Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brennen Manning's Thoughts on the Parable of the Hidden Treasure

"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field." (Matthew 13:44)

This is taken from Brennen's book, Abba's Child, pages 116-118

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This parable focuses on joyous discovery of the Kingdom. Biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias commented,
When the great joy surpassing all measure seizes a man, it carries him away, penetrates his inmost being, subjugates his mind. All else seems valueless compared to that surpassing worth. No price is too great to pay. The unreserved surrender of what is most valuable becomes a matter of course. The decisive thing in the parable is not what the man gives, but his reason for doing so - the overwhelming experience of their discovery. Thus it is with the kingdom of God. The effect of the joyful news is overpowering; it fills the heart with gladness; it changes the whole direction of one's life and produces the most wholehearted self-sacrifice.

Let's transpose the parable of the treasure into a modern key. On July 10, 1993, Leslie Robing, a thirty-year-old high school teacher from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, won $111,000,000 (yep, one hundred eleven million dollars), the largest lottery jackpot in US history. Immediately he flew from Wisconsin to Lakeland, Florida, to regroup with his fiancee Colleen DeVries. In a newspaper interview Robins said, "The first two days we were probably more scared and intimidated than elated. Overall, things are beginning to die down enough where we were comfortable."

Would it be presumptuous to say that Leslie and Colleen have been "affected by" their good fortune and that the winning of the Powerball prize awakened passion in their souls? The identical passion of the peasant in the parable?

Robins had 180 days after the drawing to claim the prize. However, let's suppose that these two Wisconsin natives are rabid sports fans. They get so engrossed in the Milwaukee Brewer's chase for the American League pennant and the Green Bay Packers run for the Super Bowl that they forget to claim the prize. The 180 days expire, and they lose the $3.5 million (after taxes) annually for the next 20 years.

What would our verdict be on the young couple? Foolish?

My response would be the same, though tempered with understanding and compassion. I have done that very thing. Their blind servitude was sports; mine, alcohol. I can relate to their foolishness. They forfeited a fortune for the Brewers and Packers; I forfeited the treasure for bourbon and vodka. During those days of sour wine and withered roses when I was stashing whiskey bottles in the bathroom cabinet, the glove compartment, and the geranium pot, I hid from God in the midst of tears and under hollow laughter. All the while I knew the whereabouts of the treasure.

It is one thing to discover the treasure and quite another to claim it as one's own through ruthless determination and tenacious effort.

The paltriness of our lives is largely due to our fascination with the trinkets and trophies of the unreal world that is passing away. Sex, drugs, booze, the pursuit of money, pleasure and power, even a little religion, suppress the awareness of present risenness. Religious dabbling, worldly prestige, or temporary unconsciousness cannot conceal the terrifying absence of meaning in the church and in society, nor can fanaticism, cynicism, or indifference.

Whatever the addiction=be it a smothering relationship, a dysfunctional dependence, or mere laziness - our capacity to be affected by Christ is numbed. Sloth is our refusal to go on the inward journey, a paralysis that results from choosing to protect ourselves from passion. When we are not profoundly affected by the treasure in our grasp, apathy and mediocrity are inevitable. If passion is not to degenerate into nostalgia or sentimentality, it must renew itself at its source.

The treasure is Jesus Christ. He is the Kingdom within.

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