The Lord Jesus used many things to describe the kingdom of heaven, all of them emphasizing its incomparable beauty and immeasurable worth. One of the things He used to describe it is a pearl of great value. Why did He do this and what can we learn from it?
Far greater than anything
We read the account of Jesus' description using the pearl in Matthew 13:45-46. This short passage speaks many truths to us.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
The Lord Jesus, in His mission to bring people to the Father, uses something very simple to compare the beauty of God and being with Him to the vast material wealth anyone can attain on earth. And what He used at this time perfectly shows it.
What are pearls?
Pearls are shiny hard objects formed within the living tissue of a living shelled mollusk. They are commonly rounded, but also come in various shapes. Some of them are cultured or farmed and sold as jewelry or for ornamental purposes. Other pearls are mere imitations used for inexpensive jewelry.
Some pearls, however, are rare and hard to find, and are thus expensive and are of high value. These pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but are very hard to find.
The Lord Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as like a very expensive pearl, one that is rare, cannot be cultured or farmed, and certainly cannot be faked. While imitation pearls look like pearls, they aren't as iridescent and as beautiful as authentic pearls - and certainly are far less beautiful and obviously fake compared to rare, high-value pearls.
And so, what can we learn from here?
What this means for us
There are so many things to learn from here, and here are but a few of them.
1) There's nothing like the kingdom of heaven
The Lord Jesus said a merchant was seeking for pearls when he found the pearl of great price.
Now, this man is just like us: looking for something of value, something of importance. Don't we all desire the best things in life? Don't we all long for beauty and importance, for significance and for riches?
This man, however, when he found the pearl of great price, recognized its immense value and sold all that he had in order to get it. He saw that there's no other pearl like it.
Have we seen the kingdom of heaven like that? Do we recognize the immense value of an eternal relationship with the Father, and see it as something that's far more important than anything on earth?
There's nothing and no one like our God.
2) We must recognize the fakes and the imitations
The merchant there saw just how valuable the pearl. He knew the valuable from the fake and worthless. He recognized the worth of this precious pearl and pursued it, ignoring all other pearls.
What about us? Do we recognize the fakes and the imitations in front of us? So many things try to take the place of God in our lives, and we should see them for what they are: worthless things that do not deserve the time and honor we ought to give to God.
These things might look valuable and feel valuable, but in reality they are but cheap and offer nothing but a short period of happiness. Money, position, earthly authority, possessions, and many other things are not as important as God.
3) We must be willing to exchange the temporal for the eternal
Lastly, we read the merchant selling all that he had just so he could buy the pearl of great price.
Christianity is just like that. We can't be of this world and of God. The Lord Jesus Himself said,
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (see Matthew 16:24-25)
We must be willing to exchange all earthly and temporal joys for the eternal things of God.