Understanding the True Value of Human Life in God's Kingdom
9th Sunday after Pentecost - 7/30/2023 | Matthew 13:44-46
Summertime, a cherished season of warmth and abundance, holds a special place in our hearts. During these fleeting months, we tend to our gardens, embark on vacations, and embrace outdoor activities with zest. The allure of this season lies in its brevity, offering a respite from the cold grip of winter. Amidst the celebrations of life's beauty, it is disheartening to witness how our world seems to have lost touch with the intrinsic value of human life.
More and more people are embracing evolutionary theories, reducing human beings to mere byproducts of chance. War-torn areas casually refer to innocent civilians as "collateral damage," and legalized abortions continue to discard unborn babies without regard. The sanctity of the family has been marred by heinous abuses and murders, while the elderly are sometimes seen as burdens on society. Even the lives of the infirm and disabled are increasingly deemed disposable through euthanasia, all under the pretext of ending suffering and maintaining the quality of life.
In such a world, many individuals suffer from low self-esteem, where self-value fluctuates based on societal standards, productivity, and financial standing. Amidst these unsettling circumstances, introspection is vital to understand how we perceive ourselves and how we gauge our worth, especially in the eyes of our families, communities, and most importantly, God. What truly determines our value? Is it our self-esteem, skills, productivity, or financial status?
God's Kingdom: A Different Paradigm of Value
Amidst the shifting sands of worldly standards, one constant remains—God views the value of human life entirely differently. The pages of the Holy Scripture reveal that God's ways transcend man's understanding. Jesus, in His interaction with Pontius Pilate, proclaimed, "My kingdom is not of this world," emphasizing that God's kingdom operates on a different level, guided by distinct principles of true value. The Gospel of John (3:5-6) further expounds on this, highlighting the necessity of being "reborn" into God's Kingdom through water and the Spirit.
Throughout the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus imparts invaluable teachings on the uniqueness and wonder of God's kingdom through seven distinct parables. These parables offer windows into the realm of divine truth. In previous Sundays, we explored some of these parables, understanding that Jesus' kingdom takes root in the hearts of individuals through the sowing of the Gospel's Word into the world. As we embrace the Pearl of Great Price and put our faith in Jesus, we are reborn into God's holy family, being brought into His kingdom of grace.
However, Jesus also emphasizes that the Seed of the Gospel does not always flourish into healthy, fruitful plants. Some seedlings wither and die, overshadowed by the cares of the world or other distractions that stifle spiritual growth. In another parable, Jesus vividly portrays the devil sowing wicked seeds alongside the good seeds of the Son of Man, resulting in the coexistence of both good and evil in this world. While God permits this coexistence for a time, a day will come, as illustrated in the parable of the dragnet, when the Lord and His angels will separate the righteous from the wicked, distinguishing the genuine followers of God's Unconditional Love and Human Worth from the imposters.
Thus, Jesus conveys a crucial lesson through these parables—His blessed kingdom exists amidst the challenges and struggles of this world. Being a member of His kingdom does not exempt us from experiencing pain, suffering, and devaluation, characteristics often associated with life in the world's kingdom. Nonetheless, hope and reassurance emerge during these trials through two short yet profound parables—the hidden treasure and The Pearl of great price.
Unraveling the Parables
In these two parables, Jesus opens a gateway to profound encouragement for believers. Let us reexamine them: "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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Traditionally, these parables have symbolized the treasures of God's kingdom, encompassing forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation—the precious gifts we ought to seek earnestly. Indeed, these blessings are priceless and vital aspects of our faith. However, there is a danger of doctrinal error in interpreting these parables solely in this manner.
A Paradigm Shift
It is essential to reconsider the interpretation of these parables, applying the same principles used for understanding other parables in the context of Chapter 13. As we do so, we begin to discern a different, yet equally profound, message—the parables revolve around Jesus. In all the parables, including these two, Jesus plays a pivotal role. He is the Sower of the Seed, the One who plants the kingdom, and the One who seeks the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl.
The True Treasures of God's Heart
The other parables in Matthew's Gospel teach that the world is the field, and the Seed of the Gospel is sown into it. But how many of us have actively sought Jesus or the treasures of His kingdom with diligence and fervor? The reality is that, by our sinful nature, we want nothing to do with God. Scripture attests, "There is no one who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless" (Romans 10). Moreover, we are all conceived and born as enemies of God, incapable of considering Him and His kingdom of great value on our own accord.
Herein lies the powerful truth that Jesus unveils through these parables—just as He sows the good seed into the world, He also seeks and finds the hidden treasure and the pearl. In other words, Jesus is the Man who searches for the treasure hidden in the field, and He is the Merchant searching for the pearl. The precious treasures in these parables are not the possessions of God's kingdom; rather, they represent something far more valuable to Jesus—us, humanity.
You Are the Pearl of Great Price
In this paradigm shift, the profound comfort of these parables emerges. You, I, and every believer are the treasures Jesus seeks with joy. Our true identity is hidden from the world, as only God perceives those who truly belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. To the world, we might appear as a gathering of deluded, religious enthusiasts, but in God's eyes, we are the Body of Christ, the true treasures of His heart.
In the world, value and beauty lie in the eyes of the beholder. A flea market or a garage sale is a testament to this, where one person's junk becomes another's treasure. However, value is not intrinsic; it is defined by what the buyer is willing to pay. Gold and diamonds are precious and expensive because people are willing to pay a high price for them. Otherwise, they are just stones. The same principle applies to us; our value lies in how much the Buyer, Jesus Christ, was willing to pay for us.
Priceless in Christ's Eyes
Jesus, the Son of God, sold all He had for us—He sacrificed His very life to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. The apostle Peter attests, "You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." Our value to Christ is beyond measure.
Furthermore, the man in the first parable bought the entire field to possess the treasure hidden within it. This suggests that when the man owns the field, the treasure belongs to him as well. Similarly, Jesus did not merely purchase His Church; He shed His blood for the whole world. He died to save all, even those who would reject Him. However, He purchased us specifically, those who believe in Him. John's First Epistle assures us that Christ is the propitiation not only for us but for the whole world.
God's Precious Pearls
Do you still question your worth? Embrace the profound truth that you are God's hidden treasure, His pearl of great price. While this world may seem bleak at times, know that God views you with immeasurable love. He sought you out, found you, and redeemed you with the blood of His Son. You are of immeasurable value to God, beyond any human reckoning. Reflecting on the parables of the hidden treasure and the Pearl, we realize that our worth is not determined by societal norms or worldly achievements. Rather, it is grounded in God's boundless love for us.
As a precious pearl in God's sight, you are not just a number in the grand scheme of existence. You are cherished and beloved, not for what you can contribute, but for who you are—God's creation, redeemed by the precious blood of His Son. Let this truth permeate your heart and mind. Embrace your identity as God's hidden treasure, and as you do, extend this understanding to others. Recognize the value of every human being, regardless of their background, race, or productivity, for each one is a priceless pearl in the eyes of our Creator.
In a world that devalues human life, hold fast to the assurance of God's unchanging love for us. Embrace the truth that you are a pearl of great price to God, and live in the joyful certainty that He has prepared eternal life for you in the beauty of His presence. As we grasp the intrinsic value of human life in God's kingdom, let us extend this perspective to others, treating every individual with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow pearls of God's heart.