The Value Of The Kingdom
In view of Christ's teaching on the subject of "entering the kingdom," it might be thought by some that such a sentiment would be followed by a lesson instructing one on what to do after he is in the kingdom. However, Christ knew that it proves necessary from time to time to instruct all converts, new and old, in the value of the kingdom, so that this foundation truth will cause them to be active. If one appreciates the value of the kingdom, he is less likely to fail in his responsibility as a citizen of the kingdom.
Christ inspires us to look inward for this value, for he says, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21) Such an evaluation causes us to be sincerely possessive concerning the grace of God. The spiritual nature of the kingdom, likewise, causes us to place high value on it. Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36), causing us to look beyond the carnal environment of our life here in anticipation of glory beyond the grave.
Christ is unequivocal in his definition of the value of the kingdom in the texts of two similar parables. The first is that of the treasure in the field. (Matt. 13:44):
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."
The details of this narrative present a picture which any person, who is not necessarily wealthy, could understand. The history of the United States is filled, with the tales of fortune hunters, who sacrificed every convenience and personal possession to make such a find in numerous rushes for gold and other precious metals. The distinctive lesson of this short parable, however, is found in the statement that the finder immediately, and selfishly, it seems, hid the treasure again, so that it would not come to the knowledge of any other seeker. The selfishness of this act is not condemned by Christ, and, indeed, the Apostles themselves exploited this base characteristic of man in order to win souls to Christ in the beginning of the kingdom. They appealed, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." (Acts 2:40) This is altogether an appeal for a self-centered response, but of course, a man is not expected to have the image of the selfless Christ, in order to become a child of God. He is expected to attain that virtue afterward. It is therefore an accurate portrayal of the man who discovers the value of the kingdom to see him respond in such a possessive fashion. This selfishness can be legitimately retained as it refers to our desire to be in constant possession of a dwelling place, with its accompanying blessings, in the kingdom. However, the kingdom has that large quality of being the possession of all whom we can persuade to attain it, in accordance to God's requirement.
The second parable, similarly framed, is that of the goodly pearl. (Matt. 13:45-46):
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Where the former parable showed the consideration of selling all personal possessions in order to attain a profit in hidden treasure, the merchant here is deliberately seeking the one pearl of great price. Finding it, he sells all, in order to merely attain value received. He thereby reveals his appreciation of the aesthetic value of merely possessing such a pearl. The former happens upon his discovery, but the merchant finds an item of surpassing worth as the reward of a diligent search. His joy at finding such an astonishing property prompts him to sacrifice all his earthly possessions for it. If Jesus' lesson were considered in the carnal realm, we would condemn the merchant's folly, but the lesson is designed to illustrate the value of the kingdom. Such value is worthy of the sacrifice, and it is not at all foolish to make the sacrifice. More than this, there is no regret, once the step is made.
The apostle Paul traveled this route, and describes his own response in this fashion:
"Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and so count them as refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3:7-11)
Paul considered his carnal "gain," as "loss" worth sacrificing; they are as so much "refuse," or garbage. The end, to him, justifies all means consistent with God's commands, so that he might gain the reward, "resurrection from the dead." We may be called upon to sacrifice even limbs and organs, if these consistently hinder us from the possession of the kingdom, for Christ said:
"And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, in the unquenchable fire. And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy feet to be cast into hell. And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:43-48 ASV)
In this passage, Christ calls into comparison the relative values of the kingdom of God and of Hell (Gehenna). Under such a comparison, Hell suffers a complete obliteration of worth, and the premise of the passage is proved. One could well sacrifice offending limbs and organs, if the retention of such parts prevented one's entrance into the kingdom.
Paul describes this effort as simply the mortification of the flesh in Romans 8:12-14:
"So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh,
ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." To attain sonship in the house of God, or citizenship in the kingdom, we must place a high value on the kingdom, or the church, subduing any factor that would hinder us in participating actively upon the success of our effort, and that success can only be achieved when we possess no mental reservation about the church and its value.