Just Not Good Business
I recently had the opportunity to contribute to Tabletalk Magazine for their issue on “The Parables of Jesus.” Most of Jesus’ parables are relatively lengthy and complex, but I was given the two shortest, for which I was very grateful (and not just because of the 900 word limit). There’s something very powerful about the compact metaphor. They’re sticky. And they provoke our curiosity.
Here’s a snippet:
The parable of the pearl of great price looks even more surprising and more challenging in this regard. On the surface, it might appear that not much is happening in the second parable that isn’t already more clearly stated in the first. In both, the searcher sells all he has to gain the prize—but there seems to be a bit of a twist in the pearl parable. There is an irrationality in the merchant’s action that begs consideration. The merchant doesn’t sell everything in order to obtain something of greater value, as in the previous parable. On the contrary, the merchant sells everything—including (presumably) his existing pearl inventory—to buy one single pearl. That’s simply not good business. His actions demonstrate that he’s not in the pearl business for the money; he’s in it for the pearls, and now he has found The Pearl. He’s not really a merchant but a pearl collector, and to own this pearl is to own the only pearl that matters. Why did the merchant sell everything to become the (homeless?) owner of a single pearl? For the love of this pearl. For, again, the joy of it. That’s the twist of the second parable; ironically, the merchant is apparently less financially motivated than the field worker, for the merchant sacrifices everything not for the hope of greater income but for the simple joy of possessing the pearl.
Read the all 900 words here.