Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Several years ago, I read a story about a dictator in Africa who got a $6,000 haircut every month. For his monthly grooming experience, he traveled from his country to New York City, so he could be styled by his favorite barber. This ruler literally had a “Rich Man and Lazarus” story (Luke 16.19-31) complete with starving beggars living outside the gates of his palatial home.
If Jesus were to evaluate the African ruler’s life, he would tell him that he made a bad bargain. He possibly would say, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8.36).
Bob Buckley recommended a book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” about Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti. Farmer holds an MD and PhD from Harvard University. He is a professor at Harvard, but spends much of his time in countries like Haiti and African nations like the one mentioned above. His passion is to deliver high quality health care to impoverished places in the United States and the world.
If Jesus were to evaluate Paul Farmer, he might say, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8.35). Farmer does not talk about his faith, but his self-giving actions demonstrate how he has found a full life while giving himself to others.
I have obviously painted two extreme pictures of how people choose to use the gifts and opportunities God has given to them. Farmer uses his immense talent to champion the cause of people who suffer from the inequalities of life. The African ruler just gets $6,000 haircuts every month.
People like Paul Farmer could have an easier life. They could use their skills in the medical profession or at Harvard, and live a very comfortable life in that environment.
However, Jesus calls us to something greater than ease and comfort. In the first of two parables of our study today he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13.44).
He repeated a similar thought with another parable, given to further emphasize the importance of his point. He said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13.45-46).
What do these two parables have to do with Paul Farmer, African dictators and us? Jesus states the logic of God’s kingdom in these two parables. If we trade what we have – even if it is everything we have – for a supremely rich treasure, we have made the best deal of our lives.
One day, the African dictator will settle accounts in judgment before God. At that time, he may see the faces and lives of people he completely neglected, while getting his monthly haircut and other extravagant excesses. He will know what kind of bad deal he made with the resources he was given.
In a similar way, people like Paul Farmer will see the hundreds and possibly thousands of people they have helped, because they gave the treasures of their time, talents, and energy to benefit them. As they hear God’s “well done good and faithful servant” message, they may also see the great appreciation and love of those whom they have blessed through their sacrifices.
I keep referring to these two very extreme examples. Most of us will never get an extravagant haircut and neither will we travel the world with medical aid to the vulnerable. However, the principle of these parables is the same.
We have found the greatest treasure of all, a relationship and friendship with Jesus Christ. We can’t approach this treasure like someone who puts on a dab of aftershave or perfume. Jesus is worthy to receive more than a “dab” of our devotion. He is worthy of all we have to give him.
Yesterday, I wrote about making sure our lives are not in neutral. We can’t be neutral when faced with the greatest treasure of all, a dynamic friendship with Jesus. As a friend of Jesus, he calls us to join him in his healing and delivering work. He also invites us to proclaim through our lives and words that the kingdom of God has arrived.
What small steps of obedience can you begin making today? What kind of devotion to Jesus or service to another person can you give today? A simple answer to this question would be for you to determine to do the next right thing that the Holy Spirit prompts you to do.
Let’s take our lives out of neutral and do the next right thing, one step at a time. Jesus is worthy of our effort, and so are we.
Dear Jesus, you are truly the treasure of our lives. The best life possible is lived when we give ourselves to you. Please help us to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and do the next right thing that is placed in front of us today.