Treasure and Pearls: two parables

Two Parables. Matthew apparently intends the parable of the treasure to be interpreted together with the parable of the pearl, which immediately follows. The two parables do have common features: (I) In each case only a brief vignette of a crucial situation is given, without enough details to evaluate them as realistic stories. The interpreter should, therefore, be wary of filling in the gaps from pious imagination, but concentrate on what the parable does, in fact, portray. (2) The primary common feature is surely central to the meaning of each: The protagonist goes and sells everything for the sake of the one thing. This is the action of both the plowman and the merchant. This movement of the story as a whole is to be compared with the kingdom of God, for the kingdom is “like” neither the “treasure” of v. 44 nor the “merchant” of v. 45, but in each case somehow like the story as a whole. In each case, the protagonist acts with the single-minded response of the “pure in heart.” From the story in Mark 10:17-31, Matthew and his community had long known of the kingdom’s demand of “all,” and of one who had failed (cf. esp. Mark 10:21, where selling everything and giving it to the poor is connected with true “treasure”). Continue reading