Ownership of the field of treasure

IMG_0114Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all that he had and bought the field. 

The standard Christian teaching on this is that this man found the treasure of Salvation and realized how important it was, so he hid it and then went and bought the field so that he could have it.  There is nothing inherently wrong about this teaching, but it has some moralistic problems to it.  After all, Jesus focus was about sharing the love of God with others.  In this parable we see a man who is not planning to share at all…if he was, then he would go running to town with the treasure in his arms and shout to all about it, wouldn’t he?!!  Instead he hides it again, then goes and we presume deceptively purchases the field.  We see this kind of thing happen in the world over and over again…some person will find out some facts about some land that makes it more valuable…maybe some plans for the surrounding area that is unknown to the landowner and so they go and offer an outrageous sum of money (in the land owner’s eyes), but still far less than it will actually be worth if the plans known only to the buyer happen.  We call that “land speculation”…totally acceptable from a worldly standpoint, but rather an unChristian way of acting, right?!!  Morally, as Christians we would have problems with this action…especially if we are the ones who get taken advantage of in the land selling process.

An interesting thing I have learned from Dave LeBlanc’s recent teaching on this parable is that the idea of ownership of something means that you have to work at it for 3 years before you have ownership.  Ownership isn’t something that comes about by accident, just because you bought it.  In Jewish terms, which means in the terms that Jewish Rabbi Jesus is teaching to his Jewish Disciples…ownership is acquired not just with money, but you have to actually do something with it, and do something with it consistently for 3 years.  So if we take that idea and look at this parable again we can learn a few things:

1.)  The man was walking on land that was not owned by a family..it was deserted land…fallow land.  After all, if he found a treasure hidden in a field, it was probably buried in the first place and he found it from working the field with the intent to get ownership.  (We know that the land of Israel did not have a lot of forests, it’s fields are good for olives and wine, and wheat.)  So he was working the field and accidentally dug up a treasure, so he goes and reburies it and then since it is so valuable he must focus all of his wealth on acquiring it immediately.  He does this.

Yet, under the law of Torah, he doesn’t actually own it until he has worked it for three years, now according to what Dave is telling us about Rabbinical Judaism  it is not good enough to just buy the land with money, but to have to invest your time and energy into using it and bringing in a harvest…repeatedly.  In other words, Land speculation is not allowed.  You don’t just buy the land and say, “Look at me, I am wealthy I have all this land, but do nothing with it!”  In our terms, we would say, “use it or lose it”…this makes a lot of sense for people of Jesus’ time.  Land that lays fallow is not producing food.  Israel was a land that occasionally had years of famine…so it was important to produce all that it could in the good years.  After all, refrigeration, and freezing and canning as storage methods were not really around.  The main methods of food storage were probably dehydration, pickling, or fermentation.  According to the Old Testament there was a requirement of fallowness for land every 7 years….this was probably more about maintaining the nutrients and not exhausting the land by repeated growing of the same crop that would sap the same nutrients from the soil, so that the land was not worn out.  Spiritually, it was about relying on the Lord for your well being in times of scarcity..every 7 years there was a reminder to Israel about this.

IMG_1595Also under the laws in Leviticus the selling of the land was not to be permanent…so you may say it was more of a renting out for the use of the land and its crop.

2.) So we also learn a deeper meaning if we apply this idea of having to work for something to our salvation and what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of heaven being like this treasure found in a field.  It was such a valuable treasure that the man was willing to immediately devote his entire wealth and life to attaining the rights to that treasure.

If we apply this idea to our salvation, the we can and should be believing that as Christians we are not actually obtaining that salvation simply by “saying a prayer” and going on about our normal lives.  If we do not plow the field of our salvation, or dig into our Bibles and take the word of the Lord into our hearts on a daily basis and apply it to how we are living out our daily lives, then we are as lost as the person who has never asked Jesus to come into our hearts.  That takes us to another parable, the parable of the seeds:

pexels-photo-280274.jpegLuke 8:4-15 New International Version (NIV)

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The seed is the Word of God…there are many things that can happen to people who at first hear it, but do not focus on it and work at understanding it and drawing closer to God.  This links right in with the parable of the man who discovered the treasure in the field, except this man was someone who realized the value of God’s Word and was willing to give up everything else to obtain that value, which was greater than everything he owned already.  He completely gave himself to God heart and soul.  He trusted that God’s treasure was so great that no matter what he must not lose it because of allowing something else in his life to get in the way of it…in this man’s heart it is better to give up on everything else than to give up on God.

This goes along with Commandment #1:

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Does this mean that we are to have nothing in our lives except God?  No, it means that God is to be the center of our lives…every action we take in our lives should be in order to draw closer to God and glorify God.

God has given us possessions to use in order to glorify him and draw closer to him and serve him with our lives.  God has put people in our lives so that we may both learn more about God with them and from them, and also help them to learn more about God and draw closer to God through us and how we love them the way that God loves them.

The point here, is that God is to be the most important…we do not all run out on mission trips to far away nations, we do not all go into the formal ministry of a church..we are all, however, to be lay ministers to others in how we treat them and work with them on God’s behalf in sharing our knowledge of who God is with them.  That is how we work the field…and take ownership of our Salvation through Jesus Christ.  We each, can and should do this every single day in our every day lives.  Most of the time we do this, in the very same place that we are already in, and in the very same job that we are already doing.  It doesn’t matter in God’s eyes if you are a house cleaner, or an architect, or some really wealthy influential business man or world leader…if you are a person who is in Christ you have your mission field right where your are…unless God calls you to go somewhere else and or do something else.

Don’t be misunderstanding here….God will not love you any more or any less no matter what you do and don’t do in your life.  However, if you are going to follow Jesus, which is what must be done to be saved, then that requires action on your part!  Jesus journeyed all the while that he was doing his three year ministry…he took action to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth…he said his Kingdom is “within you” or “in your midst”.

Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, ‘Lo, it is here!’ or ‘Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”
It is up to each of us to follow Jesus on our journey to Christian maturity…following requires movement!
Here is the link for David LeBlanc’s teaching on the parable of the field of treasure.

 

 

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Great is your Reward

IMG_49481Corinthians 2:9  However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.

I find it to be interesting that the focus of many sermons is the rewards of following God…how we will be rewarded for our behavior or our faith when we get to heaven.  As if anyone who genuinely choses to follow Jesus Christ is doing so for the “rewards” that they might get!  Jesus called his Disciples his friends….now I don’t know about you, but I don’t approach my friends with any thought of what “reward” I can get from them.  The friendship is reward enough.

There are many many verses in the Bible that speak of God giving rewards to people, and we have many many pastors out there preaching about rewards.  This verse in 1Cor. 2:9 tells us that we cannot fathom all that God has prepared for us who love him.

That means that when we think of rewards we can probably cross off things of an earthly nature, from our thinking.  Not that God doesn’t care about those things that you need and desire in your life..he does.  However, face the facts…not every devoted Christian becomes endowed with worldly wealth.  My personal thinking is that if you need it to accomplish the purpose God has for your life, then he will provide it.  The main thing is to understand that having wealth is not a sin, but misusing it, or not recognizing that it is a gift (Even if you work for it, the abilities that allow you to attain it come from God… they are a gift…there are many people who work for it and yet never have it.)

So, lets look at this reward idea from another perspective instead of the material goods perspective.

What is the reward of being a Christian?  I know one of the first things we all think of is that we have been purified and salvation is ours.  While that is true, I don’t think of this as a reward.  Generally, we refer to that as a “gift” that Jesus gave us.  A reward implies something that we worked to earn in some way.  We all know that we cannot “earn” salvation, though there are many people that still try.

Proverbs 3:3-4  Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

So looking at Proverbs 3:3-4 we can see that one of the rewards of following God is that you win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Another way to put this is that you are viewed as a Godly, righteous person, both in the sight of God and in the sight of the people around you.  By living in love and faithfulness you become what Jesus told his Disciples to be….followers of Jesus…Fishers of Men…representing the loving nature of God to those around you…living witnesses to the message of the Kingdom of God.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

colored-flavors-for-cooking-6000x4000_23998

Luke 6:38 is many times taken out of context, but the good measure spoken of here is connected to verse 37 which speaks about being judgmental and condemning of others.  We can just as well paraphrase this verse to say…”Give forgiveness, and love generously to others.”

Those who cook can understand the idea of a “good measure”…it means not to be skimpy in your measurement of an ingredient because it effects the outcome of the thing you are cooking.  So being generous in our measure of forgiveness to others and in our loving of others will effect how they respond to us as people…it effects how they respond to your claim of Christianity also.  God is telling us that we should be quick to forgive and generous in doing so.  Looking at this from a reward perspective…the reward for this is that God will judge your misdeeds with the same measure that you judge others.  If you judge others harshly then you can expect the same from God.  So the benefit of being loving and forgiving toward others is that God is the same to you, and also your earthly benefit is that you will have many more friends and loved ones, and when you tell someone that you are a Christian then they will be apt to believe you and perhaps wish to find out more about your Christianity.

Face it! There is no one who has ever been hated into loving God!

Jesus is the only one qualified to say where a person is going to end up.  He is the only judge.  The pressure is off! You and I are not required to fix the world by standing in judgement on others!  I think, what a relief!  What a reward!  God’s requirement for us is to love the person and show them who God is in our lives by the way we live and love others, and love God.

Please don’t confuse being the type of judgment spoken of here, (which is being condemning) and using good judgement in dealing with others.  

Another reward we have from following God is to be at peace with God, and to have God’s peace in our lives.  Gaining this peace comes from turning our lives over to God and submitting to him.  Part of that submission which leads to earthly peace is to learn to have a habit of forgiving others.  Forgiveness is like that…the more you do it…the easier it becomes…it is habit forming!  The more you forgive the more peace you have in your heart.

God tells us to forgive, not for the person who has done wrong’s benefit, but for our own benefit.  A horrible thing happens to us when we do not forgive….we have anger that moves through us at the thought of that person…until we are consumed with bitterness.  This is unhealthy and usually doesn’t make the other person feel bad at all.  We are not to wait for the person to ask us for forgiveness….we need to be working on it as soon as we have been wronged so that if they ever do ask, then we can be the person who can smile peacefully and sincerely tell that person that we already forgave them for that a while back!  I can tell you that this is a wonderful feeling to have because you don’t need to worry about your expression or anything…it is a feeling of freedom to be able to forgive people readily.  That is quite a reward….it leads to a peace that surpasses any worldly understanding.  A peace of heart.cb9abd0f57c415832936240661835956

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I really have no idea what reward God may have for his believers in heaven, but I can tell you that for myself, I have found that living in relationship with God on a daily basis is reward enough.  It is a great reward to go through life and enjoy the pleasure of God’s company through good times and bad..to know that you are truly never alone…and also to be able to celebrate the salvation of another person as they learn and get excited to follow God..to watch their life of faith begin and continue…to be part of a larger family…as Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:48   48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

The reward that God gives us in this life is relationship…with him and with others around us.  There are many small gifts along the way  that God may give you (he is good to do that), but relationship is to my way of thinking the primary “reward” for following God.  In short, God’s idea of a reward does not correspond to the earthly ideas of position in society, lording it over others, or monetary rewards…his idea of a reward is relationship with him and with those around you…more love in your life!

I think the reward that most of us who are Christians want from God is said very well in Matthew 25:21

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’