The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
There was a time when I found this parable dispiriting. You mean I have to sell all that I have? I don’t really want to quit doing things I enjoy, or be homeless, or lose all my friends, or be disowned by my family, or be fired from my job, or lose my reputation and be disgraced. Do I have to screw up my courage and force myself to sell all these things?
But then I noticed that little word, “joy.” In his joy he freely sold all that he had. This is no dour command to “deny yourself”: this is a description of immense, life-changing joy.
What kind of joy would lead you to give away your house? That is the kingdom of heaven. What kind of joy would cause you to change careers or turn your back on some of your friends or give up your reputation? That is the kingdom of heaven.
Have you been overcome by a joy so overwhelming that it causes you to forget everything else, to leave it all behind? No? Take heart. The kingdom of heaven is also described as a mustard seed, tiny, almost invisible, which must be buried in the dark and left there for a season, invisible, before it makes the tiniest visible sprout. But then it grows, invisibly nourished, until it’s big enough that birds nest in its branches.
What is the kingdom of heaven? When Christ is king, justice will reign. Justice for all, not just justice for white people or for men or for Americans or for people from my tribe.
When Christ is king, the government will serve us. And we will serve others.
When Christ is king, we are his willing subjects, wearing masks not because it’s the law but because we love our neighbors.
When Christ is king, there are no taxes because we have given all to him freely. We have nothing, yet in him we have everything.
When Christ is king, anxiety has ended. Joy has taken its place.
When Christ is king, war will cease. Conflict will cease. Pain in labor (work or childbirth) will cease. Self-seeking will cease. We will seek the king. We will see the king.
When Christ is king, secrets will be revealed. All will be visible. We will see the king.
When Christ is king, we will no longer have the burden of being kings of our own little realms.
When Christ is king, the beauty of creation in all its forms and levels and variety will be visible to all.
When Christ is king, we will join the heavenly host and all of creation in praising God, join Christ on the throne, join with others in seeing the Emperor himself, join in the unity and joy of all that is.