What are your plans for the future? Are they to enter the kingdom of heaven, the treasure Jesus explains in Matthew 13:44-46?
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
There were two choices for today’s reading and I chose the shorter of the two, for a reason. I think it has a message that gets lost in all the angst over sin and repentance, as important as that message is.
What can we glean from this short passage?
First, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure.” What is a treasure? It’s a valued thing. It’s an amazing thing. When discovered, people will do almost anything to possess it.
Second, it’s “like a treasure buried in a field.” It’s hidden from us but it’s discoverable. And when we discover it, when we unbury it, we want to possess it. We want to take it in and make it our own.
Third, it’s a buried treasure “a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” A person may literally sell all that he or she has for the sake of attaining heaven or a person may do so metaphorically in the sense that he or she divests themselves of their earthly attachments and ways to seek it.
In the second example, heaven is like the valuable pearl the merchant gives his all to purchase. A person who finds the treasure that is heaven divests him or her self to seek it out.
Science and medicine are spending a lot of time and effort to extend life. That’s laudable in a sense. But some take it to the extent that they believe one day they may be able to extend human life indefinitely. If you don’t believe in a heaven, that might make some sense, but if you believe in heaven, a valuable heaven, a worthy goal, then you have to wonder, why put off seeking eternity with God?
Shouldn’t we as Christians be eager to get to heaven, to be in the presence of God? Shouldn’t we not worry so much about death, because that leads us to resurrection and the kingdom of heaven?
Heaven is a treasure because it is an amazing reward for a good life. And reaching heaven is eternal life in the persistent presence of the almighty loving God.
Forever life on earth is a forever existence among the wicked and the insincere, in sickness and poverty, among people who seek wealth and attachment to things at the expense of others, enduring disasters and wars and the ravages of nature. Certainly, there will be those who will seek to help, but we will be at the mercy of those who don’t and those who twist the word of God to their own greedy ends.
I understand the attraction to furthering life on earth. Earth is a beautiful oasis in the universe. There are many attractive things that come from living in the now here. And if you get good at living here and in the now, you can live comfortably, perhaps complacently. Why not just keep it up? Because Jesus tells us there will be an end of ages. We don’t know when — we can’t know when. Even Jesus didn’t know the when.
We need to be thinking about what happens after the end of ages. Where do we want to go? Heaven is a treasure. It’s discoverable. It’s attainable. It’s glorious beyond all the treasures of earth combined.
Jesus tells us in the longer version of this reading that the angels will separate the wicked from the good. The good will enter the kingdom of heaven. And who are the good? They those who listen to Jesus’ teachings and act on them. They are those who love God and love others, who treat others, especially the least among us, with respect and care and kindness. They are those who seek not wealth for the sake of wealth but share all to the glory of God.
Sure, we could try to live forever on earth, but what’s the point? There is no treasure on earth that can surpass the treasure that is heaven. Jesus teaches us that should be our goal.
Glory to God!