THE WORD: A hidden treasure for all

“Parable of the hidden treasure” by Rembrandt (cir. 1630) is a painting in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Public Domain | CC BY-SA 1.0)

The fifth parable in Matthew 13 is the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, which was spoken only to the disciples by Christ. This short, one-verse parable has several nuanced interpretations. There is little disagreement that the parable illustrates the value of the kingdom of heaven. Unlike the parable of the tares, which Jesus explained in detail in Matthew 13:36–43, the hidden treasure story is but one sentence. The parable doesn’t provide details about the treasure or the finder. However, many scholars read the parable to mean that a person, possibly a laborer, finds the treasure but cannot remove it against the present owner. So, the finder buys the field to obtain the treasure.

John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas both commented on this parable in their scholarship. Calvin said the parable was “intended to instruct believers to prefer the Kingdom of heaven to the whole world, and therefore to deny themselves and all the desires of the flesh ….” Aquinas, in his compilation Catena Aurea, focused on the finder of the treasure saying, “he perceives how great things lie hid there, and goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that; that is, by despising temporal things he purchases to himself peace, that he may be rich in the knowledge of God.”

Matthew 13:44

44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.