by guest blogger Phil Hovatter 

Perhaps you’ve gotten the same email that I have – the one about a couple from New York who wanted to retire in Portugal. After much searching, they found a real estate deal that looked pretty good. A nice piece of farmland whose owners had died 15 years earlier without an heir, so the farm was being sold by the government to pay for back taxes that had accumulated.

The reason why no buyers were interested for 15 years was that there was a major eyesore on the property. The original owner had erected an enormous “barn” – more of a warehouse, really, with large steel doors that were welded shut – and the cost to have it removed wasn’t appealing to most. The retired couple from New York considered the price of the farm to be such a bargain that the barn didn’t matter. But their first order of business after taking ownership of the property was to satisfy their curiosity. What could be lurking inside that big building?

What they reportedly found were cars – lots of cars. 180 cars. And not just any old beaters. These were great European cars – sports cars, classic cars, roadsters, and limited-edition cars, all covered in a thick layer of dust. Any one of them (if it were cleaned up a bit) would be gallery-quality. Estimated value: $35,000,000.

Nice story. Is it true? Not according to the Internet myth-busting website Snopes.com, but to tell you the truth, in my humble opinion, I find their “true” version is harder to believe than the email version. You be the judge.

All of this long rambling is just a prelude to a short parable I read today in Matthew 13:44. Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Hmmm. What struck me this morning was, why didn’t he just take the hidden treasure he had found and claim it for his own? Finders keepers, right?

But that’s not what the kingdom of heaven is like. There is one right way to lay claim to it, but there are many wrong ways.

Jesus makes this clear in a couple of other gospel passages. In one of His wedding banquet parables found in Matthew 22, the king came in to see the guests who had assembled for the wedding feast and “noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.” The king had him bound and thrown into outer darkness.

Again, in John 10, Jesus says,

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.

There is one valid way to enter the sheep pen, but many wrong ways.

So what can we learn from the man who found the treasure in the field? Claiming “finders keepers” isn’t the right way to take possession of the treasure. Buying the whole field is. The easy way is stealing. The costly way is legitimate.

It is a paradox that salvation is a “free gift,” yet costs us all that we have and all that we are. Giving of ourselves is the valid response to Jesus’ gift of eternal life. We offer our selves as living sacrifices as an act of worship. We hold our possessions with an open hand, sharing and giving freely to others who are in need. Once we were slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness.

These are the marks of a true disciple. Jesus makes it crystal clear in Luke 14:33 –

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

You’ve probably heard it said that when you eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, the chicken contributed something to the meal, but the pig was fully committed.

There is only one way to lay legitimate, legal claim to the treasure in the field. We have to sell all that we have and buy the field. We have to go all-in. We have to make a total commitment of all that we have and all that we are. This is the pathway to eternal life. This is the cost of discipleship.

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