My son, Matthew, is two years old and he absolutely hates everything about broccoli. A few nights ago my wife, Tracy, and I were giving him dinner and she decided to try to slip a tiny bit of broccoli into his pasta dinner to give him some extra nutrition. Guess what happened… yeah, he spit it out in a heartbeat since he tasted the faintest hint of broccoli. I was at a loss, but my ingenious wife grabbed some goldfish crackers (Matt’s absolute favorite! He’ll do anything for a goldfish!). When we put a scoop of pasta with broccoli on the fork and topped it off with a goldfish cracker he’d actually eat it! His love for the goldfish completely outweighed his hatred for broccoli.
I know this is a bit of a stretch of an analogy, but I learned something from that. I was reminded of Christ’s call for me to forsake sin and resist temptation (eating some broccoli) because the joy and rewards of faith in Him (getting a goldfish) are so much greater than what we give up.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
In Church, and especially in evangelistic situations, we talk about salvation and faith like it’s easy and doesn’t cost you much. I remember being in college really wrestling with some tough questions about my faith when I came upon Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. To this day, the first chapter of that book is still the most life-forming thing I’ve ever read outside of the Bible. It’s not a light and easy read, but it’s 100% worth the work!
“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”
“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son… and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”
Think about that! How often do we want the treasures of Christ without having to sell everything we have to get them? How often do we want the freedom and forgiveness of Christ without actually needing to obey Him? We want a cheap grace – grace that gives us treasures for free and that makes no demands on our lives. That’s simply not a picture of what biblical grace is.
The grace of Christ, as Bonhoeffer wrote, is costly… but it is completely grace because the rewards are eternal riches. Again, remember the first example Christ gave in the passage above: The Kingdom of Heaven is like finding a treasure and selling all you have in order to buy the field where that treasure is hidden. You don’t steal the treasure, because then you’d be a thief. You sell all you have, even though outsiders don’t understand why you’re doing it and may mock you and call you foolish. But you know something they don’t know. You know that by selling everything, you’re really gaining a treasure they don’t understand. And that makes all the difference!
Final warning: Don’t be this guy (from Mark 10:17-22)
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”