“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Matthew 13:43
If you have kids, you have no doubt at some point caught your child picking up trash and putting it in his pockets. Again and again, you tell him (or her) to please stop picking up trash to take home, but for some reason, he just keeps doing it. I admit I have no idea why kids do this, though I have my theories. All I know for sure is that little kids simply adore finding treasure. And, let’s be honest, grown-ups do too, which may be why Jesus used the concept of finding treasure to illustrate the kingdom of heaven.
In the last of the parables in the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about a special kind of treasure, one that He describes through four quick stories.
All the parables in the book of Matthew are used to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. It was a very popular ̶ and an extremely important ̶ theme with Jesus throughout His ministry. After telling three other parables in a row to the crowds one day, Jesus takes His disciples aside for three more.
The first is how heaven is like hidden treasure.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
My first impression after reading this scripture had nothing to do with heaven. I found myself asking if Jesus was condoning a man hoarding some treasure he happened to find and not sharing it with others. Aren’t we supposed to share what God gives us?
But that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Perhaps He knew this parable sounded a bit confusing because He immediately launches into another one.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45
What does finding buried treasure and pearls have to do with each other? Both parables have the same meaning. Both are describing what the essence of salvation is. Salvation is something that is hidden from many people, but for those who find it, they recognize how valuable it is and are willing to do anything to have it.
Knowing this, it makes sense that a man finding buried treasure in a field would hide it so no one would take it for themselves. And it makes sense that a merchant would sell all he had just to have an exquisite pearl. The treasure and the pearl are illustrations of what salvation truly is and how we ought to treat it. It should be so insanely valuable that we would sell all we have just so we could possess it.
However, for those who struggle with obediently following God, Jesus gives a warning in His last parable in the book of Matthew.
The Parable of the Dragnet
I’m not a fishing fan, but I’ve seen some stuff on television so I had some idea of what Jesus is talking about when he compares heaven with a dragnet. If you’re not familiar with fishing equipment, here’s a quick lesson.
A dragnet is a huge, weighted net that a boat lowers all the way to the floor of a large body of water. The boat slowly motors forward dragging the net behind it catching any poor creature that happens to get in its path. In the commercial fishing industry, it’s an illegal way to catch fish unless you have special holes to allow turtles, dolphins, and other large animals a means of escape so they don’t drown. Dragnets can be outright lethal.
When the fishermen on the boat want to find out what they caught in their dragnet, they haul it up and lay it out on the bow of the boat to begin their inspection. Good fish are kept, and the bad or unwanted ones are tossed back overboard.
The kingdom of heaven is like the net and God is the fisherman doing the inspection. On the Day of Judgement, God will gather His children from every corner of the earth. He will inspect each of us thoroughly. The ones who were faithful in their salvation get to stay in heaven eternally with Him (in the boat, we might say) and the ones who were not…well….
Read what Jesus says in Matthew 13:49:
“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
I wish I could say that the unwanted ones would simply be tossed back overboard; but unfortunately for those who are not faithful believers, they will be put into the fiery furnace, which is a gentle way of saying Hell.
And Hell is not a good place to be. The Bible repeatedly tells us that those who are cast forever into Hell will experience unrelenting fiery heat, and “the wailing and gnashing of teeth.” I get a chill just thinking about it.
A Final Parable
In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells one more parable where He equates the Jewish scribes with the head of a household. It’s an important lesson that still rings true today.
Scribes were the masters of theology in the Jewish culture at that time. They were the experts. If you wanted to know anything about the Torah or any other part of the Old Testament, you talked to a scribe. Because of their role in the church, they usually influenced what the Pharisees and Sadducees taught in the temples, though many of them were also rabbis and did their own teaching.
Because of the scribes’ vast knowledge of the scriptures, Jesus describes them as the keepers of treasure.
“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.’” Matthew 13:52
Here, Jesus is telling His disciples not to throw away what they already know from the scribes but rather put to it together with what Jesus was teaching them in the parables. The old knowledge was meant to compliment the new knowledge, and vice versa. In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Put together everything you’ve been taught and you get the complete teaching.
That still makes amazing sense today.
Jesus is working hard here in Matthew 13 to explain to us the importance of salvation and guarding our obedience so we don’t get tossed into the fiery furnace for eternity. Then He gives us tangible advice how to do it ̶ listen to what we’ve been taught already and apply it to what He teaches us as we continue studying the Bible. This simple process will lead us to a deeper understanding of the Lord and a closer walk with Him.
May we all recognize the importance of walking out our faith and the daily pursuit of knowing God better as our loving Father.