Sunday, October 10, 2010

Acquiring the Kingdom of Heaven

Those of you who know me know that I am a Star Trek fan. No, I'm not a Trekker or a Trekkie and I can honestly say I've never been to a Star Trek convention, but I am a fan of the show, own a lot of DVDs and can quote extensively from episodes of all series except for Voyager and Enterprise which I have dubbed "too lame by Star Trek standards."

One of the species in the Star Trek universe is a race called the Ferengi. I knew I would like them from the start. They are venture capitalists, if not outright thieves, in some cases. Their soel motivation in life is the acquisition of profit. A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all, we are reminded throughout the series. Their guidebook, their Bible, if you will, is the Rules of Acquisition. In place of "See Spot. See Spot Run. Run, Spot, run!" Ferengi youths are taught "See Brack. See Brack aquire. Acquire, Brack, acquire!" When you hear the verb "acquire" in this context, it starts to come off with only negative characteristics.

I was at my girlfriend's church today. The Gospel that was read was from St. Matthew, chapter 13 where Christ speaks in parables to his disciples and the multitudes of the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 44, the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a hidden treasure of a field which a man finds, buries it and then sells all his possessions to acquire the field and thus the treasure. In the next verse, the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a great pearl which a merchant desires and so sells off all his possessions to acquire it.

I am very thankful that whenever I read the Scriptures or have them read to me I find new insights. One of those new insights was that, in the first case, the man doesn't simply take the treasure and run off with it. For the field in which the treasure is found is not his. So he then proceeds to give up everything he has to obtain the place where the treasure is buried and thus acquire it. The merchant who desires the Great Pearl must do the same--sell all his possessions to acquire it. Both parables, though, both speak to the necessity to give up everything you have to truly possess the Kingdom of God. It is not just given to you. It is something that you must work to obtain even to the point of ridding yourself of your very livelihood to obtain it. One question that ran through my head was, "how would both of these men live after they have sold everything to acquire the field or the pearl? They can't and won't sell the treasure and pearl which they have just painstakingly purchased for the basic means of life." And, of course, Christ's parables don't give us an answer to such a question.

When we acquire possessions in this world, we acquire something ephemeral and fleeting. How willing would any of us really be to rid ourselves of those possessions to acquire something much greater? Would we be willing to follow Christ's message of "sell everything and follow Him?"

In this life, acquiring possessions requires a lot of work. We have to find a means to make money and then spend it wisely. With the acquisition of the Kingdom, we have to, in a sense, empty ourselves in order to acquire. Another one of those Christian paradoxes! But that emptying of ourselves requires work behind it as well. It is not simply something that happens.

The spiritual life is warfare and I can think of no other profession, save for farming, where more work and resources go into than that. If we are not prepared to do battle against the evil one and our very selves to empty and rid ourselves of the passions and anything else that bind us to this world, then we can acquire nothing of truly great value, i.e. profit.


  1. The question I would ask is this. In Matthew 13 there are many parables. . . the Sower (who is Christ), the Weeds (where the sower of the good seed is Christ), then the Mustard Seed, where a man sows in the field. Then there are the two you reference, and they immediately are followed by the parable of the net, in which we hear of the angels separating those who have been gathered.

    In the last 5 parables we have the phrase "the kingdom of heaven is..." - and in the explanation of the first we are told that it explains the Kingdom of heaven.

    My question is this - if parables 1-3 and 6 define and center the Kingdom of Heaven around the work of Christ for our salvation, why are 4 and 5 about our work for our salvation?

    (I wonder this especially when in parable six the righteous are compared to things in a net of value, and when Christ lays down His entire life for us.)

    While you make some valid observations about how Christ is to be the center of our lives and we are to give up all for Him - I'd argue that is a reflexive, mirroring of Christ - and better address on a parable like Matthew 22:1-14 - but even then, the Kingdom of Heaven is like... the king, not us. We are the guests - God grant that we are the humble guests clothed in the wedding garments of Christ (Oh, and by the by, I'm getting ready to write a sermon on Matt 22)

  2. Rev. Brown,

    I wasn't at all trying to minimize Christ's work for our salvation. One of the things that I have never been able to accept though is that we are mere passive recipients when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven. Can the Kingdom of Heaven be ours without Christ? Absolutely not.

    At the same time, I wasn't trying to divorce the latter two parables from the first ones.

    I was wondering how you were working the parables of Matt 22 in there. If it helps with your sermon preparation, glad to be of service.