Estate Sale

Don’t tell my mother, but our plan, when we clean out her house in the not-to-distant future will involve a dumpster. There’s a good bit of material in her house that just needs to go. Yes, she will say “Somebody might need that!” but nobody is going to need the broken charger to lost batteries for a thirty-year-old nose-hair clipper. Nobody.

On the other hand, she has a good bit of material around that house that is going to find its way into various family members’ homes. I have my eye on her vast collection of Hummel figurines. You just can’t have too many of those.

This idea pops into my mind as I read the last of the seven kingdom parables in Matthew 13.

“Therefore,” he said to them, “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.”–Matthew 13:52

It doesn’t take much effort to see that this parable is different from the other six. While it does tell us some things about the kingdom that Matthew 6:33 has us seeking, it also takes a step back from the kingdom to talk about what happens when a “teacher of the law” becomes a disciple.

Much of the accumulation of 90-plus years in my mother’s house is junk, but there’s also a lot that might seem worthless to my grandkids but will actually thrill other people. I’m sure that we’ll one day have an estate sale that witnesses various people finding treasures that we might have discarded. Some of the items in that house mean something to me because of my history with them.

I think that gets at the point Jesus was making in this parable. The “teacher of the law” or “scribe,” grammateus in the Greek, was someone learned in understanding and teaching the law. These people, in Jesus’ time, absolutely knew their Bibles, even though their Bibles were only our Old Testament. So what would happen when these people followed the kingdom? They would be able to bring their prior knowledge and expertise and, in the light of the kingdom, turn it into “treasures old and new.”

An old treasure might be seeing a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac. A new treasure would be an understanding of Jesus’ teachings deepened by past learning.

So what does this parable add to our understanding of the kingdom of God?

  • The kingdom is not only valuable in its own right; it makes other things more valuable.
  • The kingdom’s value can be made more apparent by knowledgeable students and teachers of the Word.

Like my mother’s house, mine holds a certain number of treasures, but, at the end of the day, I hope that the most glittering things at my estate sale reflect my fidelity to the kingdom.

Precious Things (Psalm 19:10)

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

Imagine one of those exercises where you try to decide what ten objects you would have with you if stranded on a desert island. I’d want water–or better yet a filter to desalinate sea water. Rope would be useful. Something to eat could come in handy. I’d throw a knife and a first aid kit and some sort of shelter into my supplies. What I would decidedly NOT choose is gold or its modern-day equivalent, money.

If the legendary hijacker, D.B. Cooper, did manage to parachute to safety in the trackless forests of the Pacific Northwest, what did he do with all of that money he took along? Assuming he never made it to civilization, he might have made a bed for himself out of the cash. It might have provided tinder for fires. Beyond that, money in the forest is pretty useless. Gold on a desert island is only good as a weight.

Why do we put such value into things that won’t last any length of time? A couple of weeks ago, thousands of people lined up to buy the second generation iPads on the day they first came out. Why? Why did I make sure that I made it in front of a TV by 1:20 on Sunday so that I could watch my KU Jayhawks lose in the NCAA Tournament? Why do we get attached to cars that will wear out in a few years, houses that require constant maintenance to keep from falling around our heads, and all manner of entertainments that cease us pleasure very quickly.

Do we really believe what David says in this Psalm? Do we really value God’s Word as the most precious, the most delicious thing in our lives? I can’t say that I do on a regular basis. I pay lip service to the idea, but little more.

What do we do then? When I realize I’m not valuing my wife sufficiently, I spend time with her. Perhaps the same will work with scripture. We have nothing to lose in the attempt.