow the law anymore" you seemed "frustrated" with that answer so I thought that would help.
By stating that you couldn't see how stoning someone for "breaking the rules" brought us closer to God, it seemed as if you felt there were unjust decisions in the Bible that you did not feel were in line with our conception of God. Thus, the question about your "motives" was solely based on clarity. Now I can see that your first two paragraphs were more background information, and the scripture you wanted to discuss was in Matt. I did not intend to seem accusing, but I can see how that came across. I apologize.
-Matt, feel free to sense whatever you want. I fail to understand how giving people right answers is not caring for them. Perhaps you could give me an example where giving someone the wrong answer is more loving?

Matt Coulter said...

@martinfamilyfour, the point is it's not about answers (right or wrong). It's about the journey, and making that journey with people alongside of you who will dialog things with you. It's about not needing to swoop into every situation as an expert and dispense answers. It's about listening. It's about asking questions. It's about getting to know people.

It's about recognizing that you don't know what sermons Jon has sat under recently or what books he has read or what other scripture study he is doing that brought him to the point he is at now.

And most importantly, it is about joining and fostering conversations, not trying to end them with pat, one-size-fits-all answers.

I know you're just doing what your church has taught you and what you think is the right thing. I commend you for that, and for trying to help people better understand scripture. Thank you. I pray, though, that we Christians could all recognize that people are at different points on their faith journeys, they got there by different experiences, and oftentimes they just need someone to dialog with more than they need stock answers.

Gretchen said...

The two parables that are found in Matthew 13:44-46 are both about what awesome treasure it is to find and know Christ. That we should be willing to give up all that we have for that relationship! Nowhere in these parables does it say to hide the knowledge and gospel of Christ from anyone. It is all about what WE will do to have and keep the treasure that we have found. However, all through the new testament we are called to be salt and light and to make disciples of all men. They are both simple parables about how amazing and unfathomable the treasure of Christ is.

Also, I would be very careful about your interest in Rob Bell. If you cannot VERY EASILY follow what someone is teaching as "gospel" in God's Word, then it is not truth. There is only ONE gospel, and it is offensive and hard, but there is only one. I love you and Sandra and do not want you led astray by a false teacher. 2 Peter 2:1-3 talks plainly about this. The bible is not something to be pondered and interpreted based on who you are and what life has handed to you. It is the same for everyone, and should be read as absolute truth.

Matt Coulter said...

Hey, I've been pondering this for a little while, and here are some of my thoughts...

Jesus came to institute his Kingdom in opposition to kingdoms that were already in place: the kingdom of the religious leaders, the kingdom of the Romans, and even the kingdom of Satan who the Bible refers to as the prince of this world.

Jesus began this Kingdom in a small way and then said it would spread like yeast through dough... that it would grow like a plant coming up through the ground...

So I view this parable like this: the treasure buried underground is the subversive, underground Kingdom of God. The field it is found in is the field of the world. Or of the Romans. Or of Satan. Take your pick.

It's kind of like another parable Jesus told of someone breaking into the strong man's house and binding up the strong man to steal his stuff -- where Satan is portrayed as "owning" something that Jesus is subverting.

In that light, why would we want to alert the kingdoms of this world? We give up whatever it takes to get this treasure, recognizing the whole time that we are pulling one over on the worldly authorities.

What do you think?

Thanks for opening up dialog about this, bro!