In the Gospel of Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus tells a parable about the merchant who sells everything to buy the pearl of great price. Now, this transaction by the merchant looks to be one that might end up in a bit of a conundrum. By selling everything, he now ties up his entire fortune on this one object. In one sense, the merchant is rich because he now owns this hugely valuable pearl. On the other end, the merchant is now poor because he has nothing else. His entire means of life is now tied to this indivisible pearl. He has no other money or possessions to sustain life, e.g. buy food, housing, other items of need such as clothing.
How can this purchase of such an all-encompassing object leave this person so joyous? Is this a situation where the merchant is joyous until he comes to the realization that he has just liquidated his entire estate and has nothing left? He cannot then sell part of the pearl to buy dinner. He cannot sell part of the pearl to obtain a place to stay for the evening. He in a sense he is poor and homeless, with a nice shiny round thing, unless he sells the entire pearl.
This story now sounds akin to another familiar story from the Bible, again from Matthew (19:21): the rich young man that Jesus tells, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.” In this story, the rich man does not recognize Jesus as the Pearl of Great Price. He cannot wrap his head around investing his entire livelihood in Jesus. If Jesus asked for half of the man’s possessions, this story may have ended differently, but Jesus asked for everything. He asked for the man’s complete trust, that Jesus would provide not only the man’s daily needs, but all the riches and wonder of His Kingdom, if only the man could give all of himself to Jesus.
I struggle and fail miserably at this command as well. I always want to keep a little something in reserve for me. “I will give You, Lord, a couple of nice pieces, but I will keep the rest for me.” I need to save something tangible. I need to hold something back for retirement, for a rainy day etc. Jesus knows; however, that in my humanity that I will always fail because I lack that total, all in trust in Him. As the rich young man, I cannot yet wrap my mind around just giving everything to Jesus. I do not quite see Jesus as that gem so valuable that I can justify going all-in.
To reach Sainthood, this is what I must do. Look at the great Saints – St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and even a person such as Mother Angelica, hopefully a future Saint. All were willing to risk everything and gave everything for God. The stories of Mother Angelica are legendary, where 100’s of thousands of dollars was needed to pay a bill coming due for her radio or TV network. She had total faith in Jesus that somehow the money would appear. And it always did. I am a long, long way away from amassing such trust and Faith in God.
Now, returning to the parable of the merchant, this story implies that he did not make a snap decision. His decision to sell everything to buy this pearl was calculated. The merchant calculated the value and the cost and made the decision to execute the liquidation of all his assets, then purchase this pearl. He was sure that any hardship he might go through to keep this pearl was worth the risk. He was confident that life would continue, and it would be special with this new prize in hand.
How, then, can I, as the merchant did, calculate the value of Jesus’ embrace? How much do I trust the words of Jesus’ call, “and you will have treasure in Heaven”? Do I really want my treasure at some unknown time in the future? Would I rather have a little treasure right now to roost on? How do I measure and calculate the cost? Am I ready for what comes my way once I do go all-in? I have good examples of people that did go all-in, or as closely as a human can. Big steps call for big prayers. Am I even ready for big prayers? What if these prayers are answered? Now, that could be a scary thought.
Since my story has yet to have its happy or sad ending, I know where my story must travel. I must continue to up my price offered for this beautiful pearl. I truly see Jesus’ Kingdom as beautiful and my ultimate goal. My price offered; however; continually gets rejected because I have undervalued Jesus’ Kingdom. It is only when I open my eyes to fully comprehend Jesus’ Kingdom’s true beauty and wonder that I must, in fact, have no other recourse to gain the Kingdom, but to go all-in. Sell everything and follow. Attaining part of the Kingdom is not an option. As the pearl is indivisible, so is Jesus’ Kingdom. It is all or nothing. Jesus wants all of it for me. Amen