A Pot of Gold in an Old Field

A Pot of Gold in an Old Field

"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."—Matt. 13:44

Let's put on our thinking caps and go with Jesus on a very exciting treasure hunt. You read of it in the Gospel of Matthew, thirteenth chapter, verse forty-four. There our Savior tells of a man who found a treasure hidden in a field and who bought that field to get the treasure by first selling all he had to get the necessary money.

Jesus sketches the story in just a few words. Let's read between the lines and imagine what must have happened.

Even two thousand years ago, when Jesus lived, his home country of Palestine was an old, old part of the world. For several thousand years various nations had come and gone—each group conquering its predecessors. We know now that this very country was one of the first to have villages and cities.

Kings had lived and died. Whole tribes had perished or been taken captive to foreign lands, never to return—men, women, and children alike. By Jesus' time most of the towns and cities that had prospered centuries before had been forgotten, their very names and locations no longer known.

Because Palestine was, and still is, located on the main route between Africa and Asia, army after army swept through. Its people never knew what terrible conqueror would come next.

Even in peacetime keeping money secure was a problem. No banks existed, as we know them, with their huge steel vaults. Paper money and checks hadn't been thought of. All money then was either gold, silver, or copper. Or a person might invest in diamonds or other precious jewels whose value would not change.

But where could a rich man, or even a poor man, keep such treasures? Only kings and very wealthy people could have armed guards to protect them.

So people who had gold, silver, or copper money or who had precious jewels had to either hide them in the house somewhere or go out on a dark night, dig a hole in the ground, and bury their treasures.

This went on for centuries. Especially in times of great danger, such as wars, did people bury their money. Of course many such treasure owners were killed, taken away as slaves to distant lands, or died of famine and disease. With them went the secrets of their hidden treasures.

We know this happened, for we still find such treasures in Palestine. The soil and climate, being dry, have helped preserve them all these many centuries.

Let's imagine that in the year 586 B.C., the year the Babylonians took Jerusalem and carried away its rich temple treasures, a man named Helon, living a few miles away, hid about two feet under the ground an earthen pitcher containing two hundred pieces of gold. Helon, with his friends, was taken to Babylon, one thousand miles to the east. He never returned, though right up until his death he always dreamed of going back for his treasure. However, being a slave, he couldn't.

Centuries passed. Helon was forgotten. Even his family never returned home. But the two hundred pieces of gold remained, only barely tarnished by the elements.

One day over six hundred years later a poor tenant farmer named Ben Korah was wearily plowing in the same field once owned by the now forgotten Helon. His poor ox could barely pull even the crude wooden plow that scratched just the top few inches of soil. All his life Ben Korah had known nothing but poverty and hard work. By immense toil he had managed to buy a modest home and a few decent clothes for his wife and children. He himself always went barefooted.

As he plodded away behind his ox and plow, the plow sud­denly struck what Ben Korah thought was a stone. For the field was full of stones, large and small. As he yanked the plow upward to start the furrow anew, he happened to look down. No, it couldn't be!

He looked again. Yes, it was! The plow had broken into an ancient earthen pitcher. And inside, with some spilled out into the plowed soil, were handfuls of gold coins! More money right there than Ben Korah had ever made or would make in his whole life.

Hastily he looked around. Nobody was in sight. He stooped down quickly and covered the pitcher again with earth. Controlling his feelings as much as he could, he continued plowing, but his mind was whirling with a thousand thoughts.

The field was not his. He was a poor man. If he stole the gold out at night, the rich landowner would surely find out and have him sold into slavery.

No, there must be a better way. Buy the land! That's it! Buy the land! Then the treasure would be his! A whole new life would open up for him and his family.

But how? He had no cash. But he did have a home. And his wife and children had a few clothes, toys, and some rather poor jewelry. They would bring enough to buy the quarter-acre containing the gold.

Ben Korah forced himself to continue plowing all day. To quit and show any abnormal excitement would arouse suspicion.

That night after the children were asleep, he announced his plans to his wife, never telling just why he needed the money.

My, but what she told him! Was he out of his head? Here, they had just paid for their home—she had the first decent clothes she'd ever worn—and besides, her husband wouldn't even tell her, his own wife, why he wanted the money.

Ben Korah pleaded with her to trust him. After several hours of crying she finally consented.

The next day he did sell the house. He sold his wife's cloth­ing, leaving her only a single ragged dress. He sold his children's clothing, leaving them in the skimpiest of rags. He sold his ox and plow. He sold everything he and his family owned except their very bodies. He even sold his wife's few kitchen utensils.

Then Ben Korah went to a land broker, one who buys and sells land for other people. Today we call them real estate dealers. He told him which piece of land he wanted. He did not dare approach the actual owner, his landlord. He asked the broker not to reveal his name.

By nightfall he owned the quarter-acre, with the transfer papers signed, sealed, and delivered to him. Then he told his wife. She still thought he was crazy. Just after dark he took her to their newly bought plot of ground.

Carefully locating the exact spot, he stooped down, dug with his bare hands, for he had sold his own shovel, and brought up a fist full of gold. His wife's eyes nearly popped out of her head as the old coins glinted in the feeble lamp rays. They hastily put the money into the cloth bag they had brought for the purpose. They returned home for their last night in their old house—rich people.

We'll stop our imagining there, although it might be pleasant to imagine how this poor tenant farmer and his family now had a life of decency and comfort, and we'll go back to Jesus' statement in Matthew.

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."

Jesus was saying: we must put God first. We must be willing to sacrifice anything we have for him. Not until we do that are we ready for heaven.

But once being willing to give God everything, we are no longer poor but rich. In return we have everything worth having. This is a strange condition for entering heaven.

God's will for us is a great treasure. What are we willing to give up to find it? That answer depends on us, just as the man of Jesus' day had to decide whether he would continue to be poor or sell all he had and become rich.

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