One of Jesus’s shortest parables is one of my favorites because it is packed with such great significance. It is found in Matthew 13:45-46:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Pearl merchants were wealthy people, for they bought and sold pearls. They had to have financial wealth to stock their inventory. Yet this merchant was willing to sell all of his pearls in order to buy this one pearl of great value.
Is there anything in the world that in order to purchase you would be willing to sell your home, your cars, your investments, and your retirement accounts? If you seriously think about it, it would have to be something of incredible value that would make everything else you own pale in comparison.
Several years ago I read a great illustration that put it in these terms; imagine your oldest child contracts a rare disease and that your child is given six months to live. Then you learn that a foreign pharmaceutical company, along with a team of doctors have come up with a cure. You and this child will have to travel to this country to receive the treatment.
However, the cost of the treatment is incredibly expensive and because it is in a foreign country, your insurance does not cover it. In order to cover the cost you have to liquidate everything you own.
What you end up discovering is that this cure is so precious to you, that all that you own is not nearly as important to you anymore. It brings a whole change in attitude towards everything you own. You realize now everything is expendable, which changes your attitude to everything else.
It reminds me of what Jesus said in John 6:21, “Wherever your treasures and riches lie, there will your heart be also.” What you end up learning is that what you treasure most has changed. The cure is of much greater value than your financial assets.
I think everyone of us has things in life that our heart treasures, and so much of what we treasure is temporal. It has no lasting value.
In the work that I do, it strikes me often that people do not realize the great riches that Christ offers us. In one sense He is the medicine, the cure that makes everything else expendable.
Author Alister McGrath, in his book The Unknown God says that this pearl merchant in the parable finds this priceless pearl and that he is willing to sell everything in order to obtain it. Why? Because it is of supreme value. It is worth so much more than everything else he owns.
I think we gain great insight into this transaction when we examine Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36-37.
“What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul” (and in essence loses what is of utmost value).
Then Jesus asks a very penetrating question:
“For what will a man give in exchange for his soul.”
Jesus came into the world to redeem our souls. If we do not see Him as the “Pearl of Great Value,” then we truly do not understand who He is, what He has done for us, and the great treasure He offers us.
From this parable we learn that what He offers each of us can be compared to this really expensive pearl. When people see it and understand its’ incredible value, they are willing to surrender their lives to gain what He offers. They realize what a new and right relationship with God is worth.