The Parable of the
Pearl of Great Price
This parable, only two verses, is variously interpreted.
Commentators assign sundry meanings to such words as “merchant man” and
“pearl of great price.” A view of The Parable of the Pearl
of Great Price that is conservative, simple and largely parallel
to The Parable of the Hidden Treasure seems
the most useful.
Pearls are not mentioned in the Old Testament and were
little valued by the Jews. However, pearls appear several times in
the New Testament.
The Pearl of Great Price and
The Hidden Treasure are companion, kingdom parables.
In the previous lesson they were called “twin parables.” Each parable
emphasizes the inestimable value of the kingdom of heaven. “The parable
illustrates the unsurpassed value of the church.”1
“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” (Matthew 13:45-46).
In both cases the finder gladly parted with everything he
had to acquire the object of the parable. The chief difference between
the two parables is that The Hidden Treasure may have been
found accidentally, while discovery of The Pearl of Great Price
was the fruit of an ardent search.
The “merchant man” was a businessman whose profession
led him to travel in search of valuable or “goodly pearls.” The man
was not pursuing a mere hobby and neither was his acquisition of the “pearl
of great price” a matter of covetousness. It was a business transaction
— the greatest of his career. The end-user doubtless would have been
a king or a queen (e.g., Cleopatra) or some other wealthy person.
The merchant was accustomed to evaluating pearls.
It was his business to know the value of pearls.
He is a man with a definite purpose. He
knows exactly what he is looking for.2
Convinced of the value of that one pearl, he was willing
to pay the price. He entertained no misgivings about this transaction.
The merchant is comparable to the man who found treasure
in the preceding parable. This man, though, was seeking the kingdom
or the church. This seeker was able to positively identify the kingdom.
Consequently, the parable describes one who was totally committed.
No personal investment was too costly compared to the object of his attention.
The “pearl of great price” is the kingdom or the church.
It is costly or of such immense value because of what it cost God — the
blood of Jesus (John 3:16; Acts 20:28).
Likewise, the truth-seeker in every generation can identify
the kingdom or church of the New Testament.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye
shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one
that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh
it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
The value of the kingdom is obvious. He willingly pays
the price without reservation. The truth-seeker is totally committed
to the acquisition of the kingdom. No personal investment is too
The cost, however, may be steep. To become a citizen
of the kingdom, one will have to abandon the inferior religious kingdoms
of men (i.e., denominationalism, Judaism, Islam, etc.). This may
be difficult considering how entwined religion may be in one’s family history
or ethnic background (Galatians 1:13-14). One may face the loss of
family and social affiliations (Matthew 10:35-39). It is possible
that to attain the kingdom a person may need to change careers, which also
can be difficult, for instance if that required resignation from the generations
old family craft (Acts 19:19). Additionally, seekers must renounce
some of the worldly pleasures in which mankind often delights (Hebrews
Seekers in the New Testament about whom we can read include
Nicodemas (John 3), the eunuch (Acts 8), Cornelius (Acts 10) and the Bereans
(Acts 17:11). The apostles made great sacrifices, including the turning
from honorable trades to devote themselves to preaching the Gospel.
“Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold,
we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed
me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of
his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes
of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren,
or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my
name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting
life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be
first” (Matthew 19:27-30).
Sometimes we must experience the loss of this world’s goods
The kingdom or church is worth more than the greatest possible
personal investment any of us could ever make. Jesus gave himself
for the kingdom or church (Ephesians 5:25). Only through and in Christ
can anyone receive the benefit of kingdom citizenship (Ephesians 1:3).
Happily and “[c]ontrary to the to the assertions of Calvinism,
it is possible to seek God. . . . Men can know when they find the truth,
and know that they know it.”3
This quest is worth the effort and it is not beyond our reach.
Gaddys Roy, Sermon Outlines on the Parables of Jesus, W.
Gaddys Roy, p. 33.
Neil R. Lightfoot, The Parables of Jesus, Vol. I, ACU Press, p. 31.
Wayne Jackson, The Parables in Profile, Star Bible & Tract
Corp., p. 27.