I have often looked at the idea of consumerism and seekers in church as a problem. But I am beginning to see there is an element of truth in it. Don’t misunderstand me. Humanity is what humanity is. People looking and searching for that which they see value in and that which they believe will bring them happiness is a given. We are all consumers and seekers and that is the way God made us. Of course, the fall has made us unwilling to see the value in what is really valuable and has made us all to willing to settle for less than best.
One error is with the merchants. The problem lies not with those who are buying but with those who are selling. Business is not what merchants would have it to be so they peddle interferer products knowing that they will be easier to sell. The one thing they are to be selling is too expensive. The price is too great. And most are not willing to pay the price to have it. So they sell other less expensive and less costly items to their shoppers. Knowing the default of the customer is to buy the least costly items instead of the item of great cost. At least at the end of the day, they can say that have done something. And they had a lot of customers.
Look with me at Matthew 13:45 and 46, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
Notice the merchant is seeking good pearls. His life is consumed with finding pearls; excellent pearls, beautiful pearls, precious pearls, valuable pearls. That is what the world is doing—searching for value, meaning, beauty, satisfaction, and happiness. But because of our sinfulness we are too quick to settle for things of lesser value, superficial meaning, fading beauty, fleeting satisfaction, and temporary happiness.
And because the cheaper things in life are easily sold, the church or the merchant peddles lesser-valued goods and people buy them like there is no tomorrow. And when they realize the depreciated value they just go and buy more. So the church has to keep its innovatory stocked with new items to sell. And right now self-help items are big sellers. So we stock our church shelves with better this and better that and it is flying off the shelves. The crowds are big and business is booming. The tragedy is that none of those goods make anyone better, its just snake oil.
When the merchant in the parable found the one pearl, he had to have it. No other pearl would do. It was all he could think about and it was all that he wanted. It came at a great price but he was willing the pay. In fact, the pearl so captured his heart he was willing to pay twice, three times, ten times what the merchant was asking. He felt that what the merchant wanted was a bargain, even if it cost him everything. The pearl was so desired that the merchant was willing to sell his entire stock of lesser-valued pearls to have this one pearl. To have this pearl was the only thing that mattered.
Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven is like that. The Kingdom is comprised of shoppers who have been searching for that which is valuable, satisfying, and which brings lasting joy. And they have bought many items in their search only to realize they have not found it yet. But when they see it, they know, this is it and they will do anything to have it. And they give everything up so that they may own it. That is what the Kingdom of heaven is like. When God’s chosen see Jesus, their search is over. He is what they have been looking for and they did not even realize it. And no matter what number is on the price tag, they do whatever is necessary to have it. Nothing is off limits; they will hold nothing back in order to have Him.
But the sad truth is that many churches are too busy selling trinkets to meet the demand of the masses while failing to ever show the pearl of great price. They have given up trying to sell it. It is too expensive and it not profitable enough to mention it. Far better we sell something than watch people reject this one pearl because they are not willing to pay the cost. They feel successful because their stores are crowded.
But selling trinkets to those who are easily satisfied with junk is what the kingdom of the world is like. Selling the only thing of any value to those few who have been brought to see the value of it and willing to do give up everything to have it, that is what the Kingdom of God is like.