Exploring the Wisdom Embedded in Biblical Parables: Finding Hidden Treasure and Seeking a Costly Pearl

Matthew 19:21, “…sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”



The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13 illustrate profound truths about the kingdom of heaven, emphasizing that its value surpasses all earthly possessions. Through these simple yet elegant stories, Jesus teaches that salvation, while a free gift as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, requires a willing sacrifice of everything else, much like the man who sells all he has to buy a hidden treasure or the merchant who sells all for a valuable pearl. These parables also highlight that salvation can be found unexpectedly, as with Paul’s dramatic conversion, or through earnest seeking, as with the merchant’s diligent search for a pearl. They also affirm that salvation is ultimately a sovereign act of God, as explained in John 6:44, and is verified by the subsequent good works it produces, aligning with James 2:18, which asserts that genuine faith is evidenced by good works.


Parables on Finding and Seeking Salvation

The two parables discussed in this post are simple and straightforward yet elegant and profound. They contain both obvious and hidden meanings.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure in Matthew 13:44 states, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 13:45-46 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.”


Wisdom Embedded in the Parables

Let’s analyze the various components of these two short parables.

We should initially lay out our foundation. What Christ is here illustrating is acquiring eternal life. Although the term He uses is “the kingdom of heaven,” it is none other than redemption. This was promised by both John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2,Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” and Christ Himself in Mark 1:14-15, where He states, “…the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

Notice that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are used interchangeably. They are audience-dependent. Since Jews traditionally avoided directly invoking the name of God in order to show reverence, Matthew’s use of “Heaven” as a metonym respects this cultural and religious nuance. In Mark, where a gentile audience is in focus, the term, the Kingdom of God is used.

Initially, we are confronted with the fact that both the hidden treasure and the fine pearl are unlimited in their value. Why is that? Because, in each case, the individual “sells all that he has” in order to acquire the treasure or pearl. Although it is correctly understood that salvation is a free gift, as Ephesians 2:8-9 confirms, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” it needs to be remembered that salvation is not without cost. That is to say, the acquisition is free, while embracing salvation will, indeed, be costly.

This fact is illustrated by Christ Himself when asked by the rich young ruler what he must do to obtain eternal life. Christ replies in Matthew 19:21-22 “…go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Unfortunately, the cost was too high, and “When the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Christ knew the young ruler was not really interested in counting the cost of adopting salvation; his earthly possessions were more valuable than any spiritual redemption.

We often forget this aspect of salvation. Recall, if you will, the reasons why those who heard the gospel seed on the rocky ground and among the thorns fall away from the faith–“when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” and “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” In both instances, quite simply, the costs are too high.

What is also interesting about these two parables is the acquisition event. That is, in some cases, one seeks salvation, and in other situations, salvation encounters them. In other words, individuals come unto the kingdom of Heaven in different ways, which aligns with the notion that some people actively seek salvation while for others, it may almost seem to “find” them.

Many pursue salvation. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13:45-46 shows one earnestly seeking truth, meaning, purpose, and salvation. When this merchant finally discovers the kingdom of Heaven, symbolized by the pearl, he recognizes its supreme value and, again, willingly sacrifices all he has to gain it.

Still others stumble upon salvation almost by accident. Just as the man in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure in Matthew 13:44 finds the treasure unexpectedly, some people encounter the gospel in a surprising or unplanned manner. Despite not actively seeking it, when they recognize its value, they joyfully give up everything to obtain it. Such was the case with the Apostle Paul, who was on the way to obtain additional legal authority to persecute Christians when in Acts 9:3-6,…he [Paul] approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from Heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’” Clearly, Paul was not looking for salvation; salvation found Paul, but he eventually gave up everything in order to obtain this free gift, including, ultimately, his very life.

However, with both of these acquisition intents, it needs to be emphasized that salvation is totally a sovereign work of God. John 6:44 explains this position when it states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” How God “draws” one may differ; nonetheless, it is God alone who draws men unto salvation.


Christian Testimonies

It is common in Christian circles to be asked to “share their testimony.” That is, tell us how you were saved. I can guarantee you that if your story is “I was on my way to imprison some believers, when a bright lightening flash knocked me off my horse, and a voice from heaven asked me why I was persecuting Christians and told me how I must change and follow Christ,” you would definitely win the saga of the evening as the most convincing testimony of true salvation. However, what these parables also teach is that the one who states, “I was seeking purpose in my life, and someone shared the gospel with me,” is, in fact, equally saved. There is some solace in that, as I, personally, had never been riding on a horse in an effort to persecute other believers when I found salvation.

Although how one initially comes to the Lord may be an interesting story, the Bible instructs that you will know the validity of salvation by one’s works. As James 2:18 records, “…You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Regardless, although salvation is a free gift, there is, indeed, an associated cost, and God alone determines the path to our acceptance.

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