The Pearl of Great Price
By Ben Volman, Messianic Rabbi & Toronto Ministry Team Leader
By Ben Volman, Messianic Rabbi & Toronto Ministry Team Leader
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man found it, hid it again, then in great joy went and sold everything he owned, and bought that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for fine pearls. On finding one very valuable pearl he went away, sold everything he owned and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).
Without a bank account, without all the means we have to safely keep our money safe, what would you do if you found great wealth?
This was a real problem in Israel 2000 years ago when people didn’t have bank accounts. They had to store valuables in their homes or hide them away on their property. To buy a field for the treasure it contained was not an unimaginable concept to them. No one would sell a field with their valuables still hidden there and, if you found such property, you were a thief. But if you owned the field, then all it contained was yours.
Pearls were highly prized, especially by kings who could easily reward the owner of such a prize with greater wealth than they could ever imagine earning any other way. The “pearl of great price” often showed up in ancient rabbinical sources, as well as Yeshua’s well-known story – like our big lottery prize.
But why does Yeshua connect the Kingdom of God with treasure and pearls? In fact, He often spoke about money, including the series of spiritual parables that included the lost coin, the “talents” and this one about the pearl. These teachings led to the development of some important Biblical principles about personal finances that are taught by our friend, Michael Bell, who has written extensively on this topic:
Yeshua knew that people were coming to hear Him because He had something for them. A country preacher would expect people to listen for anything that might be useful to know. So Yeshua was telling them that, when they came into God’s kingdom, experience would be the most valuable thing one could ever own. And, indeed, He was right. There is nothing of greater value than what the God who oversees the whole universe can offer us of Himself – if we’ll receive it.
Even though Yeshua gave us this valuable information 2000 years ago, only a limited number of people believe in its value. Yet they still believe in the power of pearls and our modern equivalent – diamonds.
If you find yourself in New York, go down to 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and you’ll find yourself in the famous Diamond District surrounded by Orthodox Jews carrying around the most innocuous plastic bags with paper envelopes and bundles with rubber bands and everyone will be speaking in Yiddish. Even if they’re Hindu, Dutch, French or Russian – Yiddish is the language of diamonds:
Nevertheless, diamonds are deceptive. They say “diamonds are forever” or “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Don’t believe it.
Some years ago, I received from an estate a ring with three nice sized diamonds, so I went to so see some of those friendly guys you see waving cash at you on TV. I was disappointed by their offers so I had the diamonds evaluated and learned that all three had cracks. They were of little or no value. Along the way, I learned that genuinely valuable pearls are also rare.
Whenever I speak on this topic, I’m always surprised at the look I see on the faces of my listeners. They show a fascination that is rarely seen in services. You want the blessing? You want good fortune? Don’t you know that God can bring you all the treasures you seek?
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
The well-known 19th Century speaker, Randall Conwell, had a famous talk called “Acres of Diamonds” that he gave more than 6,000 times across the United States and England. Conwell discovered that, wherever he gave this message, people became wealthy. Some acquired wealth after starting with nothing. Others simply outdid themselves in gaining wealth.
He spoke of diamonds, silver, gold and oil-wells. In each case, he began speaking of men in India, California, Pennsylvania and his own home state of Massachusetts who had dedicated themselves to finding great wealth.
One man went in search of diamonds. One in search of gold. One wanted to seek out mining properties. Another came to Canada to find oil wells.
In India, near the house of the man who had gone in search of diamonds, they found the diamond mine of Golconda, the greatest of all Indian diamond mines.
In the stream that ran through the property of the man who had gone to southern California in search of gold, they found a fabulous gold mine.
The professor of mining who left Massachusetts to seek mines in Wisconsin had spent his days of study literally right on top of a what would become a very profitable silver mine.
And the man who learned all about oil wells so that he could work in Petrolia, Ontario, had left his home just in time to lose out on the first great oil wells found in Pennsylvania.
Each of these men sought treasure first.
Randall Conwell was often invited back to see the properties and factories that people had opened after they left his meetings, pondering his words. He told his audiences to consider how best to meet the needs of the people around them, using the skills that they had already learned. People from small towns needn’t worry that you can only make a fortune in big cities. People in big cities never need worry that all the best ideas were taken.
If the kingdom of God is within, what is within you? And if you can’t be content where you are, will you be at peace anywhere else?
It’s not simply about being money-conscious. Judas was so spiritually sensitive that he found the woman who broke the jar of nard over Yeshua to be an affront – all that money that could have gone to the poor. And in the end, he sold out Yeshua for the price of a slave, 30 pieces of silver.
As I researched Conwell’s personal background, I wondered how he had come up with the idea for his talk. He originally gave it to his own old Civil War regiment, where he’d received his first assignment and was subsequently court-martialed. His men hadn’t been paid for three months and Conwell went off to get their pay. While he was gone, the enemy attacked and his men scattered. They had no leader. Conwell learned a tough lesson: he was going after money while the enemy pursued victory. In time, Conwell regained command and had numerous successes, but that early lesson must have burned deep into his conscience.
As I write this, I can’t help thinking of the many lives around us that are in moral, financial and spiritual disarray because they have no peace with God. Momentary wealth so easily deceives and diverts us from what’s most important. As Yeshua warned us: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Matthew 16:26)?
How else would you describe someone who lives in peace with themselves and with God except as having wealth beyond compare?
Even if you found the pearl of great price, that fortune or treasure people are hoping will come with the lottery win or the great inheritance that seems just out reach, would it be just another momentary diversion? A family member I know relates the story of someone who got that big lottery win and finally just cut off all their family ties, saying, “It turns out that millions of dollars isn’t enough to share and keep all our friends and family happy.”
Some years ago, I sat across from a retired professor who said to me, “Ben, do you know what it would cost me to accept Yeshua?”
Today, that man is living in the peace of Yeshua and, like me, counts it worth everything else that he had to give up.
What greater treasure can we find than in Yeshua? He came that we might have whole, meaningful lives and have them more abundantly. And He paid, out of His own life, the greatest price for us all.