Last week, in The Pearl, Part 1, we saw that pearls are only formed in an oyster that has been inflicted with some type of an irritant. We also saw that pearls are symbols of wisdom, something that is to be sought after and loved like a sister (SeeProv. 3:13-18,7:4), and we came to understand that the “irritants” of life, those bad circumstances that have been thrown our way, are there in order to help us gain wisdom and understanding.
I recognize, however, that no one would choose the kind of trouble that has been forced on to our plates, even for the sake of gaining wisdom. Just what does the Bible actually teach about how pearls are viewed and grown, and to what extent they should be valued?
Jesus used the pearl in two of His parables. In Matt. 13:45-46, He tells the parable of the Pearl of Great Price: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (NLT). In this text, we see an image of one of God’s children putting aside all worldly wealth to in order to obtain the pearl he has found.
This parable is but one of several presented inMatt. 13 that Jesus is using to help us understand the Kingdom of God, and it teaches us to what extent we must seek this “pearl”, and that those who expect salvation must be willing to give up all!
It is iteresting to note that the merchant in Jesus’ parable was also “on the lookout for choice pearls”. He wasn’t looking for rubies or diamonds that occur naturally in the ground, but rather, he sought the only gem that grows as a result of irritations and trials.
This already gives us serious food for thought, but the symbolism goes even deeper. To understand the fully meaning behind this parable, it is important to understand that the pearl was not particularly valued by the Jews. Because the oyster comes from the water and does not have fins and scales, it is considered to be unclean (SeeLev. 11:12). In the same way that the pearl was “unclean”, it is said of Jesus: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Is. 53:2b,3 NIV). Jesus paid a very steep price of suffering that we might be saved, and it was only through His suffering and pain that He could become our Salvation!
Jesus is our ultimate example (See1 Peter 2:21), and in light of what He suffered for the ultimate good, should we, mere human beings, try to avoid the problems that come our way? Or should we, like the merchant of Jesus’ parable–should we, like Jesus Himself–seek the ultimate gain at all cost to ourselves?
Jesus’ other parable about pearls is recorded inMatt. 7: “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!” (Matt. 7:6 NLT). Remember that the “pearl” can be seen as representative of Jesus’ suffering and pain as Jesus goes on to say: “They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” (Matt. 7:8 NLT). Here we begin to understand how many are blinded to the value of the pearl, to the importance of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
In much the same way, we are not overly anxious to go through the trials and hard times that are required for us to develop the pearls of wisdom that Solomon encourages us to seek. Some of us are so prideful that we resist what our negative circumstances have to teach us. In His parable about the pearls and the swine, Jesus is teaching us that we must have a heart that is open and searching or we won’t even recognize that the pearls of wisdom that can only develop from trials and hard times are of any value at all!
Thus, as we consider this, we must again ask ourselves: What should we do when the “irritations” of trouble are forced upon us? Will we be like most living creatures and watch and worry as it festers and spreads? Will we try to remove it, and in the process, remove some of ourselves as well? Or will we, like the oyster, allow the negative circumstances to form a pearl? A pearl of wisdom, a pearl of great price, a pearl worth all cost to ourselves? A pearl whose value may not be recognized by the world?
It’s a hard question. And if you’re still not convinced that the trials are worth the gain, I do not blame you. I ask you to join us, however, on Saturday for “The Pearl, Part 3” for one final lesson the Bible has to teach us about pearls.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “The Pearl” mini-series, please click here.)