This week, we’re continuing our message series as we go through the parables of Jesus and learn from Him how to truly live life to its fullest.
A parable is a simple story that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus said that He taught using parables so that the secrets of His Kingdom would only be understood by those seeking after this revelation.
Last week, we learned from a few of Jesus’ parables the importance of the ‘lil things in life that may seem insignificant to us, but that are tremendously valuable to Him. Along the same theme, we’re being challenged this week again on the topic of value. Last week, it was on the value we place on the ‘lil things that we do in this life. This week, the focus is on the value that we place on the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gave us these parables to teach us:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
In our culture, much of our lives are consumed by value. Many families spend 80+ hours at workplaces to bring in enough income to raise their families. Prices of fuel, food, healthcare, and just about everything else continue to rise. The stress to pay routine household bills along with the cost of education, preparing for retirement, investment in sports and other extra-curricular activities, and trying to invest in time simply spent together is huge.
We are so consumed with the high value of all of the things of this world that we often consider lastly, or outright neglect, the value of our spiritual lives. We neglect Biblical literacy, shaping strong character, making good moral choices, and the critical impact that these things have on every area of life.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure or pearl of great price. The one who finds it, sees its value, and is willing to give up every earthly thing for it. Jesus literally taught in the parable that the one who found a hidden treasure, with joy sold ALL that he had to buy that field. Jesus literally taught in the parable that the one who found the find pearl of great value, sold EVERYTHING he had to buy it.
These parables of Jesus were not intended to teach that we should all live in absolute poverty relying on other people for everything. The rest of the word of God clearly teaches us that this is not His will for our lives. The emphasis and focus of these parables was not on what we give up in this life for the kingdom of Heaven, but clearly on what value we place on it. So often, we get this wrong. If we count the cost, we have not seen the worth of the kingdom of heaven.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in having earthly wealth and possessions of great worldly value. However, if we gain those, but lack heavenly treasure, then we have wasted our lives. Our investments will be ripped from our hands and given to others. In the end, we will be left with nothing. Jesus says it this way to the church:
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Jesus taught yet another parable on this same subject of what we consider to be valuable in this life. In fact, Jesus taught on this issue very often. This should cause each one of us to stop and take inventory of our lives. What are our thoughts and resources invested more in? Things of this world that are here today and gone tomorrow or in God’s Kingdom that endures forever and offers us a guaranteed return on our investment?
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
How do we place value on the kingdom of heaven, though? How can we be rich toward God and store up for ourselves an investment that we’ll never lose?
Yes, it is Biblical to tithe. 10% of our gross income belongs to God and to keep it from Him is to rob Him. Our offerings are anything above and beyond that. Both of these principals are clearly taught from cover to cover of the Bible beginning with Adam and Eve presenting their offerings to God, Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek in Genesis 14, clearly taught in Malachi 3 in black and white terms, and in the New Testament as Jesus commended those who faithfully gave a tenth of whatever they bring in.
I believe this to be true, based on God’s word, however, I do believe that this changed in the New Testament. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit desires to change our mindset and thinking about tithing. The mindset and attitude of tithing is to give to God the minimum of what we owe Him. The Old Testament reality, but the New Testament covenant clarifies that everything, not only our tithe belongs to Him. We are merely stewards entrusted with a portion of what belongs to God. That includes not only our money, but our marriage, children, homes, property, the air that we breathe, and absolutely everything else.
Often, we use our lack as an excuse for not being generous. Jesus taught that if we are faithful with little, that we can be trusted with much. Paul reiterated this with the principle of generosity in sowing and reaping. Have you ever noticed that those who have never have enough and give little never seem to have enough? However, have you noticed that those who give generously, even when they are experiencing lack, always seem to have enough? It comes from a poverty mindset and until that mindset changes, circumstances do not change either.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
We invest in the Kingdom of Heaven by being generous.
Although finances are the easiest way to measure and gauge value, generosity goes far beyond mere finances.
We also invest in the Kingdom of Heaven by our service to God and to others.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
To be like Jesus is to serve those around us. Sure, we provide opportunities for this in the church by serving in our multitude of ministries. However, we are called to have the same servant-attitude as Jesus had meeting the needs of anyone around us. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a minister, which simply means to be a servant.
This means that wherever we are, we ought to be mindful and intentional about ways to serve those around us. This can be anything from pushing someone’s shopping cart back for them, taking them a meal, calling them to see how they are doing, or anything else that the Spirit may lead us to do.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25, that to serve someone even in the smallest of ways such as to give them a glass of water or to visit them, is to serve Him. In reality, God needs nothing; He does not need our service. For us to serve God is an honor and a privilege. To care for His creation blesses Him and certainly blesses us as well. To serve others is to be physical representatives of Jesus to them.
Some of us may need this reminder this morning:
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
God remembers the times that we serve others and can even lead to the receipt of His promises. Sometimes, we serve and serve and it feels like it does not matter. His word encourages us to keep on loving, keep on diligently serving, and it will be rewarded by God who sees it all.
Of course, when we’re serving, we want to do so with the right attitude and motive as well. We serve others out of gratitude of what Jesus has done for us. We serve because of the example that He set not only by His lifestyle of service, but by His death done to serve our needs. To keep this in mind helps us not to grow weary in doing good, but to serve with an always fresh zeal and love for Jesus and, as a result, for others.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Finally, we serve others within our own individual capabilities and giftings. For me to serve someone by replacing their roof would, in reality, be a huge disservice. Though we are all called to serve others, we’re only called to serve them within our ability that God gives us. Just a few verses before this call to keep our spiritual fervor while serving others, Paul reminds us that:
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
1 Peter 4:10
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
We invest in the Kingdom of Heaven by serving those around us.
Just like the person who found a hidden treasure and the one who found the pearl of great price, we want to be ones to realize the value of the Kingdom of Heaven. We want to be ones whose lives clearly reveal just how precious and important it is to us and how much it means to us what Jesus has done for us.
Next week, we’ll learn about a few other ways in which we invest in the Kingdom of Heaven, assigning to it our view of its value and worth.