8th Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2020
“The Value of Value”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us today is a portion of the Holy Gospel lesson read from Matthew 13. I would like to focus primarily on verses 44 through 46: the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Great Value.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
It was the summer of 2005 and the phone was ringing. I had just moved into my new home and I was starting a new Church/career in Crosslake, MN. Homes and land in Crosslake had great value as vacation and summer homes…until the housing market crash 3 years later, then they were worth next to nothing. Anyway, when I answered the phone I knew right away that the news would not be good. My mother’s voice had that shaky quality it gets when things are going bad. My father, who was only 64 years old, had suffered a stroke and was unable to talk and walk. I made a decision to drop everything and go to North Dakota to be with my parents during this crisis because family is important and has value, right?
What is of value to you? Is it your home? Is it your health? Is it your family? Is it your money? If you had to give up one – home, health, family, or money – which one would you be willing to part with? Which one has the most value to you? For most, money would come first followed by home, health, then family. Family probably has the most value to people in general.
In today’s Gospel lesson we have not one, not two, but three parables. Today I want to focus on the first two parables. On the surface they seem so simple, but they are both complex with multiple meanings. They say virtually the same thing, yet there are 2 very important understandings I want to “unpack.”
Consider those parables again and the reaction of those involved. One person found a treasure of great value in a piece of land and, upon finding the treasure, he sacrificed all that he had to secure and obtain that treasure. Similarly, the knowledgeable merchant, upon finding such a great pearl, did whatever it took to secure that valuable pearl. As I have said before, parables are earthly stories that have heavenly meanings. These are not really about treasure chests and pearls; it is the fact that God’s kingdom has such great value and importance that it is worth sacrificing all to possess it.
If you found a great treasure like that how would you feel? How would you feel if you unearthed a mint-condition Honus Wagner baseball card in your family’s stuff? If you do, DON’T THROW IT AWAY because that card is worth millions (literally). Or what if you found a sure-fire way to cure the Coronavirus? Wouldn’t you legally secure that and the financial rights to it? You would have way more money than Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos at 113 billion. Why? Money provides things you can see and touch, so we assign them value.
The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which cannot be seen as such or touched, is a treasure so valuable, and yet there are many who would go to no lengths to obtain it. There are so many who take the Gospel for granted and live life as if there were no Gospel and its impact on this world. There are so many that are emotionally unresponsive to the Gospel. There are so, so many that are unwilling to sacrifice anything or are unmoved by the love and sacrifice of God through Christ to possess what He offers. Instead, they cling to what this world offers and can be seen/touched: money, homes, family, health, jobs, electronic gadgets, and so on.
True…the kingdom of God is so valuable that it is worth sacrificing anything to gain it. But the second meaning of both parables is that God values you so much that He sent His only Son to secure the precious gift of the Kingdom; to redeem you, that is, to buy you back from the power of sin and death and hell. The cost that Jesus Christ paid for that redemption was His own precious invaluable body and blood; a perfect sacrifice to pay the only acceptable price for the penalty of sin.
God values you so much and loves you so much that He forgives you of your sin, your rebellion, your lack of appreciation, your unresponsiveness to Him and His Word, your unwillingness to sacrifice for Him the same way that He sacrificed for you. Jesus values you so much and loves you so much that He went through the torment and pain and agony of the cross and the grave for that forgiveness. When it came to determining true value, Jesus knew what was really of true value and it’s not your house or jewels or rare baseball cards or even a cure for COVID-19. It is ETERNAL things like the Kingdom and your soul. Only 1 of those out there.
Jesus never taught to hang on to your wealth. Jesus never taught that your home is of supreme importance. Jesus never taught that faith in Him did not involve sacrifice. In fact, He taught the opposite. He taught that eternal things matter and we, like those in the parable, cling to that kingdom in any and all of life’s circumstances, just as our soul matters to God who sacrifices so much to obtain it.
So what is the value of value? What really and truly has worth? Is it our clothes? No. Is it our homes? Not really. Is it our bank accounts? I would be bold enough to say not at all. In and through our faith, God through the Holy Spirit calls us to focus on our commitment to Him, to His kingdom, and the growth of the everlasting Kingdom. That may hurt a little…it will involve sacrifice. But what is the value of the eternal Kingdom of God worth to you? Is it worth your money? Is it worth your family? Is the Kingdom of God worth your life in loving and obedient sacrifice and service to God who gave you all those possessions in the first place? I would think so, knowing how valuable God should be to you and how valuable you are to God.
It was the winter of 2006. My dad recovered from the stroke in the summer of 2005, and he was back in northern MN and I was back in Crosslake. And the phone rang again, and the wavering voice was back. It was my brother Mike. Dad had a heart attack and he had died at home. Only 16 months had passed, and he was gone. Not knowing that, I never truly valued the remaining time I had with him. Don’t make the same mistake. Find what has value – REAL value – and live your lives with no regrets about the choices you make for tomorrow may truly be too late.