“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
You can be in the field of church and seldom see the treasure that’s hidden in it. Without seeing the treasure there will be little joy in your faith and your Christianity will seem more of a burden added to your life, than that which removes every burden and gives you joy. So what is the treasure and what hides it from our hearts?
The first treasure the gospel reveals is God’s unconditional love for us, but it is hidden from those who have their identity in performance. It’s very difficult for humans to grasp God’s love because we are used to conditions. Paul says it would be rare for someone to die for a good man, but at least we can conceive of the possibility because a good person deserves to be loved. He goes on to explain God’s love: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
God doesn’t just love everyone; He loves you. Whether you’ve been good or bad in man’s eyes, He loves you. Whether you feel like a success or a continual failure, He loves you. And nothing you can do or fail to do can change that.
The prodigal son (Luke 15) represented the prostitutes, tax gatherers, and “sinners” who felt God would never want them near because of their bad performance. Even when the prodigal repented he planned on asking to be made a “hired man.” The hired man made the wages of a slave but didn’t live in the house. Yet when he returned he received an unexpected welcome and restoration to his father. The Father sees us, even when we’re far away, and when we take a step toward Him, He runs toward us. Is it hard for you to believe that this is how emotional God is over you every time you try to draw near to Him? Ask Him to heal whatever is keeping you from believing in His love.
The older brother missed the party because he thought his good performance earned him something. He represented the Pharisees and Scribes who were listening and thought they were better than other people. Self-righteousness will keep you busy as a Christian, but it will prevent you from experiencing the Father’s love and out of the party of His joy.