The Lady, the Tiger, and the Kingdom of God

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Jesus had a way of doing this. It’s as if the kingdom of God is so big, so expansive, so mind-blowing, that Jesus slowly rolled out attributes and characteristics because He knew it was too much for us to handle all at the same time:

  • The kingdom is like a man who went out into a field…
  • The kingdom is like a father with two sons…
  • The kingdom is like a seed…

And here, He rolls out both the great value and tremendous cost of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is so valuable that it’s like finding something of such value that one immediately counts the cost of acquiring it and then is willing and ready to sacrifice whatever must be given in order to have that treasure in the field and pearl of great price. But while this parable emphasizes the great value of the kingdom and the cost associated with that kingdom, it’s not necessarily about the experience of coming into the kingdom.

What I mean is that some choices are entirely logical. If, for example, you were brought into a room and shown two open doorways. Through one you could see treasure by the boatloads all there for the taking. Through the other you could see a garbage dump. And then you were given the choice of which door you want to talk through. Obviously, any sane person would choose the door to the treasure room because their eyes showed them what they were moving towards.

Sometimes the kingdom is like that – you get a glimpse, if only in part, of the true nature of God’s kingdom, and suddenly it brings into focus all the sacrifices you might have made for that kingdom, and they fade to nothing in comparison. But most of the time, it doesn’t happen that way. That’s why we are so prone to sin. It’s because in the moment, we don’t perceive the value of the kingdom. We perceive the temporal goodness of the sin, and we want that thing NOW rather than what we can’t see that we’re supposed to experience LATER.

It reminds me of the short story called “The Lady or the Tiger”. In the story, the king of the land punished criminals by placing them in an arena before spectators which had two closed doors. Behind one was a maiden, behind the other was a ravenous tiger. If the guilty party chose the door with the lady, he would immediately be freed, marry her, and live happily ever after. But if he chose the tiger, he got… well… the tiger.

The story goes that the king’s daughter fell in love with a commoner, and when the king found out, he was enraged. He placed the man in the arena, giving him the same choice. But the princess had found out which door led to the lady, and which led to the tiger. So when the man entered the arena, he looked to his beloved, and she ever so slightly – but clearly – gestured toward one of the doors. It’s here, though, that we as the audience are left to wonder whether the door she gestured toward housed the lady or the tiger.

Would she want her love to escape even it meant he would marry another? Or would she instead condemn him because if she couldn’t have him then no one could?

In other words, the real question in the story – and in the kingdom – is whether you trust the person telling you which door to take.

And here we see Jesus, the Son of God, and He is pointing us toward what He claims is a priceless pearl. A treasure of immense value, though hidden. He is gesturing. Imploring. Telling us to sell it all, and even though it might cost us dearly, that it will in the end be worth it.

But do we trust Him? That will determine which door we choose, and which field we choose to buy.

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