Friday, August 29, 2008
mystery of the kingdom...and trading up
Most of our life is spent trading up. It’s kind of like the stuffed animal prizes at the rip-off games in Kings Island or Six Flags—you can keep playing (or throw your money out the car window on I-71)) and trading up for bigger, more valuable prizes. In real life (that’s not real?), it goes like this: you may have made a lot of personal sacrifices to get the career you wanted in order to provide well for your family. But then you discover that the time it takes you away from your kids is not worth that particular job, so you take a lesser paying, less lucrative job in order to spend more time with little Bobby. You traded up in value; a thing or perceived goal for a person.
Jesus also talks about trading up. In Mark 10 Jesus says: “. . . I tell you the truth, all those who have left houses, brothers, sister, mother, father, children, or farms for me and for the Good News will get more than they left. Here in this world they will have a hundred times more homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. And with those things, they will also suffer for their belief. But in the age that is coming they will have life forever.” (Mark 10:29, 30)
He’s talking about a serious trade-up. The kingdom of God is worth the perceived loss of things of great value as we understand them. We have even more shocking words from Jesus in Luke 14. After a large crowd had been traveling with Him for a while, it is interesting that the scripture records that He “turned and spoke...” meaning that this large group of people was literally following Him as He traveled around. He suddenly gave them a new criterion for understanding the value He Himself must be to them. In a sobering statement, Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
Was He telling people to start hating their parents, their families? Of course not. Jesus knew the Law, He said He came to fulfill it—the fifth commandment says to honor your mother and father—and Paul later points out that it is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well for you and you may live long.
Jesus was speaking in a comparative sense—weighing those things we value, our families, and He even says life itself, against a dynamic relationship with Him, experiencing the down-payment of the Kingdom of God now. Even our very own breath is not worth clinging to in comparison to what He offers. In contrast to your love for Him, everything else will be as loss. We are again trading up those things that we treasure as most valuable, for something that is far surpassing any riches we might know.
It’s noteworthy that if we consider a simple Biblical definition of the heart as being the center of our affections, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus said “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He didn’t say “Where your heart is, that’s where your treasure is...,” but rather, you will find your heart focused on whatever you value most. If we could see the value of this pearl called the Kingdom of God, and could see the treasure that it is, we would soon find our hearts there as well.
But how are we to know that? How are we to understand its value?
This is part of the mystery of the Kingdom of God because it is revelatory in nature. This is the hardest thing to explain. What caused all of the disciples to risk their lives, most of them dying horribly painful deaths for something that had so much value to them? What made them trade up?
And where do I need to trade up?