The Challenge of Going “All In” (Matthew 13:44-46)

It is one of my most vivid high school memories. I was with a group of guy friends from my school and we were at a local fair in the summer. There frankly was not a lot to do at it but hang out, but then some of them got the idea that what we should do is randomly pick up a bunch of girls and go drinking somewhere else. They proceeded, with some success, to begin to do this. I was certainly not going to be a part of that and told them I was just going to walk home. One of them said to me that I was a fool to not be a part of their fun and that I did not understand what I was missing. Though I did not doubt the appropriate nature of my choice, I so very clearly remember the lonely walk home and the feeling that I was just terribly out of step with the values and culture around me.

I’ve continued to be out of step most of my life.

This is our final day on the theme of being “all in” with our faith commitment, and hence our final day with the two parables we’ve been considering from Matthew 13:44-46 …

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, 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.”

Since I’ve bludgeoned you with the main idea on Sunday and over the last three days of writings, you know that the main idea is this: The Kingdom of God – and your connection with it – is of such inestimable value, that it is actually worth you giving up everything for it.

But there is a challenge when you make that commitment to jump fully in that direction, and we could state the problem this way: Most of the people around you in the world are going to think you are nuts to make God’s Kingdom your “all in” priority.

In the same way that you don’t understand why someone’s “all in” fascination in life is going to a comic book collectors convention in downtown Detroit, or to Antarctica to search for a mysterious flock of albino penguins, the world will not understand your highly-driven values system that emphasizes a spiritual reward that is not ultimately of this material world. It will make no sense to them. They only understand those things that are a part of keeping score – the measurable stuff like dollars, job titles, and McMansions.

Whereas in today’s world, on the one hand, personal spirituality is fashionable, being one of those “born again” Christians won’t win you a lot of friends or wide respect.

Many people come to the Christian faith for the “perks.”  We come to Jesus with a list of things we’d like help with:

  • Will Christianity provide me with all the personal educational and career directions I need?
  • Will I have better and deeper friends? … that one friend for life?
  • Will my faith help me avoid suffering and pain, sickness and disease?
  • Will my faith propel me toward financial stability?
  • Will Christianity provide me a way to raise a successful family?

And of course the answer to many of these questions might well be “yes.”  But the problem is, the “perks” of Christianity can’t outweigh the increasing social stigma of being a person of faith in today’s post-everything world.  Yes, Jesus might provide a means by which I feel spiritually/emotionally/relationally secure, but is it worth it when my neighbors think of me as a religious fanatic?

  • If you identify as Christian, you may become pigeonholed as homophobic or judgmental.
  • You may be increasingly labeled as transphobic for expressing concern about the gender of your bathroom at work.
  • In a world of increasing pluralism, we turn on our television to see ISIS members surrounding Christian missionaries while—at the same time—to speak disparagingly of Islam is to be labeled “Islamophobic.”
  • You might be compelled to either bake a cake for a marriage you don’t agree with—or be forced to lose your business, pay a fine, or worse.
  • You will increasingly be told that your beliefs are unwelcome in any form of public dialogue.

Surely there is now a greater cost to following Jesus.  We can no longer follow Jesus solely because it is “useful.”  Instead we follow Jesus because in him we find an inestimable treasure—one that provokes us to set aside our finances, our hopes, our dreams, everything—in order to follow him without reservation.  In a world that calls us to “diversify our portfolios”—to be men and women of broad interests but little depth—Jesus calls us to go “all in.”

Some final thoughts/discussion questions …

How may we find encouragement in such a context where our “all in” commitment positions us as such a minority in our world?  How does the church, and having a church family, factor into this?

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

2 thoughts on “The Challenge of Going “All In” (Matthew 13:44-46)

  1. Hi Randy. I just discussed the parables with my son and explained the meaning to him.

    I had considered whether I could add anything to your discussion about the problems about being a Christian in todays society. I remembered that Jesus faced persecution. His disciples came to him one time to tell him that the Pharisees were offended by one of his statements … I think it was something Jesus said about what makes someone unclean. Jesus told his disciples not to be concerned about it … to leave them alone because “If a blind man leads a blind man they both fall into a ditch.” And so today where the news media chooses the topics of stories to cover that fits their agenda, the unintentional result is that they are then not covering other issues … and hence this country walks blindly into the future unaware of things that can kill most of the people in this country.

    As for the church, it is biblical for us to encourage one another daily while it is still “today”. It is also appropriate for us to stay alert to upcoming military, political, economic and other trends that will someday “surprise” us with its cruelty and devastation.

    Jesus warned the woman of Jerusalem to “weep for yourselves” and told them to be prepared for the destruction of Jerusalem. A prophet later in the church predicted a famine and they agreed to send help to the church in Jerusalem. My point is that it is fine to look to prepare for difficult future times, be alert for, make contingency plans while warning about them. This isn’t to be the main mission of the church … but it can take on a high priority in times of impending crises.

    There are numerous threats down the road, and who knows what may eventually create hardship?

    • Cyber attack on the power grid
    • Carrington Event type solar flare destroying the power grid
    • EMP from a high altitude nuclear explosion disrupting the grid and other electronics
    • Banks unable to extend credit bringing the financial system to a crawl

    And most likely I missed some rather major concerns. Bill Gates is worried about new superdiseases or a deadly flu spreading. Also some are worried about artificial intelligence.
    Genetic modification may allow new diseases to spread.

    In any case Jesus wants us to do the good we can do and not put our trust in the things of the world which are passing away. A treasure in heaven is secure … treasure on earth is subject to all kinds of risks.

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