The Parable of the Pearl
Matthew 13:45-46, A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
Let us begin to examine exegetically, what this parable means. In Mt 13:45-46 it reads: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” The Lord Jesus says the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a merchant. The word ‘merchant’ here means a businessman, of course. He is a wholesale dealer; in fact, quite a big businessman. He is looking for pearls, fine pearls. He is looking for not just any kind of pearls, but “fine pearls”, it says here. On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything that he had. Remember, I stressed that he was a big businessman; that means he had a lot of things to sell; he had a lot of property. He sold everything that he had, which gives some indication of the value of that pearl, and he bought that pearl.
Understand the Value of the Pearl
What does the Lord Jesus want to say to us through this beautiful parable? Let me tell you something right from the start about pearls. I suppose none of us here are great experts on pearls. A gemologist, an expert on gems, can tell us something about pearls. But if you put some pearls in front of me, I am ashamed to say I would not know the difference from one to the other. If you put a plastic pearl, a well-polished one, or a pearl made of sugar, or a cultured pearl, or a truly genuine pearl in front of me, I have to say, I probably would hardly know the difference from one to the other. I suppose, I could tell the sugar pearl by licking it. I am not sure how I would tell a well-polished plastic pearl, since plastics today are so advanced that sometimes it is very hard to tell what it is. Between a cultured pearl and a genuine pearl, I frankly do not have any idea how to tell the difference between these two. So, this is something that we need to bear in mind. Pearls are things of enormous value, and yet, you have to be an expert to tell the difference from one to another.
Today, you have ladies who have a whole string of pearls around their neck. Well, they look beautiful, but I suppose some of them could be bought for a few dollars, whereas others probably would cost in the thousands of dollars. Frankly, as I said, I would not know the one from the other. I could not tell the difference. I am no expert on pearls. I am not sure what I am supposed to do to find out whether a pearl is genuine. Are you supposed to bite it or to put it under a microscope or a magnifying glass, or what? None of these things would help me very much since I do not even know what to look for. But this man has discernment; he knows what a pearl is! I hope that in the spiritual area at least, I know what a pearl is; I can tell one from another. Unfortunately, in the area of actual pearls, I am no expert at all.
But of course, in those days, in the days of Lord Jesus, they did not have plastics, so they could not produce a plastic pearl. They did not have cultivated pearls, such as the Japanese have been producing by artificially dropping sand into the oyster and forcing it to produce some sort of a pearl. In the days of the Lord Jesus they had to find genuine pearls. These were produced in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. And I can tell you, the Red Sea is swarming with sharks! Thus, it means that a diver had to go down, often to a considerable depth, at great risk to his life. I am not sure exactly how they kept the sharks at bay in those days. I have passed through the Red Sea and I can tell you this: you throw a piece of meat into the Red Sea and within minutes, the whole place would be swarming with sharks. I have seen that with my own eyes. Also, in those days, you have to remember, divers did not go down with oxygen tanks and sophisticated gears. They had to hold their breath, dive, go down and then look for the pearl. In all that time, while having to look for the oysters and bring them up, they had to watch out that they did not get eaten by a shark in the process!
Of course, we know at least (even though we are not experts) that pearls come in different colors and different sizes. Some pearls are of a pinkish shade, some of a bluish shade, some are pure white, others are quite small, and others are very big. Depending on the color, the size, the shape and the flawlessness, that is, if the pearl has no flaw in it that it is perfectly round, perfectly spherical, and of large size, only so will that pearl be of great value.
We read in ancient times, in the days pretty close to the Lord’s time, that Caesar gave a pearl to the mother of a friend of his, a pearl which was worth a quarter of a million dollars. One pearl worth a quarter of a million dollars! Wow! I do not know where I would wear this one pearl. I would not even know what to do with it. But that, by no means, was the most expensive of pearls. According to the ancient historian Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), Cleopatra had a pearl that was worth, in modern-day terms, 5 million dollars. Well, I guess we can expect that Cleopatra would go for such things. But if one pearl is worth 5 million dollars, that must have been a huge, beautiful, perfect pearl. So, it gives us an idea how enormously valuable pearls were in those days. A pearl of perfect beauty, of large size, of beautiful color, of radiance, of luster was enormously valuable!
So, once we understand the value of the pearl, it makes the pearl in this sense perhaps even much more valuable than that of the hidden lost treasure. It is because we remember that this time, the Lord tells us this is a merchant, a big businessman who has a wholesale business, who is looking for fine pearls. Clearly, this is not the first time he has been dealing in pearls since he is looking for fine pearls. But he discovers one exceptional, rare pearl for which he has to give up all those other pearls that he has been dealing with before. He has to give up his entire possession – his yacht, his house, his car; I am talking in modern-day terms now – in order to buy this one pearl, which is 5 million dollars’ worth, maybe. He has to be a big businessman; how else can he afford a pearl like this? He buys this pearl of enormous price.
So now, I spent some time on this so that you do not think we are talking about some Kyoto cultured pearls, but that we are talking about pearls of enormous value, rare and exceptional. Today, I am sure you can go to a jeweler and maybe, for a hundred dollars, buy a beautiful pearl, a cultured pearl. But we are talking about pearls which are here spoken of as of great value – enormous value – and not just any kind of pearl. And this pearl costs the man everything!
What the Pearl Represents
What then does this pearl represent in the Lord’s teaching? How do we understand what the Lord wants us to understand in this teaching? I would like to say to you again that expounding the Bible is not a matter of guesswork. It is not a matter of everybody just saying the first thing that comes to his mind. It has to be, if it is to be responsible Bible exposition, a matter of careful checking of cross-references.
We are not left in the dark because we do see how the Lord uses it. He uses this word ‘pearl’ twice. This is the second time in Matthew Chapter 13; the first time is in Mt 7:6. The Lord Jesus says there: “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.” A few things emerge when you begin to examine this passage.
1. The Pearl Represents Something Holy
Firstly, notice the Bible principle of parallelism. Parallels! The word ‘pearls’ stands in parallel to the word ‘what is holy’ (The English word ‘what is holy’ translates, in fact, a Greek word). “Do not give what is holy to dogs; do not cast your pearls before swine.” You see, the ‘holy’ and ‘pearls’ stand in parallel; ‘dogs’ and ‘swine’ stand in parallel. This is a very well-known Biblical way of speaking in which the same thing is stated in parallel form. You will see that very commonly in Proverbs and very often in the Psalms. This immediately gives us a clue that when the Lord Jesus is speaking about pearls, he is thinking about something that is holy.
2. The Value of the Pearl Needs to Be Discerned
The second thing is that “what is holy” has to be discerned, just as what is a pearl – what is the value of a pearl – has to be discerned or understood. You see, dogs do not appreciate the difference between something that is holy and something that is not holy. Dogs do not understand the difference between what is holy and what is not holy. Therefore, the Lord said, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs.” Dogs do not understand what is holy.
Now, do not give pearls to swine, that is, pigs, because they do not understand the value of pearls. In fact, if you give them pearls, notice they might turn around on you and attack you after having trampled the pearls underfoot. Why? It is because pearls do not taste very nice for eating and swine are only interested in food. I mean, if you give them rice, they appreciate that. If you give rice to pigs, oh, they appreciate that because they know rice tastes good. But if you give them pearls, which are worth hundreds of thousands times more than a grain of rice, they will attack you because they feel cheated: “We want rice and you give us pearls. You are cheating me. I can’t eat pearls!” You see, they do not understand the value of pearls. They do not know that if you take this one pearl and you sell it, you could buy a whole room full of rice, maybe houses full of rice. So, what is being spoken of is that the pearl, like what is holy, has to be discerned. Its value has to be understood. This gives us then the clues that we need. We immediately realize that the pearl is being spoken of, in the Lord’s own language, as representing something that is holy in the first place, and because it is holy, of course, it refers to something spiritual. That is plain. Secondly, what is spiritual has to be discerned.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 2:14 onwards that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually. A dog and a pig do not have spiritual discernment, and therefore, do not know that this thing is holy. But the non-Christian may also not know, not understand what is holy, what is spiritual, for he does not have spiritual discernment. That is exactly the point that Paul is saying in First Corinthians Chapter two. Therefore, from all this, we begin to understand that in the Lord’s teaching, the pearl is a picture of something that is holy and something that is spiritual, and which only a spiritual man – or somebody who has a certain amount of spiritual discernment – will be able to discern. Now, what may that be?
3. The Pearl is Something We Can Make Our Own
The third thing we notice in this passage in Mt 7:6 is that he speaks of “your pearls”. These pearls are actually something that we can possess, that we can have, that we can make our own. “Do not throw your pearls to the swine.” So, this spiritual thing, this holy thing is something that we can possess, we can make our own. That gives us a lot of clues. So, what can that thing be?
For the next step of exposition, we need to return to the OT to see if there is any such thing. What may it be? Well, if we look at Prov 3:13-15, we begin to see something on this line. There we read: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding…”. Notice the words ‘finds’ and ‘gets’. What he finds is wisdom, understanding – spiritual wisdom and spiritual understanding. Vv14-15 reads: “…for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold. She is more precious” – that is, wisdom is more precious – “than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
4. Something More Precious than Gold and Silver
In other words, in Proverbs it is saying this spiritual wisdom, this spiritual understanding is more precious than jewels. It is more precious than anything you could desire. We have our reference to jewels now: “more precious than gold”, “more precious than jewels.” It is the most precious of all. Why? It is because as you read on in Proverbs, you understand that it is through wisdom that you come to know God. It is through wisdom that you come to have eternal life in God. No wonder wisdom is so precious!
If we look at Job 28:12, we find something quite similar there. I hope that you have already noticed the words that we have mentioned: ‘understanding’, ‘wisdom’. These are the words there. And we saw that that is exactly what the pearl represented. It was something that had to be spiritually understood. It is something that is holy because it brings us to God. We find that that is what Proverbs says concerning wisdom – spiritual wisdom. In Job 28:12, we read this: “But where shall wisdom be found?” Notice again somebody who is looking for wisdom as looking for fine pearls, reminding us immediately of this Parable of the Pearl. This, you might say, is the thought going through the merchant’s mind. He is saying, “Where can I find fine pearls?” This is the question in Job, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” Notice wisdom and understanding, or knowledge here, that is, spiritual knowledge or understanding. V13 reads, “Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.” This spiritual wisdom cannot be found in this world. Vv14-15 read, “The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be gotten for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price.” Again, you see, a comparison with gold and silver and jewels. In v16, “It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir” – the most precious, the finest quality of gold – “in precious onyx or sapphire.” Onyx and sapphire, of course, are precious stones, jewels. In vv17-18: “Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls.” Notice the word ‘pearls’ appearing here. And so it goes on in v19, “The topaz of Ethiopia” – topaz is another precious stone – “cannot compare with it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.” And in v20, “Whence then comes wisdom? And where is the place of understanding?”
The Word of God Is Where Wisdom and Understanding Can Be Found
You see, here is the merchant is looking for spiritual jewels. The Lord Jesus says “The kingdom of God is like a person is looking, searching, seeking for that eternal wisdom, eternal understanding which leads to eternal life in God. So, then, where shall we find it? The OT is not without an answer. In Ps 19:7, we find an answer to this question. So far, we have questions without an answer. Now we have an answer. In Ps 19:7-10, where then do we find this wisdom and this understanding? Well, of course, in the Word of God! That is where you will find it: in God’s Word, which is here described as the law of the LORD, the precepts of the LORD, the commandment of the LORD and so forth. These are all different terms for the Word of God. Ps 19:7 reads: “The law of the LORD is perfect”. Remember the word ‘perfect’ – completely round, no blemish, no spot, like a perfect pearl, no marks on it, no blemishes, nothing wrong with it. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;” – bringing life to the soul – “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”. Notice the word ‘wisdom’; the wisdom comes in here: “making wise”. And v8 says: “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;” – remember the joy upon finding this pearl of great price – “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Here is something again: “more precious than gold and even than much fine gold.” A lot of fine gold is not comparable to the Word of God.
So, the pearl, we begin to see, as we trace the exegesis of this through the Scriptures, refers to the Word of God. Now we understand: “Do not cast what is holy to the dogs; do not waste the pearls upon swine.” The message then is this: the Word of God is something very precious to those who seek after it, but for those who do not want it, do not stuff it down their throats. They will not be grateful. In fact, you will ask for hostility with no benefit either to them or to you. Never stuff the Word of God – that precious Word of God – down unwilling throats.
Now, we begin to see that the pearls, in the teaching of the Lord Jesus in Mt 7:6, refer to the teaching of God, the Word of God. This is something that is holy, that has to be spiritually discerned, and that we can have as our own possession, storing up God’s Word in our hearts. As Paul says to the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”. [Col 3:16] We have his Word in us. We possess that Word for ourselves. This is exceedingly precious.
Spiritual Wisdom and Knowledge is all to be Found in Jesus
But we have not yet finished with our understanding of the pearl. It is because we begin to realize, as we saw in the earlier parables, the Parable of the Seed and the Sower, that the Word of God, is in fact, embodied in a person, namely, Jesus. God’s word is expressed in Jesus. Jesus is the one in whom you will find all spiritual wisdom and understanding and knowledge. He is the pearl of great price!
Now that is exactly where Col 2:3 comes in, because that is what we find. We have been speaking about wisdom, understanding and knowledge and we find that all this spiritual wisdom, this spiritual knowledge is all to be found in Jesus. It says in Col 2:3 that all the wisdom, all the treasures of God, the treasures of wisdom and understanding or knowledge are hidden or stored up – the word ‘hide’ often simply means storing up – in Christ. We now understand that Jesus is that pearl of great price.
So, you can see that as we follow with the procedure of exegesis, we do not follow any kind of guesswork. We find that the Scripture gives us step-by-step clues to understanding what it means. We must follow it through step by step until we understand the message. So, Jesus turns out to be this pearl of enormous price, of priceless value.
The next thing we have to notice here is the uniqueness of this pearl. This is not one pearl among many pearls. Jesus is a pearl with no comparison. There is nothing to compare with him. It says here, “one pearl of great value.” This oneness stresses its uniqueness – the uniqueness of this pearl. It is not to say that there are lots of such pearls in this world. There is this one pearl of great price.
This word makes me think very much of Lk 10:41, where the Lord Jesus says to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are… troubled about many things, but one thing is needful”. It is not the many, many things, but one thing is needful. You know, our lives have to become wonderfully concentrated. I wonder if your life is concentrated or whether it is scattered. Many people live a scattered life. A scattered life does not have any clear purpose or direction. But this man knew what he was looking for. He sought after it, he found it and he bought it – that one pearl which cost him everything.
Now is it wise, you would say in your mind, to lose everything for one pearl? Why not settle for a bunch of cheaper pearls, all quite good. Have a collection of cheaper pearls and then you can still keep your car, your house, your field, your business, whatever. Okay, these are not so valuable pearls, but settle for something mediocre. Is that not the thinking that we have in most people’s minds? We have not understood the Lord’s words: “You have many things. You are troubled about many things, but one thing is needful in this life. Concentrate into one thing.”
Concentration & Perfection
You think about it. In whatever area, a person who tries to do many things ends up doing nothing well at all. But a person who may be diversified nevertheless learns to concentrate and become really good at one thing, that person will break through at some point. I found this method applies everywhere, in every area. If you want to be good at anything, you have to concentrate in that one thing.
Take a very trivial example. I used to learn judo. Many of you know that judo has many kinds of different holds and grips, as some trip over the legs, some over the hips, some over the shoulders, some over this way, that way and so on. Now, my question, as I have pondered over this matter – because I am the kind of person who likes to think everything through; I do not just go there and do it, I like to think – How do you become good at anything? And so, I pondered to myself, there are so many grips and holds, maneuvers, movements. Exactly how do you become good at judo? Would I have to perfect every particular throw? It dawned on me: if I master one throw to perfection, I would be nearly unbeatable. I decided to test this principle.
So, I mastered one throw, the shoulder throw, coming over the top, where you take a person by the arm and you swing around and you throw him right over the top of your shoulder, a very devastating throw, of course. It was one of the reasons why it was chosen. It is because the way you come down from that throw, you do not get up again, not in a hurry anyway, unless you are a judo expert yourself. I felt that the tripping throw, you throw a person over your foot – I mean, you trip him – he falls down and he will be up in the next moment attacking you again. That is not very good. You throw him over the hip, it is a little bit higher, but not high enough to do considerable damage. After all, self-defense is to put the guy out of action, not to spend the rest of the day wrestling with him. So, I felt that the shoulder throw was the most effective. It was also effective because most other throws depend on your having to hold his clothing. Now, suppose it is a hot summer day and he is wearing a thin shirt, what exactly do you hold? I mean, you grab his shirt and you end up holding his shirt in your hand. That is no good! The shoulder throw, I found, had the enormous advantage – that is why I selected it – that you do not have to hold his clothing. You just hold his wrist or his forearm; that is all you need. That means one flick, you grab his wrist and the next second, he is gone for a flier. He has disappeared into flying motions. Of course, he ends up in a plane crash, at the other end. Thus, I found that this suited me ideally. And so I spent hours perfecting this one throw. Every movement, I worked out in detail: how to move, how to move if the other person moves, what I have to do. I worked this out to perfection so that I became good at only one particular throw. I knew all the other throws, but this one particular throw, I mastered to perfection.
The day came when I was ready to try it out. I want to try it out, of course, not on some guy who was on my same level. But I wanted to try it out on an expert – on a true judo expert – to see if I could throw him or not, whether my move was perfected sufficiently to cope with the best. So, when my instructor, who was, of course, a huge fellow – six foot, black belt guy, muscular like anything compared to my bony system – came along, I thought, well, fair enough, it is David against Goliath. Here is my chance to try it out. He was in fact a weight-lifter as well, so you can imagine how strong he was. He could lift me bodily off the ground with his two hands and just throw me off like this. So, I mean that was no contest! That is not judo; that is weight-lifting. I thought, “I will try my throw on him.” I said, “Can I have a little work-out with you?” He said, “Sure, sure, sure”, thinking, who am I? He is the instructor. He is the black belt, ‘Second Dan.’ So, we had a little workout. I picked my moment and I blitzed suddenly, quickly. What a shriek of surprise came from him, as he went sailing through the air and hit the tatami, the mattress with such a bang! Of course, I mean the whole two hundred pounds of him. He was so taken by surprise and shocked. And I thought, so it does work! So, it does work!
I began to learn from this, not just something about judo, but a lesson concerning life as a whole. That is to say, concentrate on one thing, if you are going to be good. Do not mess around with a hundred things; eventually, you are not good at any of them. If I tried every throw, I could not perfect any one of them, except with a great deal of time. But by concentrating on one effective throw, I was able to perfect it to such an extent that I would be able to take even an expert in it.
The same applies to the spiritual life. I find many Christians are simply scattered. They simply do not become good at anything. If you want to live the Christian life effectively, you have got to ask yourself before God, “What are my gifts? I am going to concentrate upon that particular gift until I become really good in serving God.” If every Christian thought about it like this, I tell you, the church would be full of people who are outstanding. One person may become an outstanding singer, praising the Lord with his or her voice, becoming very good. Everybody can sing quite well, but you become exceptional. You have perfected one thing. If that is your gift, if you have got a voice and you can sing with it, well, work at it! Work at it! Train everyday. Go up and down the scales. Wherever you are, find a piano. If it is broken down, never mind, just practice on it. Sing on the thing until you become good. Develop your volume, your control, your range, whatever it is, until you become outstanding.
You will discover one interesting thing as well, that when you become good at one thing, you become pretty good at all the others as well. Somehow this one advance tows all the others and raises your general standard very much higher for some reason, so that you find that you are better than most even on the other things, but exceptional in one thing. Or, take for example, you find that you have a gift in leading a Bible study. Well, work at it! Work at it! Learn how to study the Word of God more deeply, how to present the Word of God more effectively. I hope those in training for full-time service will be doing this. As I said before, I hope they become experts at exegesis. This was one goal of mine. For years I worked and worked, learning how to understand the Word of God, and how to expound it, because having understood it, you have to convey it to others.
Thus, I say again that every one of you has a gift. If I understand my Bible aright, there is nobody in the church who has no gifts. You may be good at writing. Well, use your writing. Improve it. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Improve! Improve all the time: how to improve my sentence structure; how to make my sentences clearer; how to improve the whole general presentation of my message in writing. In every area, you have got some gift you can use for God. Concentrate on that.
But above all things, what a Christian will do is that he concentrates to gain the pearl of great price. Why you concentrate on this is for a further objective. I concentrated on one throw not because I just wanted to be able to throw people for the fun of it. I wanted to do this as a matter of self-defense. The reason why we do judo and other martial arts is self-defense, is it not? So, I perfected it so that in any situation, my objective was to incapacitate an assailant. Of course, I was not a Christian in those days. I think you understand that. In these days, I might react somewhat differently. In those days, of course, I answered very speedily with motions, with action. In these days, I would remember the fact that I am a servant of the Lord and would have to consider the circumstances in how one would act in those circumstances. In other words, what I am saying right now is that the reason I perfected one move was with a wider and further purpose of gaining the objective of self-defense, of being able to defend myself in any particular circumstance. So, perfecting one throw was the means to obtaining the end of effective self-defense.
Our serving God – why would you want to sing well? In order to please him whom we love, in order to win Christ, to gain Christ, is it not? [Phil 3:8] Should we not so live as to be pleasing to him, if we love him? If that is the case, then this thing is simply the means to the end. Perfecting your singing will simply be the means to the end of pleasing him, of winning this pearl of great price. Or if you are leading a Bible-study, well, your objective is to bring blessing to others and be pleasing to him, so that again becomes the means to that great end that is ahead of us. And so, I ask you to consider this matter: in the Christian life, in the Lord’s teaching, the principle is always like this, it is a principle of ‘all or nothing’. So, let us come to our conclusion of this matter and look at this here.
It Will Cost us Everything to Gain the Pearl of Great Price
This man sells everything. Such is his fine concentration in order to accomplish this one objective of gaining the pearl. He loses everything. He counts it all as rubbish that he may gain this pearl of great price. That is the Lord’s teaching to his disciples. Do not be scattered! Do not try on the one hand to love the world, to make your nest in the world, and on the other hand, to win the pearl of great price. You cannot do it! This pearl, understand the Lord’s teaching here, will cost you everything. If it does not cost you everything, you will never get it. It is as simple as that. The Lord Jesus is telling us, if you want this pearl, it is going to cost you everything.
I think there are too many Christians who do not seem to understand this yet because by what I observe of how they live, they have not yet understood. They still think they can have the best of both worlds and still end up having eternal life, having this pearl of great price. No sir! You will not! That is the Lord’s teaching, not mine.
It is always in the Lord Jesus’ teaching that: “If you want to be my disciple, you sell all and follow me.” In Mt 19:21, he says the same thing to the rich young ruler. When the Lord Jesus said “If you want to follow me, if you want to be perfect…”, he does not mean if you want to become morally perfect. We never become sinless and spotless, or morally perfect in this life. If you understand Biblical teaching, perfection is not moral perfection, but perfection of commitment, total commitment, which is the minimum requirement for salvation. But one thing we can do, if you want to be perfect, the Lord Jesus is saying there: “Love God with all your heart, your whole soul, your strength, and your mind.” That is what perfection is all about in the Bible. It is total love for God. Then he says to the rich young ruler, “You sell all that you have. Come and follow me.” The rich young ruler cannot understand this because he said, “I kept the Law.” Do you remember? “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord Jesus says, “Well, you know the commandments; keep the commandments.” “But what are the commandments?” Do you remember when the lawyer asked, “What are the commandments; how would you sum them up?” He says, “The commandments are summed up in this phrase, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your being – heart and soul and strength – and your neighbor as yourself.’ That is the command.” That is what he told the rich young ruler to do: “You want eternal life? Do that and you will have life.” Do what? “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” How do you do that? “Sell all you have. Come and follow me. That is how you are going to do it.” Now, the same thing he says to his disciples in Lk 12:32-33. He says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s purpose to give you the kingdom; therefore sell what you have, give to the poor. Follow me.”
Oh, that pearl! How much is it worth to you? Do you want to have the pearl for nothing? Do you want Jesus for nothing? That is not the Bible teaching. That pearl is going to cost you everything. It will cost you everything. Until it does, you have not got the pearl. It is as simple as that. You may have discovered the pearl. Like this merchant, you may have seen the pearl. But discovering the pearl is not to own the pearl. That merchant, having seen the pearl, having discovered the pearl first had to go first, sell what he had, and purchase the pearl. What then does this mean? This means simply this: as I have constantly shown you in the Lord’s teaching, it means a total commitment to God. It means loving him God with your whole being, fully concentrating your being on him. If you do not do this, let me tell you, your Christian life will count for next to nothing in this world. Your witness for Christ will count for next to nothing. No wonder so many Christians go through life and their witness does not really do anything. They are not lights in the world. They behave like any non-Christian. They think like any non-Christian. They are just a little bit more religious, that is all. That is not being a Christian in the Bible teaching! The Biblical teaching is total commitment, that wherever you go, your dedication, your commitment, your total love for God stands out! Everybody knows: you are committed to God. You have given all to follow him.
I have said endless times that I am not talking about full-time service. I am talking about an attitude of heart to God. I have said this so many times because many people who are in full-time service have not got any total commitment. For them, being a pastor is a profession, their bread and butter. In Chinese, you would say it is their ‘飯碗’, their bowl of rice. It has nothing to do with total commitment; it is their job. I hope that if they have this job and they are also totally committed, that is fine, but these two do not necessarily go together. And so, we have this matter: he searched for the pearl. Are you searching for this pearl? Do you seek what is spiritually valuable or do you not? If you are seeking only for the world, then this parable is no use to you because this parable talks to people who are seeking for this thing of eternal value.
You Will Find God Only If You Seek Him with All Your Heart and Soul
And then, finally, notice this in Deut 4:29, which is perhaps what the Lord Jesus also has in mind here because those are the words which were spoken to the Israelites. This is what Moses said to the Israelites: “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This point, I would like you to bear in mind. You will find God, yes, you will. That is a promise that you will obtain, if you search for him with all your heart, with all your soul. Now, if you have not yet found God, remember these words. You may be seeking, but not with all your heart and with all your soul. You still have lacked this determination of purpose. God will be found by those who search for him with all their heart and with all their soul, with that total commitment, who is seeking for the truth and saying, “If I find God, I’m willing that it should cost me everything.” If God does not mean that much to you, then what are you seeking him for? He obviously does not mean very much to you.
We are not talking about believing in some religion. We are not talking about believing in some religious teacher. We are talking about the Word of God manifest in the flesh. We are talking about one whose value is without price! You could not put a price tag on him. If you have not yet understood this, then clearly, you think that what you possess is worth more than that pearl. If this merchant thought that his whole possession was worth more than that pearl, then clearly, he would not sell all that he has to buy that pearl, would he? Of course not! It is not necessary to do it. If you go to a jeweler out there on Sainte-Catherine Street (Montreal) and you find a pearl in the window that costs $300, well, you look at your possessions and you say, “I can pay $300. I don’t have to sell everything to buy that pearl”, then you have not found it worth all you have. But if you see a pearl there with a price tag which says $300,000, that is a different matter! Then you realize that this pearl is of such value that the only way you can get it is going to cost you more than everything you have got.
How much value do you put upon Jesus? By the way I see many Christians live, Jesus is obviously not very valuable to them. They are willing to give one or two hours on a Sunday to Jesus, maybe one or two hours on a Friday, maybe even five or six hours on the weekday. Maybe they will give him a few dollars here and there, or maybe even $200 in the offering in a month, who knows? But is he worth everything? That is the one question. That pearl goes only to the person who sells all, who is totally committed. That is the kind of Christianity that Jesus taught. It sounds different from the Christianity you have heard maybe, but that is Christianity in the Bible. That is the Christianity of the teachings of Jesus.
How does your Christian life compare to that? Or can you say with Paul in Phil 3:8, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may win Christ”? To Paul, this pearl of great price is worth everything, more than everything. In fact, all the valuables he ever had, he counts them not just as valueless, but in fact as rubbish, that he might win him, the pearl of great price.
The Priceless Pearl – All the Riches of God Found in Christ Jesus
In conclusion, let me just say one more thing. Consider this beautiful pearl, the pearl as a picture of Jesus Christ. On this point, I have preached some years ago, the picture of the pearl is as follows: the roundness of the pearl representing the perfection of Jesus Christ; the whiteness of the pearl representing the holiness of Jesus Christ; the radiance of the pearl – do you see how the pearl shines when you look at it in the light? – representing the beauty of Jesus Christ. Remember also that the pearl is produced by suffering. And so also, the holiness of Jesus Christ is the product of suffering, as we read in Heb 5:8-9 and so forth, that, “Though he was a son, he was perfected through suffering”. See the priceless value of the pearl! Can you think of Jesus Christ as that beautiful priceless pearl worth everything you have?
I hope this message of the Lord’s teaching comes through to you. The whole emphasis of this parable lies in this one thing: that to obtain this pearl will cost you everything. If it does not cost you everything, then you have not obtained that pearl and you will not obtain it. Ponder that carefully.
End of message.
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church