Continuing our “Parables of the Realm of God” sermon series, we will examine together the “Parable of the Treasure.” Jesus says that the realm of God “is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.” The finder sold everything to buy that field. Is anything worth everything?
This is an intriguing idea. How do we even imagine a single thing that is worth everything — all that we have and all that we are? This takes us straight to the fundamental question about what we value most.
The late Rev. Fred Craddock, who taught homiletics and New Testament at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, told a story about a missionary family in China who was forced to leave the country shortly after the communists took over. One day a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told this missionary, his wife, and their children that they had two hours to pack up before these troops would escort them to the train station. The couple were told that they would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff. That led to two hours of wrangling: What should they take? What about this vase? It’s a family heirloom, so we’ve got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand-new and we’re not about to leave that behind. What about some books? Got to take a few of them along. On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.
At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned:
“Are you ready?” they asked.
“Did you weigh your stuff?”
“Yes, we did.”
“Two hundred pounds?”
“Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot.”
“Did you weigh the children?”
“Um . . . No.”
“Weigh the children!”
And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash. Trash! None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children. Jesus’ parable forces us to ask the question of what matters most and what is of greatest value. In the ring vows in a wedding each one of the couple says to the other, “With all that I have and all that am, I honor you.” What are they saying? They are giving themselves — everything — to one another.
A few years ago Susan and I attended a reunion of my youth group at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana — a downtown church very much like ours with youth coming from a number of schools throughout the city. We circled up for the benediction that we always used. It was a different benediction from the one most youth groups use. In fact, it was not really a benediction, but a vow that we said every time we parted from one another. That vow challenged me and still challenges me today:
“All that I have and all that I am I give to Christ and to his service.”
All that I have and all that I am. That’s everything. Is there anything else? Is there anything worth everything?
I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we ponder this challenging parable.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster