THE PRECIOUS PEARL
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who was seeking goodly pearls. When he had found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold everything he had, and bought it.”
In the ancient world pearls had a very special place in men’s hearts. People desired to possess a lovely pearl, not only for its money value, but for its beauty. They found a pleasure in simply handling it and contemplating it. They found an aesthetic joy simply in possessing and looking at a pearl. The main sources of pearls in those days were the shores of the Red Sea and far-off Britain itself, but a merchant would scour the markets of the world to find a pearl which was of surpassing beauty. There are certain most suggestive truths hidden in this parable.
(i) It is suggestive to find the Kingdom of Heaven compared to a pearl. To the ancient peoples, as we have just seen, a pearl was the loveliest of all possessions; that means that the Kingdom of Heaven is the loveliest thing in the world. Let us remember what the Kingdom is. To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God. That is to say, to do the will of God is no grim, grey, agonizing thing; it is a lovely thing. Beyond the discipline, beyond the sacrifice, beyond the self-denial, beyond the cross, there lies the supreme loveliness which is nowhere else. There is only one way to bring peace to the heart, joy to the mind, beauty to the life, and that is to accept and to do the will of God.
(ii) It is suggestive to find that there are other pearls but only one pearl of great price. That is to say, there are many fine things in this world and many things in which a man can find loveliness. He can find loveliness in knowledge and in the reaches of the human mind, in art and music and literature and all the triumphs of the human spirit; he can find loveliness in serving his fellow-men, even if that service springs from humanitarian rather than from purely Christian motives; he can find loveliness in human relationships. These are all lovely, but they are all lesser loveliness. The supreme beauty lies in the acceptance of the will of God. This is not to belittle the other things; they too are pearls; but the supreme pearl is the willing obedience which makes us friends of God.
(iii) We find in this parable the same point as in the previous one but with a difference. The man who was digging the field was not searching for treasure; it came on him all unaware. The man who was searching for pearls was spending his life in the search.
But no matter whether the discovery was the result of a moment or the result of a life-time’s search, the reaction was the same–everything had to be sold and sacrificed to gain the precious thing. Once again we are left with the same truth–that, however a man discovers the will of God for himself, whether it be in the lightning flash of a moment’s illumination or at the end of a long and conscious search, it is worth anything unhesitatingly to accept it.
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