The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.
Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.
Here we have a couple of short parables that are super easy to understand. The Kingdom of heaven is better than anything here on earth. It’s so great that when it is revealed to us, we very naturally pursue it with everything we’ve got – including our financial resources.
Here’s is a story that comes to mind. In the fall of 2001 John and I went to a private “healing week” at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in Canada. This was a private, individualized Christian counseling retreat. A couple of counselors worked with us both together and as individuals to explore any issues in our lives that might be holding us back in any way. The process, referred to as “inner healing”, explores painful memories or fears that could prevent us from having true joy, peace, and healthy relationships. These problems are then released through prayer ministry.
This was a large church with many programs and nightly revival services, so while we were there evangelist Rodney Howard Browne was having a convention in the same building. During the week I had quite a bit of free time while the counselors worked with John individually, so I stood on the balcony and watched what was going on with the convention below.
My nerves were pretty raw. First of all, I was spending a lot of time introspectively exploring areas of pain in my life. Second, the 9-11 World Trade Center attack took place on our first day there, and it was unsettling to be out of the country and so far away from our church and family at that time. While those buildings were falling down so were a lot of my defenses, emotional crutches, and self-deceptions. Stressful. So I was edgy on many levels.
When I watched the convention I was really irritated by the long teachings that were offered at every session about giving money to the Rodney Howard Browne ministry. There were two people who performed this task – a man and a woman. Both of them were well-dressed, highly articulate, very professional. They seemed like corporate types, but they talked about the joys of being free from the burden of money. They said that money was a bad influence on people and encouraged everyone to give theirs away. Like most people I have a healthy distrust of anyone who is eager to separate me from my money. They really started getting on my nerves. I was tired of hearing about money and I wished they would go away.
On the final day the man gave his personal testimony. He said that he was a very wealthy entrepreneur who had an extravagant lifestyle that included a lot of sexual promiscuity. He then met the love of his life and settled into domestic bliss. They married and were living the good life when he was diagnosed with AIDS. After going to a dozen doctors looking for relief, he stumbled into an Episcopalian Church that was having a healing service. He went forward for healing. He said he felt heat come over his whole body and a weight was lifted off of him. When he returned to the doctor he was no longer HIV positive.
It turns out that the woman who was his partner in the presentations about money was his wife. After he was healed of AIDS they both became committed Christians and eventually attended a Rodney Howard Browne convention. It was there that they felt God wanted them to go in another direction. They felt a strong call to do what Jesus advises – they liquidated all of their millions in assets, distributing it to the poor and various ministries. It all worked out because they eventually got jobs with the Rodney Howard Browne ministry doing all sorts of things. They said they were happier than they had ever been in their lives.
The testimony pierced my heart and I felt chagrined. Suddenly, instead of feeling annoyed I felt guilty for judging them. They were simply acting out the Gospel and encouraging others to do the same. They had seen a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven when that healing occurred, and they sold the field and bought the pearl. I don’t think they were fake. You could feel it. I think they were real.
I can’t believe it but I did a search and was able to find them online. I found out their names are Eric and Jennifer Gonyon and they are still working for the Rodney Howard Browne ministry. They have been with him ever since 1996. They are Associate Pastors now, so I guess they got promoted.
I also felt guilty because I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of giving away all of my material possessions. I don’t think God necessarily wants all of us to give away all of our money, but I do think he wants us to use whatever we have for his purposes. I don’t think he’s ever asked me to give away everything I own, but then again maybe I’m just not listening. Maybe I just don’t want to hear it. I’m certainly not going to give it all away and become a burden on society trying to please God when that’s not what he wants me to do. I would have to be very certain that it was what he wanted. Something to keep praying about.
I guess I agree with Thomas Merton, who wrote, “For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.”
The Gonyans have their destiny, I have mine. They are not necessarily the same. We always have to remember that it’s not a competition so comparisons are not allowed. Neither is judgment. Both of those things will get you nowhere.
What does this scripture say to you?