It is good sometimes to know that there is nothing new under the sun. The issues of risk and reward, sense and abandon, have always been with us. And God has always been asking us the hard questions. Here is a word from 1999 (Briefing #235) that could well have been written for this week. (Actually, it’s a word from about 30 AD that could have been written for this week!)
We are calculating people. We learn to be. The accountants talk about a ‘cost benefit analysis’, and as we weigh the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ we do the same thing in almost every part of life. One of the principles we learn from the financial world is spreading the risk. You never get too deeply committed to any one thing. A range of investments makes sure that if one fails, others will sustain you.
That is why I love Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13:44-46. Jesus says in the kingdom there is no room for spreading the risk—it’s all or nothing.
We meet a man who finds treasure buried in a field; rejoicing he sells everything to buy the field. Then we meet the merchant who finds the pearl of great price, to buy it he sells the lot. Each time Jesus says this is what the kingdom of God is like.
I love these parables because they are radical, even irrational. I can just imagine these men’s family and friends (and their accountants) protesting that surely they did not have to decide so quickly, and sell everything. “You have to keep a steady head”, they say. Jesus would answer “Not about the kingdom”.
I love the word ‘joy’. The man has not done a careful calculation and discovered that things would be slightly better if he bought the field. He knows he has got a winner—and he rejoices. There is something so good that it is worth giving up everything else, and it does not hurt a bit.
I love these parables because they make me pray. I pray that I will be so clear-minded and never lose sight of the value of the kingdom. I pray that constantly I will be so decisive and always choose for the kingdom. I pray that I will rejoice as I do it.
John McClean, ‘Banking everything on God’, Briefing #235, April 1999.