Buried Treasure

By David Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 13:44-52

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”


In the early history of California where I lived most of my life, there were many large ranches. There were also bandits that would occasionally raid them. In one instance, the owner of a certain ranch had notice that a gang of bandits was on its way to sack his property. With only moments to spare, he hastily packed up his household treasures and handed the bag to a trusted servant, urging him to hide it. The servant galloped off and buried the treasure somewhere in the foothills. On the way back to the ranch, he was attacked and killed, and the knowledge of the treasure’s whereabouts were lost with him. About 200 years have passed, and the treasure remains unfound, even though neighborhoods have grown up and the foothills are settled.

Stories of hidden treasure have always been fascinating, and there are many of them. Many are fictional, but, like the above story, many are true. It doesn’t tax the imagination much to picture the crowd listening with rapt attention to the parables in today’s lesson. Jesus took the universal human fascination with hidden treasure and applied it to the kingdom of heaven. The standard “repent of your sins and get right with God” is very true, but it doesn’t have that same thrill as the possibility of finding hidden treasure.

Still, this isn’t treasure that you can just find and then take possession of; to get this treasure you have to sell all you have. In the parables, though, even this is exciting. You believe that something of great value is worth all that you have, and you are eager to do whatever it takes to make it yours. Nowhere else — at least in no other situation I’ve ever heard of — are you told that you must sell everything you have to get a treasure of immense value, and you are enthusiastic to do it.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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