Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 7 Page 2 July 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

The Parable of the 
Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:45-46

By Louis Rushmore


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

The Parable

“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 costly.

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 11:25).

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 (Mark 10:17-22).


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.


1 W. Gaddys Roy, Sermon Outlines on the Parables of Jesus, W. Gaddys Roy, p. 33.
2 Neil R. Lightfoot, The Parables of Jesus, Vol. I, ACU Press, p. 31.
3 Wayne Jackson, The Parables in Profile, Star Bible & Tract Corp., p. 27.

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