Short Stories: What Do You Treasure?

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human and it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.

One year when I was in college I went home for a fall break to spend time with my family and one afternoon I went to see my sister and her son Ricky to hang out with them a little before heading back to college.  And when I got there I greeted my sister but didn’t see my six year old nephew anywhere.  Where’s Ricky?

He’s in the backyard – he watched a PBS show about people who discovered dinosaur bones and so I gave him a trowel and he’s in the backyard digging to try to find dinosaur bones.  So I head back and there’s the little guy and he’s digging and dirty and when I ask him how it’s going he sounded fwustrated!  There’s no bones back here!

Now – luckily for Ricky, I had eaten some KFC wings and had the remains in my car and so being a good uncle that I am I went to find a chicken bones and when Ricky turned his back I put the chicken bones bone in the holes and covered it with some dirt and went back into the house.

Well, guess who discovered the bury treasure not long after?  He came running – I found dinosaur bones!   He was thrilled and I was happy for him and went back to school.  And a few days later my sister called to tell me that since I left he has littered the yard with holes looking for more treasure, and brought the chicken bones into show and tell and convinced the first grade class it was a dinosaur bone.  Ahh.  I never did tell him.  He’s like 33 years old now, I imagine he can handle the truth.

Now I bring this up today as way of introducing the topic.  Today we are going to begin a short series on the Short Stories of Jesus.  Jesus often taught using parables.  He knows that stories have a way of sticking.  And he told many great short stories.  In fact – Mark Twain once said that there has never been a better short story than the story of the prodigal Son – a parable of Jesus.

And today we are going to read a short story that is so brilliant.  It’s actually two parables with the same point, both are super short, but they are brilliant because they tap into every little person’s secret fantasy of discovering buried treasure.

Let’s read – from Matthew 13

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like 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.

This parable is easy to understand.  Back in the day there weren’t banks that you cashed your paycheck and opened a savings bank – you had your valuables in your home.  And if you wanted to protect your valuables you would hide them in your house or bury them in the back yard somewhere that you could dig up later.

Well, as often happens – you never know when your day will come – and people died and if they didn’t tell anyone where they had hidden their treasure – it would lay buried in the ground until one day you buy this land and you are out digging and clink – you hit a bag of coins or something.  So it wasn’t as unusual as one might think to hear of this kind of thing happening.

And so Jesus says – the kingdom of Heaven is like a person out digging in a field only to discover undiscovered treasure in the field.

Now before we jump into this a little deeper it’s important to understand that Jesus is NOT talking about money.  This is a story about treasure.  And treasure isn’t always money.  It might be.  Lots of people treasure their money.  You might be one of them.  Here’s one way to know – if you don’t regularly budget a portion of your money to be given away – then money might be your treasure.

But it can be a host of other things.  Because a treasure is something we can’t part from.  To treasure something means to look at something and fill your heart with the beauty and value of it.

Here’s the first thing I want to point out- and that is Jesus understands that our heart was built to treasure.  We were built to be cherish something.  But in our broken sinful condition the heart often cherishes the wrong thing.

And to treasure something is to say, “If I have that, then everything will be good.” To treasure something means – this is the one thing I cannot live without.

And everybody’s got something. It might be money. It might be career. It might be status. It might be the idea of a perfect marriage or getting married or getting divorced and married to someone else.

If you’ve ever seen the movie or read the book Lord of the Rings – remember what Smeegal calls the ring?  My precious!   I can’t live without.  What is Your precious?  That’s your treasure.

So how do you discover what you treasure?  One way to discover what our heart treasures is to fill in the blank – I’m willing to do anything God asks me to do except…   Or I am willing to follow God if…  So long as…  I will give up anything God asks me to give up except….

The dot dot dot?  Probably the thing your heart treasures – the thing your heart thinks it can’t live without…  and guess what?  Anything less than the Kingdom of Heaven is chicken bones.  Anything you treasure more than God’s loving governance of your life is chicken bones.

We mustn’t allow our heart to treasure anything that can be stolen from us or walk out on us, be ruined in seconds.

Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a person who discovers a treasure in a field, and she realizes what she has on her hands, and she is willing to give up everything she once considered treasure to be able to secure it.

And make no mistake – that is exactly what God requires of us.  To relinquish the thing we used to consider most precious and place him in that role.  He wants us to release our grip on what we used to be most important thing in the world to us and allow Him to take that role in your life.

To be fair – Jesus is very clear about this.  He is called Lord and Master.  John 13:13 says,  13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 

The King the Savior.  Master and Lord – these aren’t words one uses to describe your personal assistant.  Jesus didn’t come to be your personal assistant – he came to be your King.

Now the good news is that he’s the kind of king so loving and kind that he would lay down his life for his servants.  He’s the kind of King you want to run your life.

In fact – the next verse – John 13:14 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 

The King os a servant king.  The kind of King who purchased entrance into the Kingdom of heaven – for us.  We could have never paid the price.

Jesus paid the price for us to be able to turn and stumble our way into the right now Kingdom of Heaven – but he demands that we enter it empty handed.  We make Him our treasure, and we release the grip on what used to be our master – we surrender it upon entrance.

Now, if you are wondering “What is the Kingdom of Heaven?”  It is the place, the right now place in the universe where God is King.  It’s filled with people who think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with their life.

When Jesus shows up it’s all he preaches about – he says I have good news of a different kingdom than the one you are used to.  We were born into a kingdom of darkness by default.  Jesus says – I have come to throw open the doors to a different kingdom that the kingdom of every man for himself.  It’s a kingdom where God promises to be our shepherd and walk with us through thick and thin and tend to our every need.

And what Jesus says is – the person who understands the beauty and value of what is being offered to them, is like the person who finds a treasure and understands what he has got – he joyfully surrenders everything in order to get it.

He demands we enter the Kingdom of Heaven empty handed – or in this case – empty mouthed – (Video of Dog)

The gates into the kingdom of heaven have been thrown wide open.  What Jesus asks of us is complete surrender to Him.  We relinquish everything – we hold everything loosely as an open palm to Him and say – it’s yours Lord.  Nothing and no one is more important than you.

Does this sound draconian to you?  Too exacting, too demanding, too expensive?

Well then we don’t understand the value of what’s being offered.

I heard someone illustrate this parable by saying – is something that costs $500 expensive?  Well, it depends on what it is.  If it’s a pen, then yes.  If it’s a Ferrari then, even if you had no money anywhere in the world you’d tell the person I’ll be back with your money in an hour.

Because you know the value of what you have.

Jesus is saying to you and me – the Kingdom of heaven – living under the guidance and protection and will of God- it’s worth everything.

And whatever it is that God asks you to endure, whatever road God asks you to walk down, whatever Valley you will have to negotiate in your life, Jesus wants you to know it’s worth it.  Trust him, it’s worth it.

Have you fully surrendered your life to God?  Have you in your heart made a declaration before God – it’s all yours.  This is what Jesus is asking for.  It’s all or nothing.  There is no half way.  There’s nothing in between.

People sometimes say things like, well I agree with most things Jesus said – I agree with Jesus 97 percent of the time but there’s a few things I don’t agree with…  Jesus says, you are still hanging onto stuff that is keeping you from the Kingdom.  You aren’t surrendered.

If you say – I appreciate Jesus’ teachings except when it comes to how I handle my sexuality or my money or my time, my whatever?  Then you really haven’t let anything go.

Jesus says – the Kingdom of heaven is so beautiful and valuable – it’s worth letting go of the stick to get in.

Is God asking you to surrender something to him?  To let him steer your course?  Has the Holy Spirit brought something to mind?  Has he nudged your heart and told you to listen?  There’s something here?

You can, even now as I speak – do business with the Lord.  Confess it – Lord, I’ve been hanging onto this – my grip is tight.   Teach me to let go and trust that what awaits me is worth giving it up for…

Are you having a hard time right now surrendering it all to God?  How are we to overcome this?

We find some help from the Apostle Paul.  Paul is an interesting guy.  He shows up in the bible when the church gets started he is a persecutor of the church.  He eventually becomes a Christian after a supernatural encounter with Jesus – and you know – that guy lived through hell.

He had a lot going for him before he became a Christian.  He was well respected.  Great reputation.  Great heritage.  Very prestigious.  Well regarded in academia – he was like I made the  – 30 pharisees under 30 year old!  I’m going someplace!

Then he decides to become a follower of Jesus and things often don’t go his way.  He is shipwrecked three times, beaten with rods – stoned with rocks – and lashed with whips and often hungry and tired and cold and

And I know if this is your first time at church you are probably thinking – “Your not exactly doing a good job selling this Jesus thing!  You might want to highlight the positives a little bit.

Well, okay – but I won’t do it – I’ll let Paul do it for me…

Thinking back one day to all of his pre-Jesus accolades – thinking about all the things he once treasured that he let go of at the gates to the Kingdom…  Paul writes in the letter to the church that met in Philippi…

I once thought these things were valuable, (He once treasured those things!) but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

Rubbish.  Paul says.  All those things he used to treasure – rubbish compared to the treasure he found in Jesus.  Chicken bones and dog sticks.

Is God asking you to give something up for the sake of the Kingdom?  It’s worth it.

Is he asking you to loosen your grip on something important to you?  Loosen it up.  Open your hands and surrender it to God.

You can trust him!  Want to know why?  Because Jesus is asking from us what he himself was willing to go through for us.

What do I mean?  I mean, that the other side of this parable is that Jesus is the one in the field.  And to Jesus – you are the treasure.  You are the treasure he joyfully gave up everything in order to gain.

Jesus willingly, with joy even, endured the cross.  He gave up everything in order to be able to gain you.  He gave up his divine privilege.  He gave up his reputation and eternal fellowship with the Father and the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

We are the treasure in the field in Jesus sight.  He gave up everything – he didn’t even have a stitch of clothing on him on that cross.  He let go of everything in order to throw open the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.

What is God asking you to relinquish?   It’s totally worth it.