Some time ago, a magazine ran a story about teenagers who belong to the Santa Clara Swimming Club. Every morning they get up at 5:00am and hurry to an outdoor pool for two solid hours of swimming, after which, they go to school. After school, they return to the pool to swim for two more hours. At 5:00pm they hurry home and do their homework. They go to bed exhausted and wait for the alarm to ring at 5:00am to start it all over again. When asked why she follows such a disciplined schedule, one girl said, “My goal is to make the Olympic Team. I will give up going to parties and staying up late, anything for a Gold Olympic Medal.”
Had Jesus lived now rather than in A.D. 30, the gospel might have been very different. Rather than talk about a pearl merchant who sacrificed all to buy a dream pearl or a farmer who sold all to buy a field with treasure in it, Jesus might have talked about a Santa Clara swimmer who sacrificed all to make the Olympic Team. Why do I say this? What connection is there between a pearl merchant, a treasure seeker and a Santa Clara swimmer? What do these three people have in common? The one thing they have in common is their total commitment to a dream. All three are willing to sacrifice everything for a goal they have set for themselves.
This leads us to the point Jesus wishes to make for us. The point is this – Citizenship in God’s Kingdom involves total commitment on our part. We cannot pursue it as we do a part-time job or work at it as we do a hobby. Being a Christian is like being a pearl merchant, a treasure seeker or a Santa Clara swimmer. It involves total dedication and commitment.
But, there is one big difference between a Christian and the other three. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last. But, we do it for one that will last forever. That is the difference. The pearl merchant’s prize, the farmer’s treasure and the swimmer’s medal are all perishable. When the merchant dies, his pearl will no longer have any value for him. When the farmer dies, his treasure will be as useless to him as the box he found it in. When the swimmer dies, her medal will be just another keepsake for her family or relatives.
But when the Christian dies, the Kingdom of God will shine brighter and brighter. At the moment of death there is only one thing that counts. It is not whether in life we acquired a prize pearl, a rare treasure or a gold medal. The only thing that will matter is what we have become in the process of trying to seek the pearl, acquire the treasure or win the medal. What has the pursuit of these things done to us? How have they affected our daily life?
Ultimately, whatever is yours, save for sin, is God’s gift to you even if it stems from your own fantastic talent. That talent itself owes its origin to God. But, a gift of God is not given to be clutched. It is given to be given. Each of you is a gifted woman, man or child. You are gifted in more ways, perhaps, than your modesty will admit. It does not matter what your specific possessions are – millions or the widow’s mite, intelligence or power, beauty or wisdom, faith, hope, love, gentleness or compassion. What Jesus tells us time and time again is to use your gifts as He invites or commands you to use them.
To some, He may say, “Give all you have to the poor and come follow me.” To others, He invites, “Share what you possess and use it for those around you. Employ your power for peace, your wisdom to reconcile, your knowledge to open horizons, your compassion to heal, your hope to destroy despair and your very weakness to give strength.” Remember your most precious possession is yourself, give it away lavishly.
The gospel makes an important point. Nothing in the world may take priority over God’s Kingdom and our pursuit of it. The gospel tells us that what counts when we die is not what we have acquired in life, but what we have become. Did we learn to love one another? Did we learn to forgive one another? Did we learn to help the needy? Did we learn to encourage the fainthearted? Did we learn to become more committed and loyal to God and to one another?
One thing I can promise you that rarely in your life will you experience such profound joy as when, because of you, a smile is born on a crucified face. And, you realize that all people no matter what they have done or who they are, they are all pearls of great price in God’s eyes. Remember your most precious possession is yourself, give it away lavishly.