Of Treasure and Responsibility

A little over a year ago, I posted One Man’s Treasure. It was inspired by the remarks of a lay Bible study leader teaching Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (ESV)

Another unexpected conclusion or hypothesis concerning Matthew 13:44 triggered this piece. However, the statement triggering this piece did not come from a lay Bible study speaker. It came from a senior pastor in a large evangelical church during his sermon.

The sermon was straightforward and covered the bases of most mainstream evangelical thinking on the parable. Then the pastor struck a negative chord. The pastor added a reason for the man’s actions.

The reason was one I had not heard before. Not only was it something I had not heard, but it also seems to conflict with the mainstream thinking on this topic. The pastor remarked that the found treasure might not be the sole reason for the man to possess the field.

Some may read that last sentence and think, “So what?” The “so what” is simple. If the treasure in the field was the Kingdom of God, what else could make the field more valuable? Suppose the man did think something else could make the find more valuable. If true, that challenges the primary message most believe the parable illustrates.

The pastor may have been attempting to make the parable seem clearer to a modern congregation. Many pastors and theologians have suggested the man could have simply taken the treasure home. They feel there was no legal or religious reason requiring the man to buy the field to possess the treasure.

Sadly, the pastor attempted to explain the man’s decision to buy the field with an example one might call greediness. At least, that was my first impression. After watching the sermon again, it seems that was not what the pastor intended. He viewed the treasure as the initial gift received through Jesus, salvation. He wanted to emphasize salvation was just the beginning of what a believer would obtain through accepting Jesus as Savior.

He justified his comment by stating common practice in those days included burying valuables to keep them safe. Also, everything would not be in one location. That practice might lead the man to believe other treasures were buried there. If that were the case, purchasing the land might yield more treasure than what he found.

The bottom line here is this. Pastors, even pastors with excellent, high-level academic credentials, can make mistakes. For example, I was present for a sermon at a megachurch in Austin, Texas, a few years ago. The message concerned the crucifixion. At one point, the pastor confused carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

He was attempting to sound knowledgeable while helping those hearing his message understand the level of Jesus’s suffering. Probably, most in the congregation did not realize he made a mistake, and those who did likely found it amusing. Besides, it made little difference as far as the message was concerned. Jesus died for our sins on the cross. The exact cause of death is of little consequence.

Mistakes such as the one inspiring this piece are different. They can give the skeptics and atheists ammunition to challenge biblical teaching. They may even make congregants wonder about the message, which brings me to the point of this essay. What is our responsibility as believers when we hear a mixed message or something that sounds strange?

Some, including this writer, will feel called to share their concern in some way. If my professors at Seminary can be believed, pastors regularly review and borrow from other’s sermons. I am also aware of pastors and teachers borrowing from the writings of bloggers or Wikipedia at times. While that is understandable, it is also one reason the gospel is preached in varying, even conflicting, ways.

Other believers might feel called to email or speak to the pastor and ask, “How did you come up with that idea?” Still, others may be inspired to research the matter for themselves. Then some folks seem called to remind others that we should base our faith on God’s Word. Not the words of our pastor, a television evangelist, or a blogger, including this one.

Whatever you think about the situation, assuming you misunderstood or the questionable comment or material makes little difference, is not the answer in every case. If nothing else, use your questions as a reason to review or study the scripture more closely. If something is still unclear, seek counsel from someone who knows the scripture and whom you respect.

© sinnerswalk – 2021

About S. Eric Jackson

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