“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
~ Matt. 13:44-46
Self-esteem in women is dropping. Studies over the last ten to twelve years report that 70% of girls ages eight to 17 experience low self-esteem with regard to physical appearance, performance in school, and social relationships. The scary side of this is that 75% of these girls engage in negative and self-destructive behavior, more than three times the level of girls with normal-to-high self-esteem. They cut themselves, they drink, they use drugs, they have eating disorders.
It's not just women; it's men also, for different reasons. We all struggle with the belief that we are inherently valuable. We look to something external to affirm us, to give us hope that we deserve good things in life. Most of us end up feeling empty, uncertain that our lives mean much. We doubt we have some greater purpose than to simply enjoy ourselves as much as we can. We support the same process that devalues us.
The meaning of our lives cannot ultimately be found in externals; our successes can end in failure, our triumphs can be reversed. Our closest relationships can fall apart. They can, and they do.
Our lives have value because they are valuable to our Lord. If the Creator of the universe would die in our place, for the joy of spending eternity with us, then we have infinite value. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a series of parables which reveal aspects of the kingdom of heaven. In my study of the parables, I find that there is a surprise in each story—something unexpected—and it is that thing that Jesus uses to change us, if we will accept his words. In the two short parables listed above, he tells the story of a man in search of something of great value. When he finds it, he gives everything he has to buy it.
Taken out of context, you might be tempted to see yourself as the man, and the thing of great value as salvation. The problem is that salvation may cost us everything, but it's not something we need to buy. It is a gift, it cannot be bought.
In context, starting with earlier parables, we learn that the man depicted is Jesus, the Son of Man. After sharing the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-29), Jesus explains this reference to the disciples (vv. 37-38). He also explains that the field is symbolic of the world. When we come to the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, for which a man gives up everything to purchase it, we are offered an insight into the heart of God.
The man is Jesus. What he gave up was his life. The treasure hidden in the field is you.
That is the unexpected part of the story. The Lord values you so much that he would suffer and die for you, to make it possible for you to spend eternity with him. It is a love not based on anything you do, good or bad. It is the unconditional love of a father for his children. It is a love that lasts forever. You are treasured. You mean everything to him.
We can stop looking for approval in other people's eyes. We can take our failures, place them in his hands, and know that they do not define us. Knowing our true value means accepting that we were meant for more than simply enjoying ourselves in this life. If we have value, as his children, we have purpose. It is for this life, and beyond. It is infinite.
Thank you for reminding me of how valuable I am, as one of your children, Lord. Thank you for cleansing me of my sins and planning a purpose for me here on earth and in eternity, with you. Amen.
~ Michael Cranford has a heart for equipping others to follow Christ in today's world. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Irvine, a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California. Visit his website at OneSteadfast.com and follow him on Twitter at @OneSteadfast and Facebook.