“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (
Matt 13:44-46; NIV)
Self-esteem in women is dropping. Studies over the last ten to twelve years report that 70% of girls ages eight to 17 experience low self-esteem with regard to physical appearance, performance in school, and social relationships. The scary side of this is that 75% of these girls engage in negative and self-destructive behavior, more than three times the level of girls with normal-to-high self-esteem. They cut themselves, they drink, they use drugs, they have eating disorders.
It's not just women; it's men also, for different reasons. We all struggle with the belief that we are inherently valuable. We look to something external to affirm us, to give us hope that we deserve good things in life. Our consumer culture has objectified women, turning them into objects of seduction that find meaning in superficial or self-destructive behavior. For men, we bear wounds of failure and rejection, sometimes at the hands of our fathers, but also as nameless, faceless cogs in a societal machine focused on the production of goods and services. Most of us end up feeling empty, uncertain that our lives mean much. We doubt we have some greater purpose than to simply enjoy ourselves as much as we can. We support the same process that devalues us.
The meaning of our lives cannot ultimately be found in externals; our successes can end in failure, our triumphs can be reversed. Our closest relationships can fall apart. They can, and they do.
Our lives have value because they are valuable to our Lord. If the Creator of the universe would die in our place, for the joy of spending eternity with us, then we have infinite value. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a series of parables which reveal aspects of the kingdom of heaven. In my study of the parables, I find that there is a surprise in each story—something unexpected—and it is that thing that Jesus uses to change us, if we will accept his words. In the two short parables listed above, he tells the story of a man in search of something of great value. When he finds it, he gives everything he has to buy it.
Taken out of context, you might be tempted to see yourself as the man, and the thing of great value as salvation. The problem is that salvation may cost us everything, but it's not something we need to buy. It is a gift, it cannot be bought.
In context, starting with earlier parables, we learn that the man depicted is Jesus, the Son of Man. After sharing the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-29), Jesus explains this reference to the disciples (vv. 37-38). He also explains that the field is symbolic of the world. When we come to the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, for which a man gives up everything to purchase it, we are offered an insight into the heart of God.
The man is Jesus. What he gave up was his life. The treasure hidden in the field is you.
That is the unexpected part of the story. The Lord values you so much that he would suffer and die for you, to make it possible for you to spend eternity with him. It is a love not based on anything you do, good or bad. It is the unconditional love of a father for his children. It is a love that lasts forever. You are treasured. You mean everything to him.
We can stop looking for approval in other people's eyes. We can take our failures, place them in his hands, and know that they do not define us. Knowing our true value means accepting that we were meant for more than simply enjoying ourselves in this life. If we have value, as his children, we have purpose. It is for this life, and beyond. It is infinite.
We have to believe Jesus and accept his gift. In accepting it, we realize the full potential of who we were meant to be. We can start on the journey he prepared for us, which is not the one our culture has contrived. The value the world ascribes to us is a lie; we have been set free to live lives that make a difference in a kingdom which lasts forever. The small steps of obedience we take today confirm that we belong to him and reflect his glory.
Believe him, know who you are, and take the step.
That beautiful girl in the photo is my daughter, and she has infinite value.