I’ve been reflecting recently on a parable Jesus told. It goes like this:
“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.”
My thoughts were based on an extended version of this that I’d like to share with you.
“I want this pearl. How much is it?”
“Well,” the seller says, “It’s very expensive.”
“But how much?” we ask.
“Well, a very large amount.”
“Do you think I could buy it?”
Oh, of course. Everyone can buy it.”
“But didn’t you say it was very expensive?”
“Well, how much is it?”
“Everything you have,” the seller replies.
We pause and think. But the pearl is of great quality. We make up our mind.
“All right, I’ll buy it.” we say.
“Well, what do you have?” the seller wants to know. “Let’s write it down.”
“Well, I have ten thousand pounds in the bank.”
“Good – ten thousand pounds. What else?”
“That’s all. That’s all I have.”
“Well, I have a few pounds – some loose change – here in my pockets.”
We start digging. “Well, let’s see – five, ten, twenty, twenty-two, twenty-five pounds.”
“That’s good. What else do you have?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s it.”
“Where do you live?” He’s still probing.
“In a house on the other side of town.”
“The house, too, then.” He writes that down.
“You mean I have to live in my caravan?”
“You have a caravan? Good. That too. What else?”
“But … but that means I’ll have to sleep in my car!”
“You have a car as well?”
“Well, two actually.”
“Both become mine, both cars. Anything else?”
“Well, you already have my money, my house, my caravan, my cars. What more do you want? I have absolutely nothing left! I am totally alone now.”
Suddenly the seller exclaims, “Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too! Everything becomes mine. House, money, cars – and you too.”
From the very beginning the Christian call has always been to discipleship. We’ve often changed this, made it easier and less demanding. We’ve done this in different ways, but they all fall short.
Some churches call for conversion. I’m all for conversion. If you’re going to live a life of total commitment, then you’re not going to manage it without making a decision to do so. But Jesus’ instruction was not to make converts, but disciples (Matt 28:19). Followers. Servants. People who take up their cross and follow him (Matt 16:24).
Some churches simply ask you to perform certain duties. Attend church. Have the Eucharist. Sing the hymns. Read your Bible. Say your prayers. I’m all for these things too. They’re vital. But there the food that sustains you on the journey of following Jesus – they’re not the journey itself.
The call of Christianity is nothing short of a call to give everything you have to Jesus, to surrender all. As he repeatedly puts it
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Or to quote the theologian who lost his life standing up to the Nazi regime:
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
My friends, Christianity can never be a hobby, or just one thing that you do, it demands everything, just as Jesus himself gave everything for you.
I know I will stumble, I know I have always stumbled. I know I will, and have, fallen short. But today, just like every day for the last 20 years, I will again make the choice to do my best to take up my cross and follow my master.
Will you join me?
God bless you all,