Jesus often would tell a parable and precede it with these words, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” One of His most interesting parables is also one of the shortest. In Mathew 12:44 He says:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
It is important to realize this is not far-fetched. Back then they did not have secure banks with vaults. Often wealthy people would bury their gold and silver in various places. If they died suddenly and had never told anyone, it would be lost until someone found it. But what is Jesus trying to teach us in this parable?
Think about how this discovery would have changed this man’s life. And apply this physical treasure to spiritual treasure. As one commentator put it, the gospel, which is true in spiritual treasure, never improves you, it remakes you so that your life will never be the same. It changes the essence of who you are because it transforms your heart.
As you read the parable, this land appears on the surface to be an ordinary field. Yet beneath the soil of this ordinary field is an incredible treasure. The treasure is buried under the surface and the only way to find it is to dig beneath the surface.
Tim Keller, critiquing this parable said, “The Bible tells us over and over that Jesus often hides spiritual treasure under a field of ordinariness and you will never find it unless you seek and penetrate the surface.” So many people, including Christians are not willing to do this in their search for spiritual truth. It is so easy to stay on the surface and not go to the trouble of digging and searching.
If you think about it, in our modern world we seem to always look at the surface of things. We seem to always assess value on the basis of the externals and that which is often superficial.
It strikes me that outwardly a person can look great, but inwardly and emotionally can be bankrupt. Conversely, externally we might be kind of ordinary but internally we are rock solid. I would even contend that God often works through ordinary people and not superstars.
An example of this is in the life of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. Though he was rich and famous, he lived in great fear at the prospect of his inevitable death. After many years in the comfort of his aristocratic surroundings—a world of ideas without purpose and privilege without consequence, insulated from the hardships of poverty, physical stress, and psychological trauma—Tolstoy’s pampered existence slowly began to unravel and eventually he contemplated ending his life at his own hands.
However, his imagination and creative spirit took a radical turn. His life and perspective on death was completely transformed. Ironically he began to find encouragement and optimism in the community of old, uneducated Christian peasants in his town, whom he now realized were wiser and more in touch with the realities of human existence than his educated aristocratic friends.
Tolstoy began to read the New Testament and over time became a committed Christian. Yet it was the poor, uneducated peasants in his town that God used as instruments that influenced his coming to faith.
There is a wonderful story I love in C.S. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce. A young man goes to heaven and he is being given a tour by a guide. He is walking around. He is looking. Suddenly around the corner comes this enormous parade of people, an enormous entourage. There are boys and girls dancing around some central figure, and there are men and women dancing around the same central figure. She is beautiful. She comes around the corner, and the narrator of the story says he could hardly look at her, the unbearable beauty of her face. She was just filled with light.
The young man asks: “Who is this woman?“
“It’s someone you have never heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”
“She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.”
The guide proceeds to tell him how Sarah Smith had a tremendous impact on all those she came in contact with. He says, “And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”
Then we learn who Sarah Smith was on earth. She was a nobody. She lived in Golders Green which is a nowhere little town. The guide says she never got married. She never made any money, but she became someone of such enormous love, and she changed so many people’s lives because of the love, the joy and the peace in her. Have you not heard that fame in heaven and fame on earth are two very, very different things?
Sarah Smith was a treasure in an ordinary field.
Somehow many Christians believe that God can’t use them to impact the world. However, He desires to use us in our sphere of influence however large or small it may be. C.S. Lewis I believe had it right, “… fame in heaven and fame on earth are two very, very different things.”