The Priceless Pearl
Anyone who is at all acquainted with the Scripture must observe that the doctrine of renouncing the
world is the most common and oft-repeated subject of our Lord's heavenly instructions.
A certain man said unto him, Lord I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest, And Jesus said unto him,
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.
Another also said, "Lord, I will follow thee, but let me first go bid them farewell that are at home at my
And Jesus said unto him, "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the
kingdom of God.1
This passage is similar to that spoken to the rich young man and directly teaches the same renunciation
of the world as the first principle and essence of Christianity. This doctrine is urged upon us by various
ways and every art of teaching.
"The kingdom of heaven," said our Lord, "is like unto a merchant seeking goodly pearls who, when he
had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."2 This parable needs
little interpretation. It is plain and strong and presses home the advice that our Lord gave to the rich
When it says that the kingdom of God is "a pearl of great price," it evidently means that a great deal is to
be given for it, and when it says that the merchant went and sold all that he had and bought it, it teaches
us that it cannot be bought at any less price.
This parable does not suggest that the merchant went to trading again after he had sold all and bought
this pearl. He was content with this and did not want any other riches.
The peaceful, pleasurable enjoyment of riches is everywhere condemned by our Savior. "Woe unto you
that are full, for ye shall hunger; woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall weep and mourn."3
If we can think for all this that the joys of prosperity and gay pleasures of plenty are allowed enjoyments
of Christians, we must have done wondering at the blindness and hardness of the Jews' hearts.
"Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation!"4 This same doctrine is pressed
upon us by a remarkable parable which is so plain that one would think that every Christian who has
heard it would be afraid of everything that looked like self indulgence:
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus who was laid at his gate full of sores and desiring to be
fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.
It came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man
also died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments and seeth Abraham afar off
and Lazarus in his bosom.
This parable teaches again the same truth that was held before the rich young ruler to sell all that he
had. It is the bare pleasurable enjoyment, the living in the usual delights of a great fortune that is
condemned. No injustice, no villainies or extortions are laid to his charge. It is only a life of splendor and
indulgence that leaves him in hell.
This is underscored by what Abraham answered, "Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy
good things. This is alleged as the sole reason of his being in torments. Nothing is mentioned of Lazarus
but his low and afflicted state, and then it is "he is comforted and thou art tormented."6
Can anything show us more plainly the impossibility of enjoying mammon while we live and God when we
die? Does not this manifestly teach us that same renunciation of worldly enjoyments as if we had been
expressly required to part with all that we have? If a life of splendor and pleasure and sensual
gratification is the portion of those who choose to enjoy it, if it exposes us to so much woe and wrath
hereafter, well might our Lord tell the rich man that he lacked one thing, that he was to sell all that he
had and give to the poor.
If, therefore, time has not worn away this parable's meaning, it contains a doctrine that concerns all rich
men. It calls as loudly for a renunciation of all worldly indulgences for all men as it did for the rich young
man. There is no advantage gained by considering our Lord's command as a particular charge to a
particular young man.
If we will here appropriate this parable to a special person, we should as reasonably maintain that the
hell in which he was tormented was made only for him and is a state which no one else has any occasion
We must, therefore, believe that Christianity is still that same opposite state to the world that it was in our
Savior's days, that He speaks to us the same language that He spoke to the young man in the gospel,
that if we will not hear His voice but indulge ourselves in the proud sensual delights of riches and
grandeur, to us belongs that dreadful threatening, "Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received
I know it has been said that all we are taught by the command given to the young man to "sell all" is that
whenever we cannot keep our possessions without violating some essential duty of a Christian, then,
and not till then, need we think we are called upon by Christ to quit all and follow Him.
I. Luke 9:57-58 2. Matthew 13:45-46 3. Luke 6:25 4. Luke 6:24 5. Luke 16: 19-23
6. Luke 16:25 7. Luke 6:24