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Treasure, Pearls and Drug Dealing

February 23, 2013

I’ve been thinking about that story that Jesus tells about treasure and pearls of great worth (Matthew 13.44-46). It is so well known but so difficult to live with. What if I get it wrong? What if the treasure is really just fools gold. Have you seen fools gold? I used to see lots of it walking in the North York Moors near to where I grew up, and also in Wales. It looks golden and shiny. In fact it looks more golden and precious than gold itself. It is beautiful and over the years many prospectors have sold everything dreaming of golden riches only to make fools of themselves. If you don’t know, fools gold looks wonderful, but it is nothing more than a special form of iron oxide.

When faced with something so amazingly wonderful we can lose our head. It is like the young man who found an old lamp. After taking it home he rubs it and out comes a genie. However, due to the difficult economic climate the genie was able to offer only the one wish. So after much Uming and Ahing the man finally said, “I want to be irresistible to women!”. The genie thought for a second, then waved his hands, there was a puff of smoke, and … he became a bar of chocolate.

So how do I know that the treasure is worth it? How do I know that the pearl is really beyond price and not just a fake?

It may sound as though I’m pouring cold water on one of Jesus’ best stories, but it is a serious question. It is a question that I have to answer if I ever want to throw myself headlong and completely into the life that Jesus gives. It is also the question that I would expect others to ask before joining a bunch of crazy people who say that there is more to life than meets the eye: that life should be full of Spirit, and meaning; and that there is something called Truth.

How can I show that the Gospel is beyond all price? Hold onto that question, I’ll come back to it?

Have you ever really wanted something? Here I mean really wanted something? I remember my first motor bike. I really, really wanted a motor bike. My step brother had one, and I looked at it and wanted one. A motor bike was freedom and excitement all rolled into one. I wanted one but I couldn’t have one because I was too young. Then I was 16 and I could have had a 50cc bike but wanted something bigger. I knew that there would be money for only one bike and certainly not for a 50cc one year followed by a larger bike the year after. So waited yet another year for what I really wanted.

When I finally got that bike it was everything to me. I went out on it whenever, and where ever I could. I cleaned it and polished it. I polished it so much that I was told to stop because I was polishing away the chrome!

When I was young, that bike was my treasure, my pearl of great value. It was my passion.

You may understand or you may not but I hope that you have been consumed by a passion like that. That sort of passion is life – turbo-charged! The passion zings through your veins and everything is simple.

This made me think back, to think back to the passions that I’ve had; to the things that fired my blood. What are they? I then started to think about what fires my blood now.

I remembered when I first discovered what it meant to know Jesus. How it felt to be filled with the Spirit. How it felt to be filled with the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation. I was 18 and I remember that passion. I remember reading and re-reading my Bible. I couldn’t get enough. I remember asking questions, lots of questions. I must have been a pain, but I needed to know more. Everything was fitting into place, there was meaning and purpose for the first time. There was so much happening in my mind, and heart and imagination that I think I went a little mad. I suspect that I still am mad. At least mad by many people’s standards, and you know what: I don’t care!

This madness is better than any materialist sanity. It is science, it is emotion, it is relationships, it is life, it is everything all joined together, with all of the pieces made more by the Spirit making them into one whole.

At times that wonder of life of faith can fade but, once experienced, it never fully leaves. At least that is my experience.

So, I need to continually remind myself of this wonderful treasure that I have. I need experience the passion of knowing that I have my heart’s desire, indeed I have more than my mind or heart could ever imagine. The world is full of life and possibility.

Earlier, I asked how I could show that the treasure is worth everything. Well, I think that answer is by showing my changed life and by showing the changed lives of those who are filled with the Spirit too. It is my experience, and it is the experience that is available that can show that the treasure is really worth it.

It may sound as if I’m raving, as if I’ve been drinking or on drugs. Perhaps like Marx said, religion is a drug like opium rotting my brain.

“Religion is the Opium of the People” by Steve Turner

This opium is dangerous.
Colourless, odourless,
and smuggled in the heart
nevertheless this opium
is dangerous.
It changes people,
it will turn our children into enemies.
This opium makes them mad.
They start seeing things,
imagining the world big with spirit,
long with heaven.
They start to fantasise,
imagine there’s more than meets the eye.
This opium makes them joyous.
You can tell if they have this opium.
Listen for their singing,
look closely in their eyes,
hear them whisper in the air.
They lose all interest
in making money
or conquering the world.
They lose all interest in us
when they discover this opium.
We have them registered now.
They are eighty per cent of us.
We shall watch them closely.
The public must not be infected.

So I must be a drug dealer. Dealing the divine drug. The drug that leads to reality, and meaning. Like any addict, I know that this drug is my everything. But unlike the drug dealers that haunt the shady corners and the playing fields, this drug is always free.

That is the paradox. This drug is a free gift. It is always free. It is worth everything; it is beyond price; and it is given away.

And the name of this drug … is Jesus.

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