Living the Parable
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. (Matt 13:44)
The lessons on Living the Parable will help you think through what you’ve learned in order to apply it to your daily life. Each lesson will include a transcript of the pastor’s application video so you can review what he said on your own. It will also provide you with related verses from the Bible for further study and reflection.
Everyone is at a different place in his or her walk with the Lord. It is our belief that praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit, studying the Word of God, and then considering how it applies to our specific circumstances are some of the best ways to grow in grace as we live out the life of the Kingdom.
For this first Living the Parable chapter, the speaker’s transcript will be followed by a brief discussion of the four questions that Dr. Daniel Doriani uses in his book Putting the Truth to Work. Modern Parables has used a number of the things he teaches in that book as the foundation for the Living the Parable sections. If you are interested in further study on the area of Biblical application, we would encourage you to read Dr. Doriani’s book.
TRANSCRIPT OF APPLICATION VIDEO
Living out Hidden Treasure – Dr. Daniel Doriani
Dr. Daniel Doriani is Senior Pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
When I saw this property on screen I thought to myself, “that’s one ugly piece of land.” And now that I’m standing here, I have to tell you this is urban blight at its worst. This is one ugly piece of property. And that set me thinking. You know, it’s very different to watch something on a screen compared to experiencing it in person. It’s one thing to live, it’s another thing simply to watch.
For example, it’s very different to watch a picture of a waterfall as opposed to feeling the spray in your face and the roar in your ears. Seeing versus experiencing—they’re different things.
WHY JESUS TAUGHT IN PARABLES
That difference between experiencing something and simply watching it is one of the main reasons why Jesus taught in parables. He didn’t want to teach things that would enter our minds and then be filed away as some fact that we knew. He wanted to tell us stories that would enter our imaginations, that would enter our bones. We feel ourselves getting into the story, not just to live the story, but to hear what He said, to understand His teachings about the kingdom of God and to act on them.
At first blush, Jesus’ parables are just interesting little stories—relatively simple at first reading. But then you notice something strange happens in the parable, something that teases your mind into thought. You wonder, “Why did Jesus put that in the story? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?”
After a while you begin to realize why Jesus taught in parables. He told these stories so they would force you to think—so they would be like a piece of sand in your shoe. Even the last thought before you go to bed at night is one more reflection on that parable. Then you realize that was his purpose in the first place: to make you think, to make you enter, to make you live—really live—what’s in the parable.
So what exactly are parables?
They’re simply comparisons that Jesus used that teach important truths about the Kingdom of God. This particular parable teaches us four different things about the Kingdom of God. The first is that the Kingdom is priceless. The second is that the Kingdom reveals itself to us often unexpectedly. And then, third, when it does, we should take radical, decisive action to acquire the Kingdom. Finally, when we do acquire the Kingdom–or maybe we could say it acquires us–it transforms everything.
When it comes down to it, the parable of the Hidden Treasure is about a very simple question: once we realize the supreme value of the Kingdom, will we enter it? Will we live faithfully before the King?
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
As we apply the parables to the Kingdom of God and life in the Kingdom, there are really four aspects of application of our studies. I’d like to phrase them as “the four questions people ask.” They are four questions people have asked throughout the ages—philosophers, ethicists—and they certainly also appear in the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches us to ask these questions, and it gives us abundant answers to them.
The first question is “What is my Duty?” What should I do—meaning, what does God require of me? What behavior is specified in the Law of God? What do the Ten Commandments require? What does Jesus require in His teachings? What does God require as a bare minimum for our actions? That’s the first question: What’s my duty? What should I do?
The second question is “What should I be?” or the question of character. The question of character—who should I be—touches on our ability to do what God requires us to do. In other words, we all know that we can’t simply resolve to do whatever we wish. Because we’ve all experienced those times when we want to do something, but we find that we can’t. Or we do it for a little while, but then we peter out—we don’t persevere. How can I actually have the capacity to persevere in the obedience that God wants of me? How can I achieve virtue? How can I be a loving and kind and gracious and generous person? That’s the question of character.
The third question you could call the question of goals, or the question, “Where should I go?” The first and second questions are answered the same way for everybody. Everybody has the same duties, everyone should pursue the same Godly character. But then, when it comes to our goals, they are unique for each one of us. God has given each one of us particular gifts, experiences, skills, teachers, even failures, that uniquely prepare us for what He wants us to do.
How do I figure out what my gifts, what my experiences, what my passions, what’s unique in the way God has made me or you that will lead me into projects, into the kinds of things that I’ll invest my life’s energy in? That’s the third question.
The fourth question is that of vision or discernment. How can I learn to see the world God’s way? Now, of course we know that the Lord gives His absolute truth, but His truth is challenged in so many ways in our culture. There are, of course, other religions such as Islam or Buddhism. Beyond that, there are agnostics and atheists and naturalists. And they’re all putting forward their claims.
Even people who aren’t philosophers are simply saying, “Hey, enjoy the good life. Live for pleasure. Live for achievement. Live for recognition.” How can I screen out—understand, but disregard those false voices; how can I hear the truth and see the world God’s way? How can I discern His voice among all the others?
Those are the four basic questions the Bible teaches us to ask in so many ways. We will consistently apply those four questions to the parables as pathways to application.
PURCHASING THE KINGDOM
So, what does the parable of the Hidden Treasure require in regard to our duty? It’s very clear: the parable requires that we use decisive action to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness.” This parable requires us to be willing to take the radical action of selling everything—giving up everything, paying any price—to enter the Kingdom of God.
The second question concerns our character: who should we be? This parable answers that we should be men and women who have the kind of character that is able to take decisive action to enter the Kingdom of God. We need to see an opportunity and take advantage of it quickly. Even further, we need to be willing to give up what is most precious to us in order to acquire the Kingdom.
Third, we have to think about our goals. The parable of the Hidden Treasure really makes one simple point: until we actually do enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the main goal we have in life is to enter the Kingdom. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes, make any sacrifice, endure the ridicule, even the scorn of friends and relatives. We should be willing to pay any price to finish the race in order to win the prize.
Finally, let’s talk about wisdom or discernment. Let’s not do it through a series of statements, but rather through questions. The first question this parable teaches us to ask is, “What is of true worth? What is of supreme value?” And beyond that, once we as Christians accept the supreme value of the Kingdom, do we sometimes reacquire those things that we once sacrificed for the Kingdom? How, in short, can we forget what the Kingdom of God is worth?
If you’re watching this story today, it’s possible that you aren’t sure that you’re a member of the Kingdom of God yet. Now is the time to ask if you’re not sure. Ask your teacher, ask your pastor, ask a friend. This study may be God Himself revealing His Kingdom to you at this hour. It could be time for you to act—to act decisively so that you can live in the Kingdom of God.
It’s also possible that you’re watching this video and you are a child of God—you are living the Kingdom. But, as you think about the cost that the man in this story paid, you realize you haven’t done anything radical or risky like that for a long time. You’ve been assuming—you’ve even been presuming on God. It may be time for you to recommit yourself so that you’ll live truly in the Kingdom of God.
****[Abe, please insert the current section from the Teacher’s Guide Overview of Living the Parable here. I’ve given the first and last lines that bookend the section.]
AN OVERVIEW OF LIVING THE PARABLES
Knowing and Doing
We who live in the West have perfected the art of knowing without doing…
…..until the day of Christ.” (Phil 1:9-11)
ADDITIONAL VERSES FOR STUDY AND REFLECTION
“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.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
A certain ruler asked [Jesus], “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
““I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.”