The Pearl of Great Price

Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 24 July 2011
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-46

When I hear the story of Solomon asking for wisdom, it always strikes me that he had to have had some wisdom already, to have made that choice. As Jesus says elsewhere, “To the one who has, more will be given, but the one who doesn’t have, the little that he has will be taken away from him.” God promises Solomon riches, longevity and victory over his enemies as a reward for his good choice. These things are often described as the benefits of wisdom in the Old Testament. Reflecting on Solomon’s story though, I wonder whether they ended up being tests and snares. It takes wisdom to handle success well.

Wisdom isn’t just a ‘thing’ that Solomon wants. What he asks for is the ability to do his God-given task well. In Psalm 119, the worshipper celebrates God’s word as worth more than gold or silver. The psalmist is committed to God’s commands and laws not only because they are a good system to live by, but because he or she loves God. The psalm is a prayer for someone passionate about growing in their knowledge of God and of life who wants to make the right choices and to live out of the centre of God’s will.

God wills for us, individually and communally, to reflect God’s image in which we have been created. Then we are fully human, just as Jesus lived out the full potential of his humanity in communion with God. As Paul puts it, God is conforming us to the image of God’s Son. A life of wisdom is a life that lives and moves in harmony with that deep work of God, both actualizing it in ourselves and creating a world which facilitates that movement in others. Sometimes like Solomon we know what task lies ahead and we can ask for what we need in order to do what we should. But the Kingdom isn’t first and foremost about what we do, something that we make happen. It is something that surprises us, something we stumble upon, a gift. It is God’s work. God is the one who weaves all things together according to God’s good purposes. Often all we can do is recognize glimpses, marvel, and respond.

The Kingdom of God is like finding a hidden treasure in a field. It is like finding a pearl of great price and selling everything in order to buy it. Jesus parables make clear that at a very deep level, the life of the Kingdom is discovered not manufactured; it is gift. The treasure in the field is a serendipitous find, the pearl the fruit of a long search. In both parables the finder responds wholeheartedly, selling everything to lay claim to the treasure. It seems like the Kingdom of God can’t be a supplement to add a little ‘spiritual something’ to our lives – the Kingdom comes in our complete surrender to it.

As we follow Jesus, we should be growing in wisdom. Wisdom is available as we immerse ourselves in God’s word. But the Christian faith is so much more than just a good set of guidelines for living. As God works all things together for good, we must also be open to the breaking in of the Kingdom, and the dramatic reversals that might require.

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About Jessie Rogers

I'm a Scripture scholar and Godly Play practitioner living in Ireland.
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