United Church of God

Personal From the President: December 16, 2021

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Personal From the President

December 16, 2021

How Much is the “Pearl of Great Price” Worth to You?

In each of the seven parables in Matthew 13, Jesus Christ gives us a powerful glimpse into the Kingdom of God; other accounts by Mark, Luke and John also describe it in detail. Matthew calls it the Kingdom of (or from) Heaven.

Two of the parables in this collection highlight the incredible value of the Kingdom. They speak of finding it either as a hidden treasure or finding it after an intense search for expensive gems. Jesus illustrates it this way: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful 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 Matthew 13:45-46 [45] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: [46] Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version). The pearl was so treasured that all one’s earthly assets were well worth spending for this extremely valuable prize pearl.

What can we learn from this comparison of the Kingdom of God to a “pearl of great price?”

I’d like to relate a personal story about my devout mother, Nina Kubik. She voiced an eternal message through a letter she asked to be read at her funeral. Many of those attending the funeral had questioned and were even dismayed by the choices she made about her faith and commitment to God.

First, a succinct history. She grew up in atheistic Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s. Religion was forbidden, and the overall philosophy enforced by the government towards religion was Boga Nyet which means “No God.” There was certainly no God taught in my mother’s upbringing.

After the Nazis invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1941, she was taken as a teenage slave laborer to Magdeburg, Germany. Living in the 21st century today—particularly in America—that can seem hard to imagine.

After the war, she married and lived in a displaced persons (DP) camp for the next four years. As I have related on occasion, in 1949 she and her husband, Igor, and I emigrated from Hannover, Germany, to the United States. Our family flocked with other World War II survivors and DPs, and formed new “families” in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota.

I grew up with no natural uncles, aunts, cousins or grandparents nearby. Our group of Ukrainians assisted one another in adjusting to a vastly different way of life. In doing so they, quite naturally, formed remarkably close bonds and ties. That included a common religion, which was the traditional and ritual-focused Orthodox church.

A critical point: my mother always searched for life’s meaning and wondered about many things relating to God. Even when I was 14 years old, she and I would talk about biblical subjects. A common area of intense interest was the Kingdom of God.

We found and listened together to a radio program, The World Tomorrow, that continuously spoke about the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that was literally coming to the earth. It was clear that this was an actual kingdom, and it would come to this earth when Jesus Christ returns to begin His millennial rule. As we looked further into what the Bible said, we discovered many more things that we did not previously understand, such as the Saturday Sabbath. We wondered about what exactly “remember the Sabbath” meant, but now we saw clearly what the Bible taught. Then we found more things in the Bible different from what we had previously believed: the nature of God, the Holy Spirit, what happens after death, and much more.

In 1966 my mother, along with my father, was called into the truth. This markedly changed their lifestyle and priorities. Leaving our church community was a major event for them and our family. It produced hurt and angry feelings, yet my mother tried her best to maintain contact with her friends.

Before my mother died at age 58 of leukemia, she felt compelled to leave a letter to be read at her funeral to her friends. St. Paul pastor Noel Hornor read it. It seemed as if words were powerfully spoken from the grave.

In the letter, she acknowledged that in recent years she had not spent as much time with her Ukrainian friends as she had previously, but she wanted them to know that it was not because she thought any less of them. She stated that she wanted them to know that the reason was that she had found the “pearl of great price.” She felt compelled to pursue the way which was pictured in the Bible as that incomparable pearl. She had discovered the truth and it had become the most valuable thing that she possessed.

My mother always treasured and protected this jewel and kept it in the forefront of her conscience. In her 22 years in the Church, she never discounted, devalued or neglected the value of the precious pearl that she figuratively “bought.” She protected it and would not allow anyone to take it from her.

(More of this story, along with others, is told in a 2001 United News article “Crowns of Glory.” You can read it online at ucg.org/members/united-news/crowns-of-glory.)

So, here’s a question to consider. How are we valuing our expensive “pearl of great price?”

“Payment” to make this “pearl” available was made by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to redeem us. Then, as part of this process, you figuratively “sold” all that you had—surrendering your life and committing to a new life of overcoming, represented by the total immersion of baptism (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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)—to receive the prized gem of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, an astonishing gift of God (Ephesians 2:28 Ephesians 2:28
American King James Version×

While we rejoice in holding this truth, we must be aware that this brilliant and absolutely beautiful jewel can be robbed or lost if we’re not actively protecting it. Christ warned the first century congregation in Philadelphia and us today: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11 Revelation 3:11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added). While eternal life surely is a gift of God, we must remain in a humble spiritual condition of holding fast, of actively protecting our “pearl” and changing our lives to become more like God Himself (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
). As Jesus confirms: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God” (verse 12).

Be on guard! Don’t let anyone swindle you with false statements or talk you out of what’s most valuable to you.

It’s also possible to neglect and take for granted this jewel. We can also become offended or resentful in the course of human life, or even come to the point where we can become ashamed of it, as obeying the truth takes us out of our comfort zones and can make us stand out from the world. When he wrote a powerful letter to introduce himself to the congregation at Rome, the high-profile capital of the empire, the apostle Paul was careful to emphasize: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
American King James Version×
, ESV).

Allow me to encourage you to take particular care—don’t allow what is most valuable to become tarnished or devalued—or even lost! If that happens, we can potentially slip slowly back into the world from which we came.

The parables of Jesus are profound. They make plain important points that shape and mold our lives. They speak deeply to the depths of our faith and the Kingdom of God to come.

In conclusion, do you know where your pearl of great price is stored? Is it safely high in your conscience? Remember, it spiritually represents the most valuable thing you possess.