Image Source: Pearls Only
The Pearl of the World
If you haven’t read The Pearl by John Steinbeck, you’re missing out. It’s a short parable-style novella (about 130 pages in book form or 2.5 hours in audio form) about a Mexican pearl diver named Kino.
Kino and his wife, Juana, have a baby. One day, the baby is stung by a scorpion. Kino does not have the money to pay the doctor to save the baby’s life. The next day, Kino goes diving for pearls and finds what the local villagers call “The Pearl of the World” — a pearl so large that it will set Kino and his family up for life. The rest of the story describes the evils and tragedies that occur as Kino tries to sell the pearl to secure his family’s future.
A Pearl of Great Value
Jesus also told a parable about a pearl in Matthew 13:44-46:
44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.
45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”
How much did it cost to acquire the pearl in Jesus’ parable? Everything! Even though it cost so much, there was no hesitation because the merchant recognized the pearl’s worth. He would rather give up everything just so he could have the pearl.
The Kingdom of Heaven
What is this pearl, this Kingdom of Heaven, that the merchant wanted so desperately?
The Kingdom of Heaven is a Kingdom of grace. God enables us to inherit it through Jesus’ sacrifice and forgiveness (Colossians 1:12-14). There is nothing that any of us can do to deserve to inherit the Kingdom. In fact, it is often those who are overlooked by everyone else who inherit the Kingdom ahead of the wealthy and powerful.
The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to:
- The poor (Luke 6:20; Matthew 19:23-24) and the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)
- The childlike (Matthew 19:14)
- Sinners (Matthew 21:28-32)
- Those who are persecuted for doing the right thing (Matthew 5:10)
The Kingdom of Heaven is also a Kingdom of forgiveness. Jesus explains this to Peter in a parable (Matthew 18:21-35):
21 Then Peter came to [Jesus] and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.”
Isaiah 2:2-4 shows us a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven as a Kingdom of peace. Isaiah describes the time when the Kingdom arrives in its fullness, bringing peace among all people:
2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of all—
the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
3 People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
4 The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
No wonder the merchant in Jesus’ parable about the pearl was willing to sell everything he had. When one gives up everything to get the Kingdom of Heaven, forgiveness and peace become more than just words and the wishes of beauty pageant contestants. They become realities a person can experience every day!
The Right Pearl
Sometimes we think we’ve discovered something of value. We pursue it, believing that it will give us everything we need and want. Instead, we find we have more problems than we did before.
Kino discovered the so-called “Pearl of the World” and experienced greed that led to destruction and tragedy. We can discover the “Pearl of Great Value” — the Kingdom of Heaven — and experience sacrifice that leads to grace, forgiveness, and peace.
Be sure you’re going after the right pearl!