Add a bookmarkAdd and edit notesShare this commentary

Matthew 13:44-46 meaning

Jesus tells two short parables about the kingdom of heaven. In each He shows the immeasurable value and worth of finding the kingdom.

These parables are unparalleled in the other gospel accounts.

Following His private explanation of the parable about the wheat and the tares, Jesus tells his disciples a pair of short parables about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is still in the house, speaking privately with His disciples (Matthew 13:36, 53).

Both parables follow a similar pattern. Each parable begins with an everyday object of enormous wealth, but its full value is unseen or unrecognized. Then someone discovers its true worth. Finally, that person trades in all that he has to purchase the vast wealth unrecognized by others.

Likewise, both parables have a similar meaning. Each parable shows how the kingdom of heaven has enormous value; and how it is readily available for any who would fully commit their lives to invest in its riches. Many, however, either balk at the price or fail to suspect the incredible opportunity to gain eternal wealth. Jesus seems to be changing the subject from a parable He told the crowds, inviting them to be sons of the kingdom rather than sons of the wicked one. It might be that Jesus is saying "The parable of the wheat and tares wasn't really meant to challenge you, here are some parables that will challenge you."

In the first parable Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field (v 44). The Jews and their Roman authorities followed a system of property rights. Property rights for a field was among the most significant and expensive types of wealth a man could own in Jesus's day. This is because whoever owned the field had the right to determine how it would be used and to sell whatever it produced. In an agricultural society, such as Judea, fields were a source of revenue and riches.

But the field in Jesus's parable is extra-special because it has a valuable treasure hidden within it. Because the treasure is hidden, no one knows about it, or suspects the increased worth it adds to the field. But somehow a man found this hidden treasure (v 44). He doesn't tell anyone about it, and he re-hides the treasure again. He then returns home bursting with his secret excitement. Jesus says that from joy over the hidden treasure in that field (v 44), the man liquidates all his possessions so he can purchase it. The reason he joyfully goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (v 44), is that the man understands its true value. He understands that even though he is selling everything to buy that field he is becoming exponentially richer because of the unseen treasure that will belong to whomever owns the field.

This man's reaction would be similar to someone who saw a business opportunity to buy a piece of property priced at $2 million dollars and was certain that it would yield him $2 billion dollars in return. Most people do not have $2 million dollars to spend. But if any of us were 100% sure of this volume of return we'd gladly sell everything we owned including our house, and do whatever was necessary to acquire the funds to meet the asking price.

This hidden treasure is what the kingdom of heaven is like (v 44). The field is not cheap. It will cost us everything we hold dear to buy it. But the everlasting return is immeasurably worth the investment. That is why we too can be like this man and part with our treasures with joy. What we receive is return is of so much greater value than what we are giving away that we cannot wait to part with it so that we may gain the kingdom. But it takes trust in Jesus and faith to see the true value of the kingdom hidden in the everyday fields of life. This is what Jesus urges for His disciples. He is teaching them that the rewards of the kingdom are worth giving up everything to follow Him. With the exception of Judas, that will eventually be the choice of them all, according to church tradition.

In many respects the second parable is similar the first. Jesus introduces it with Again, as if to say, "said another way." The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls (v 45). Merchants are middlemen in the economic system. In the ancient world, merchants bought and acquired goods either directly from producers or from caravans that transported materials from afar, and then sold those goods at a higher price at the market. The merchant in this parable is apparently a seller of jewelry or precious stones because he is seeking fine pearls (v 45).

One day as he is looking over the wares of his sellers, the merchant discovers one pearl of great value (v 46). This pearl is very costly, but apparently is ridiculously undervalued. If he wishes to buy it, the merchant will have to quickly sell all that he has to buy it. But the merchant recognizes that as expensive as this one pearl is, its full value is still considerably underestimated. And so, he shrewdly cashes in his entire inventory so that he can buy this pearl of immense value. Despite selling all he had the merchant comes away far richer for having bought this remarkable pearl, for he was the first to see and act upon its true value. Again, Jesus makes the point to his disciples that giving up everything for the sake of the Kingdom is an exceedingly great bargain.

In these parables, Jesus shows at least five things about the kingdom of heaven.

First, the kingdom of heaven is available to everyone (who believes in Jesus). Just as anyone could have bought the field with hidden treasure or the pearl of great value so too can anyone acquire the kingdom's treasures.

Second, the kingdom of heaven is of incomparable worth. Whoever possesses the field with hidden treasure, or the pearl of great value is exceedingly rich. So too is the man who has riches in the God's kingdom. In each case, it is worth giving up everything to acquire.

Third, the kingdom of heaven's treasures are costly to acquire. Just as the man and the merchant must sell all they have in order meet the asking price for the field and the one pearl, so must anyone sell their treasures away in order to "buy" the kingdom's treasures. Acquiring the kingdom's treasures requires that we "sell" everything else for its sake.

Fourth, many people fail to recognize the superior value of the kingdom of heaven. No one but the man who discovered the hidden treasure, knew the real value of the field. Everyone balked at the steep price of the one pearl of great value (v 46) but the shrewd merchant, who rightly perceived its true worth. He alone who was willing to make the bargain. It takes keen, spiritual eyes to see and perceive the true value of the kingdom of God. It requires faith.

Fifth and finally, we must choose between our earthly treasures and the treasures of the kingdom. It would have been impossible for the man or the merchant to both keep their goods and gain what they desired. They had to choose which treasure they would possess. So must everyone make their own choice between the mortal treasures of earthly kingdoms (its honors, its pleasures, its approval, etc.) and the eternal treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The thrust of these twin parables is to encourage the disciples to choose the kingdom.

This message is consistently taught in the New Testament. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples to seek the greater reward to be found within the kingdom of heaven.

"Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."
(Matthew 6:1)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
(Matthew 6:19-20)

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you."
(Matthew 6:33)

The Apostle Paul went through an experience like the man and the merchant in these parables and came to a realization that life is not about acquiring riches or status among men, but pleasing God by faith. Paul wrote this in his letter to the church he founded in Philippi:

 "But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him…"
(Philippians 3:7-9a)

Those who exchange their earthly treasures for the kingdom of heaven are like the man who bought the field with hidden treasure and like this merchant who bought the pearl of great value. Both sold all they had to acquire these goods. And both recognized and acted upon the fabulous deal when he saw it. The question that Jesus raises to His disciples (and Matthew to his readers) is "Do you have the faith to see and act upon the daily opportunities to invest in God's kingdom?" It will cost you your life, but you will gain it and so much more in return.

Select Language
AaSelect font sizeDark ModeSet to dark mode
This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalized content. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy.