He looked at me right in the face and said the words I will never forget: “When you’re ready to ‘sell all you have’ to have this faith, then, and only then will you be ready!”
Whoa, wait a minute, let’s talk about this! Everything? Yep, everything.
It was a turning point in my own spiritual journey and I was having to confront my own desire to “play it safe” or not cause trouble or even protect my own comfort level. But he was right. I wasn’t going to be willing to do what I had to do until I valued what was before me MORE than I valued the opinions of others; more than my own comfort; and more than my own private opinions! When I came to that point where I valued “the treasure” more than anything else; that’s when I converted to Orthodoxy!
But that’s true of everything that is most valuable in our lives. We have to do the work necessary to be so discerning that we are able to prioritize the most important things over the less important things. And being disciplined enough to do that is the main characteristic of a spiritually mature person.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 13:44-54
The Lord said this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
Have you understood all this?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue.
First notice that it is out of JOY that the man who found the treasure goes and sells all he has to buy the field that holds the treasure! It isn’t out of fear or obligation or even knowledge that motivates us to prioritize our faith above all other priorities in our lives. And that joy flows from the ability to properly VALUE the treasure. Too often we allow the fact that our faith is the greatest treasure in our lives to slip and that’s when we find it easy to allow our faith to fall from it’s proper place at the top of our priorities.
Next, the placing of our faith at the top of our priorities is because of it’s eternal WORTH and understanding that valuing our faith FIRST allows us to properly value everything else in our lives in it’s proper place. No wonder the Lord uses the language of sorting and judgement to help us clearly see WHY the Faith must come first if everything else in our lives ever hope to find their proper value as well!
Finally, those who have learned to discern their priorities are properly described as servants “who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven.” Those servants are wise enough to know how to use both old treasures and new treasures to enrich their lives with eternal values and wisdom.
Today, are you wise enough to value treasures old and new? Are you discerning enough and well trained in recognizing the true value of your faith through regular practice, proper dedication, and humble learning? Make no mistake; the Kingdom of God is worth whatever price you have to pay in your own life to properly possess it and enter into it! Your relationship with God and His Church is the greatest treasure you possess and the greatest inheritance your children will ever receive from you. Only when that is abundantly clear in your choices and your priorities will you truly be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. As we approach the weekend, are you planning to worship in your parish? Maybe you and your family are away from your parish on vacation. Find out where the nearest Orthodox church is to where you are and go to church services this Sunday. Show your children that we don’t take a vacation from God during the summer!