Lessons I learned while reading my Bible – Matthew 13:44
Recently, I presented a simple Bible lesson to my boys – talking about the kingdom of heaven. In doing so, I learned an interesting insight into how Jesus told stories. First we’ll look at the scripture verse, then we’ll dive into what I learned and how you might present the parable to your children.
Here’s the parable:
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.Matthew 13:44 (NIV)
As I was preparing to teach my boys, I was struck by how I needed to add examples of situations that were more relevant to them. Stumbling across treasure in a field, selling everything, buying fields, fishing boats, Samaritan’s, lost sheep – these things are not everyday events for a 2 and 4 year old living in suburban Australia. But they were common in first century, Galilee and Judea.
Peter Lublink puts it this way, “Jesus spoke in stories, riddles and at times even jokes – He was in truth a great storyteller. When pressed for an exact and precise answer he often returned with a story. Some of those stories were designed to teach an important lesson in plain and relatable language…”
Jesus told stories to help people understand difficult (yet important) ideas. These lessons were told through parables (stories) that included people, settings and situations that those listening would be familiar with. This meant those around would be more likely to listen and understand. In Matthew 13:44, He spoke about fields. In Matthew 18, He spoke of lost sheep and shepherds, and in Matthew 13:33, we learn about leaven (yeast). In the first century, these things were common knowledge, but they are not today.
We can learn from His example and adjust (note: NOT change the meaning) our stories and lessons to better reach the hearts of those that are listening. The people listening to Jesus did not have banks or safe boxes to store treasure. Explaining this parable to children (or even modern day adults) would have to be adjusted to reflect circumstances that are more familiar. That man could sell his big house and car and go and live in a tent on a field just so he owns that tree with the hidden treasure box, for example.
The Logos Bible Software App notes: “The point is not that the man purchased a place in the kingdom of heaven, but rather that entering the kingdom is worth giving up everything.” It may not look as appealing as a life of fame, fortune or fancy houses – but in the long run it is so much better to follow Jesus. We also have to understand that it would have been extremely rare to stumble upon buried treasure, especially treasure so valuable that it was worth selling all your possessions for it. Likewise, salvation is an amazing, precious treasure. A treasure that comes at a great cost, requiring full commitment.
Lessons I learned from Matthew 13:44
- Jesus was a master storyteller because He knew and understood His audience and told stories that would highlight principles in a relevant way.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is of great value.
Unpacking Matthew 13:44 for children:
- After reading the passage straight from scripture, we talked about what things the man may have sold to buy the field. Together we listed things they could sell if they wanted to buy something really expensive. In our case, Mr 4 quickly realised that he wouldn’t give up anything he owned for a patch of grass. But if it had buried treasure (“that he liked”), he could maybe sell some of the family toys. This highlighted for Mr 4, just how special the treasure was, if this man gave up everything he owned for it.
- Next, we talked about the kingdom of heaven and how it was like a hidden treasure. The kingdom of heaven is a strange term for modern kids (or adults!), but for the people in Jesus’ time it would have made more sense. They were used to having kings (good or bad) rule over them. Being part of a certain kingdom meant certain privileges and protection. Being in the kingdom of heaven means believing and following Jesus.
- Then, we made it hands-on: First give them a choice of two containers. One filled with dirt, the other with something colourful like pebbles and kinetic sand. Purposefully let them see you hide wrapped chocolates (or stickers etc) in the one with dirt. Make a big deal about how special and exciting the colourful container looks. Not surprisingly, my boys chose the container with dirt.
- Explain that sometimes following God looks less interesting or more difficult than doing what others do or getting what others have, but really it is more special.
I personally do not shy aware from teaching my boys about how sin separates us from God, about the price Jesus paid for our sin, and how we have a choice – to walk away from God (which leads to hell) or to follow God (which leads to eternal life in heaven). Without this reality, many parables and teachings of Jesus become interesting fairy tales to kids and not meaningful for their lives.
- Lastly, I let them dig in a sensory bin for buried treasure. I used dried black beans that I keep for sensory play (they are about 2yrs old and still going) and silvery buttons as the treasure.
I hope you found this insight into Matthew 13:44 helpful and that it encourages you to open your Bible and study it for yourself. I plan do make this a regular thing where I share lessons learned from scripture. If you want to be notified when a blog post goes live (once a month) – become an email friend:
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Till next time,
Stay joyful 🙂