Matthew 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.
Also 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:
Luke 8:4-15 New International Version (NIV)
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “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. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 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.”
9 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.
- Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9