Treasures and Trials
In the story of “Aladdin,” the young man encounters the magic lamp in the “Cave of Wonders,” and finds the genie inside. After a dramatic musical number, the genie presents Aladdin with a wonderful opportunity: three wishes, whatever he wants. The genie has shown that he is capable of almost anything, so the sky is the limit for the young man.
What would you wish for if you were given the chance by some genie? I am sure that a whole bunch of things pop into our minds: money, fame, power, control, success, a long life, health…. All of these things would make our lives much more comfortable and relieve us of worries that currently vex us. This is the major temptation of our modern world – to gain fantastic things with as little effort as possible. No wonder the idea of an all-powerful genie waiting in an old lamp is so appealing!
Solomon, the young king of Israel, is offered a similar opportunity today – except he doesn’t find a genie in a bottle; he encounters the Almighty God. The Lord of the universe – of all time and space – presents Solomon with an awesome chance: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” In the original sense of the Hebrew, God is saying “make a particular request” or “ask anything of me.”
Imagine! Anything you might ever want, God Almighty is waiting for you to ask, and He will give it to you! Every other need, every other consequence, every other responsibility would empty out of my mind as I boggled at the possibilities. In fact, the famous stories of our past about individuals like Aladdin or Dr. Faustus illustrate the danger of allowing selfishness to cloud our judgment and our requests.
Solomon does not do this, however. The young man asks for wisdom from God, knowing that He will give it. The reason Solomon asks for wisdom is not for himself or for selfish concerns. Rather, he asks for it so that he can better care for God’s People. The request is driven by selflessness and a desire to show love for others. God is pleased with this request, and He even more abundantly blesses Solomon.
What do we hear this weekend? What is it that we are offered here? The Word of God presents us with God’s offer of love and care and mercy. The salvation that only God can give is offered to us through Jesus. In His parables, Jesus points out that we have the opportunity to possess the great gift of fellowship with God if we are willing to be selfless and trust Him. The person who finds the treasure in the field and the merchant who discovers the priceless pearl both are willing to give up everything in order to possess that treasure. Are we?
What would you do if you knew you had eternal life? How would you lead your life? How would you relate to others? Would things like money, power, fame, or even health keep you awake at night? God is making us an offer – and He wants to give us something beyond even our wildest dreams. While we may seek wisdom, or courage, or understanding, God wants to give us so much more besides that. He wants to give us eternal fellowship with Him and with one another!
This is the treasure; this is the pearl beyond price. Our relationship with Christ is an invitation to rely fully on God’s goodness to us, because that goodness is so far beyond any other thing that we might seek to give us security.
In our world, there are so many examples of selfish pursuit of power, control, wealth, and influence. To varying degrees, we can get caught up in that. We want to be seen or heard on social media; we want to be right in our arguments; we want to associate with “important” people; we want to “have stuff.” The possibility of getting these things is a tempting reality in our modern world. Too often, we get everything we want without much effort or sacrifice. Even worse, we avoid sacrifice in order to stay “comfortable.”
What Jesus is reminding us of today is that real reward, real happiness and contentment can only come through meaningful sacrifice – through selling all that we have and buying it. He isn’t asking this in any abstract way. He Himself offered all He had for us on the Cross. Notice how God also lays Himself out for Solomon: “ask anything of me…” Sacrifice means risk. It means vulnerability. But it is through that willingness to be vulnerable and “all-in” that true salvation is given. It’s what Jesus did. It’s no fable; it’s not a genie in a bottle. It’s God’s free offer.
What would you do?