The Parables of the Man in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price

The Parables of the Man in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price

The Parables of the Man in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid, and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom  of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pear of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matt. 13:44-46).

CONTEXT. Matthew 13 is full of parables, eight in total. The first four parables were spoken by Jesus to a multitude of people as he sat in  a boat offshore. After giving the crowd those four parables as they stood there on the shore, Jesus sent them away and entered a nearby house with His disciples. He proceeded to tell them four more parables. The common theme in these eight parables was the kingdom of heaven. He had just stated earlier that “the kingdom has come upon you.” (12:28). Jesus is trying to make it clear that He is bringing in the kingdom of God, that God is active in the world through Him. The kingdom of heaven has come to the people, and it all starts with Jesus.

These twin parables of Jesus, about Jesus, which were told to the disciples in a more private setting, reveal how the process of acquiring the kingdom of God could get started within each of them. How does this process begin? These two little stories unpack the process of how one can start following Jesus and thus join the kingdom of God.

The Man in the Field. This is the brief story of a man who wandered into a field, and stumbled into a treasure in that field. He obviously isn’t a treasure-hunter who is digging up the field looking for buried treasure. He seems to stumble into it as he bumbles along in his journey through a random field. He isn’t necessarily looking for anything valuable, and in fact isn’t even on his own property. We know from an earlier parable that the field stands for the world. So we get the sense that Jesus is telling a story about a man who is moving along in life and not looking for something valuable, he is not in a lifelong search for what could end up being the most precious thing in his life. The man, though, unexpectedly discovered a priceless treasure. Maybe it was hiding in plain sight, or maybe it needed a little digging. As soon as the man discovered the treasure, he knew it was worth more than anything else, and he would be willing to give up everything to keep it. This man sells everything he owns and buys the field so he could keep the treasure. Jesus is saying that He and His teachings are more valuable than anything else in the world. Jesus is the treasure, He is worth more than everything imaginable. This treasure then becomes the most important thing in this man’s life. He will give up everything to acquire it. Nothing in his life compares to this treasure. Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God comes to people like the man in the field. And even if it was rather unintentional, Jesus needs to become a priceless treasure in one’s life. When one “stumbles” into Christ, he has found life’s greatest treasure. All of life is now centered on acquiring that treasure and keeping it as the centerpiece of his existence.

The Pearl of Great Price. In this little story, Jesus reveals another way of acquiring the “one thing needful.” There was a hardworking merchant who would settle for nothing less that the perfect pearl, the ultimate pearl. He is on a serious search to find this pearl, knowing it would mean everything to him. He naturally finds many smaller pearls in his search. But nothing could compare to the perfect pearl of his dreams. The merchant is convinced that this ideal pearl would fulfill his life goal, it would be worth giving up everything he owned. If he had to sell all his possessions, it would be worth it. The pearl of great price in the story symbolizes the Person of Christ. In our search we may find  pearls that are worthy in some way, but are not priceless. Perhaps a hint of truth here, a glimpse of beauty there, a picture of goodness over there. The lesser pearls only serve to remind the merchant of the ultimate pearl still out there. These smaller pearls are not worth sacrificing your life. When someone finds Christ in the great search, one finds the priceless treasure, the ultimate valuable. When the merchant found his pearl of great price, he knew it when he saw it. That’s it, he exclaimed, I will give up everything to get that pearl! And the merchant did just that. Jesus is saying once again… When you find me, you have found life’s greatest treasure. And you have joined the kingdom of God.

These twin parables reveal different ways people can find the life of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. We can muddle along in life and Christ unexpectedly appears to show the way out of all that stumbling. Or we can engage in a serious search for the priceless treasure. And Jesus can be found during that search. Either way, if one wants to remain in the kingdom of God, one needs to see Jesus as the ultimate treasure, the priceless pearl, something to die for, someone for whom you give up everything else if needed. One can stumble along like Moses did in the wilderness before the burning bush, or conduct a personal search like Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Either way, Jesus needs to capture the heart and be embraced for the treasure He truly is. In both cases, the stumbler and the seeker knew what they found as soon as they found it. That’s it. That’s the answer to my life. That’s the treasure worth everything.


  1. Do you think you stumbled onto Jesus, or did you find Him after an intense search?
  2. Are there other ways to find Jesus, other ways that Jesus can find us?
  3. When you and Jesus found each other, did you know right away that He was going to be the treasure in your life, or did Jesus have to be discovered more gradually?
  4. What did you have to give up when Jesus became your treasure?
  5. If you are the man in the field, was your treasure hidden in the field and you had to dig for it, or was it right there in plain sight?
  6. If you are the merchant, what were some of your smaller pearls on the way to the pearl of great price?