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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Going All In (Matthew 13:44-46)

In most of the endeavors of life that I have highly valued over the years, I have been an “all in” sort of guy. And I sometimes struggle to understand why others aren’t that same way.

For me, this was especially true in the sports realm. I could never understand why someone would not look forward to the coming season for months in advance, love every moment of every practice, and then not see the game or race as the next most important thing to life and death itself. I was so “all in” that, in retrospect, it probably hurt me from going further in the game of baseball. Before the game even started, the fact that the other team showed up and thought they could beat us had me already wound tight in a furiously overly-competitive mindset. It certainly did not help me be precise in pitching and hitting the corners of the strike zone.

To some degree, I’ve also maintained an “all-in” disposition on many other of life’s endeavors like education, academic interests, and a host of other associations – including the church.

But there are a few things I’ve joined that just don’t hold quite the same value as to drive me toward being “all in.”  Whereas I recognize the worthy value of a particular service club that I’ve been in for the past 20 years, I have never sought to be in the leadership circles of it. Other commitments have always pushed that level of participation well down the list of priorities of things accomplishable by one human being.

The idea of “going all in” is the theme of our week 4 focus for the summer series on the parables of Jesus – “Long Story Short.”  And today we set up this main idea in preparation for Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 13:44-46 and the following Monday to Thursday questions and comments for further contemplation and discussion.

Like last week, we are going to talk about two parables that take up only the space of three total verses. We look now at the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price…

Matthew 13:44 – “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.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The big question that is coming at all of us from this study will be to gage if we are indeed “all in” on our commitment and valuation of Christ’s Kingdom. Do we see it to be of inestimable value – to the extent that we give our all and everything to it?  Are we willing to give up everything else for it?

You might say, “Hold it? Isn’t salvation the free gift of God?  What’s all this commitment and paying the price stuff about? Isn’t it all about what I get from Him, because I really have nothing to give?”

It is true that, in terms of how we gain relationship with Christ, we give nothing to obtain it. Even so, the life that we live is one of identification with him in a world that often (and increasingly so) despises Christ and the truth of the gospel and God’s authority. It is not always glorious, and indeed, it is often very costly in varied ways.

So, for the next week, I challenge you to be “all in” and about asking if you are really “all in.”