Joy vs. Cost: A New Way to Think About the Parable of the Treasure in the Field

I would like to say that I am indebted to Tom Richter for many of the thoughts that went into this post. He has a sermon about this parable here:

There are two views that often get portrayed in both Christian literature and from Christian pulpits. The first one is the “cost” gospel. This message of Christianity focuses on the cost of following Jesus. Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. Do you know where you are going when you die??? You better be a really good Christian and learn to take on the burden of Christian living. This idea of Christianity is often parodied in movies and cartoons. The other side of the pendulum comes in the form of the prosperity gospel. Basically if you are a Christian it will be all joy all the time. You are just gonna have sunshine and daisies for the rest of your life according to this gospel. Name it and claim it. Just enjoy the blessings of the loving Father.
Now the problem is that neither of these messages is wholly wrong. There is definite truth in both of these and even Scriptural evidence for both. However, we know that neither seem to satisfy the full meaning of Scripture. Jesus did ask us to take up our crosses but He also promised us life and life abundantly. The key here is to realize that even the yoke of Jesus (often commented on as symbolically related to the cross) is easy and light.
In the parable of the treasure in the field we get an important insight into how this could be. Matthew 11:44, “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.” In this one verse we have an answer to a theological dilemma that has been going on for millennia. A man is walking through a field he is thinking of buying and he sees a reflection of something covered by some shrub and goes over to check out what it is. He finds an 18th century pirate chest- just kidding. He finds one of the legendary treasure stores that it has been rumored were left by people who knew their village was in danger and hoped to come back after becoming captives and start life again some day. It was rumored that some of these treasure hordes were buried in places and had never been recovered. Basically, it is the equivalent of finding a sunken pirate ship loaded with Spanish doubloons and other precious materials or of striking oil in the middle of a field you want to buy. He finds this chest and he quickly begins counting. He very soon realizes that it is worth far more money than he had ever had or would ever have. Then (here is the crucial point) “in his joy he goes and sells all he has.” Now, this man would have looked absolutely insane as he frantically went and sold everything to anyone who would buy it. His wife and kids were no doubt very distressed over the sudden liquidation of everything they owned. He runs up to the landowner and tries to hide his excitement as he tells him that he wants to buy the field and he can pay cash. To the world he looks crazy, but he knows that he has a greater treasure.
We as Christians are invited to by the field with the treasure in it, it only costs all we have. It also brings the greatest joy imaginable (and unimaginable). Sure, it costs a daily decision to walk with Jesus, but it gives you true freedom. This is why Paul is able to encourage people to rejoice in tribulation. There is a glory that so far outshines any cost. Paul was a slave to Christ so he could be free. It is just one of those kingdom principles. It works in God’s kingdom, but it is foolishness to the worldly logic.
A final thought: maybe that parable isn’t just about us. Maybe earth is the field and God in Christ Jesus is the man who found a treasure and went and stretched out His arms on the cross and gave up all he had to purchase the world that He might gain a great treasure. Maybe you and I are the treasure that God, in His inestimable love and mercy and wisdom, believed was worth all He had, even His only Son. You and I are so lavishly loved

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