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Our first two lessons this morning present examples of people who had proper priorities. The first example was Solomon. Think about it. If someone came to you and offered to give you whatever you asked for, what would you ask?
In our world today you might be tempted to ask for a cure for COVID, or at least that you and your loved ones would be immune. Considering how many people play the lottery, you might ask to win, or at least to be given millions of dollars. Maybe there’s a place you always wanted to go, or a house or a vehicle you always wanted to have. But, although he was surely tempted to think about asking for money, or fame, or the defeat of his enemies, Solomon asked for something else, something that that was not primarily for himself, but for others. He asked for wisdom, not because he wanted to be considered wise by others, but because he wanted to be able to do the best job he could for God and for the people he governed.
Is that something you would think of asking? Would you ask to be enabled to be excellent at your job, not for what you might get out of it, but so that you could take good care of your family and others and bring glory to God?
The second example is Moses. You will remember that his parents hid him for as long as they could at home because Pharaoh had ordered that all Jewish male babies be killed at birth. When they were no longer able to hide him from the authorities, they put him in a basket and floated him in the Nile River near where they knew Pharaoh’s daughter liked to come. The plan worked. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses. She adopted him as her own and hired his mother to be his nursemaid. He was raised in the palace of Pharaoh where he enjoyed the life of one of the richest people on earth at the time. He had access to some of the greatest learning ever, people who built pyramids and even performed brain surgery. He literally had it all. He had access to anything and everything a person of his day could desire. But, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that he gave it all up. Why would he do that? He considered disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. He believed that there was something worth more than all the treasures of Egypt. He understood that enjoying a life of sin in this world might be fun, but it’s not worth missing out on enjoying the treasures of heaven for all eternity.
Jesus’ first two parables before us today describe a person like Solomon and Moses. They describe a person who has right priorities, who understands what is most important.
It’s interesting that these two people find the treasure, what’s most important, in different ways. The first man seems to discover the treasure by accident. He is out in a field either working, or just traveling through, and he finds what he realizes is a treasure that is worth sacrificing all he has. There is no indication that he was looking for it, or even knew that such a treasure existed.
He would be like a person who knew nothing about the Bible, who maybe had heard the name Jesus but didn’t really know anything about him. But this person maybe ended up attending a Christian school, or started dating a Christian, or happened to work with a Christian. Some how or other, without looking for it, they came into contact with the greatest treasure there is, the good news that Jesus lived and died for them and for all people. The Holy Spirit works faith and joy in their hearts so that, like Moses, they are willing to break all ties with their former beliefs, and even with family if necessary, because nothing is more important than having eternal life in Jesus.
The joy demonstrated by such a person often puts us to shame. One such person told me that when he realized the truth about his salvation, he was like a person who had been barely surviving in the desert. When he found an oasis with unlimited food and water he began jumping for joy, but all the people there- those who had always known the truth- looked at him as if he were crazy and wondered what he was so excited about. It’s so easy for those of us who have always had the greatest treasure there is, who have always known Jesus as our Savior, to take our treasure for granted.
The second person is looking for treasure, fine pearls. This person knows that there is something out there that they are missing. They investigate all kinds of different teachings and philosophies of life, but none completely satisfies. They keep looking for fine pearls. Then, one day, they hear about what God has done for them in Jesus. They come across the Bible and learn that Jesus is the perfect pearl. He alone lived on earth without sin. He offered himself as the unblemished sacrifice, the only thing valuable enough to pay the debt of the sin of the world. He alone rose from the dead and is living in the perfect glory of heaven preparing riches beyond our imagination for all who love him. This person realizes that he has found what he is looking for. As valuable as all his other fine pearls are, as intriguing and wise as all the other philosophies of the world seem, he realizes that they are rubbish compared to Jesus and eternal life in him. He sells them all. He gives up every other idea and philosophy so that he can have Jesus, the pearl of great price.
These parables illustrate what Jesus said a number of different ways in plain words. He makes it clear that He is to be our greatest treasure. He and his word are to be our number one priority. He says, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. He says, anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Keeping Jesus as our priceless treasure; seeing him as our pearl of great price; making sure that Jesus and his word are always our top priority; is easier said than done. Even Solomon, who started off making God and his word his top priority, didn’t always keep it as his top priority. At least for a while, he made building projects and women a higher priority than God and his word.
What about you? By God’s grace you know that God and his word, your eternal life in Jesus, is your most important possession and should always be at the top of your priority list. You know that in every decision you make in life your number one question should be, “how will this affect my relationship with Jesus? How will this bring God glory and help others come to share in this treasure I enjoy?” But we all have to admit that we often make decisions based on other priorities – what will make me the most money, what will give me the most happiness today, what will make me feel good?
Maybe that’s why Jesus told the parable of the dragnet next. It is similar to the parable of the wheat and the weeds, but this parable seems to be talking about the visible church. The net seems to be the preaching of the Gospel which attracts all different kinds of people into a visible church. But as Jesus says, not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. The net is pulled ashore on the last day and the angels separate the good fish from the worthless fish, those who are righteous by faith in Jesus and those who were members of the church in name only. Those without faith, those for whom Jesus was not the number one priority, will be cast into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable, by placement and meaning, illustrates the familiar words of Paul, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! Make sure that your trust is not in a church, a denomination, a person, a style of worship; make sure that your trust is not in anything but Jesus. Make sure he is your priceless treasure for whom you are willing to give up anything and everything because nothing is worth more than eternal life in him.
Jesus asked if the disciples understood the meaning of these parables. They said that they did. And Jesus grants that they did because he compares them to scribes, teachers of God’s word, who are trained as disciples of the kingdom of heaven. But his final parable reminds them and us that we are not to become complacent. As those who have the priceless treasure of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, we are not to think- I know all I need to know. I’m saved. Now I can concentrate on other priorities. No. Jesus is to remain our top priority. We are to be like a person who has all kinds of treasure in the house. We are ever increasing our treasure as we continue to dig into God’s word, realizing that there are always more riches for us to find there.
This is important for selfish reasons. Continued study of God’s word will enrich our lives. It is the means through which God guides us on the narrow path to heaven. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit helps us keep Jesus and our salvation our number one priority.
It is also important for the sake of others. As we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, we are better able to share the priceless treasure with others. We are better able to understand it ourselves, and then explain it to others, and help others rejoice like the person who found treasure in the field and the man who found the pearl of great price. Then we can rejoice together with them over the treasure of heaven that Jesus won for us.