“The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone has found.” (Matthew 13:44)
It is at this time of year that we can read of the transfers of footballers from one team to another. If you follow a particular team, it can be interesting, even exciting. If you are an impartial onlooker - or even if you are not - the figures involved, the fees paid to club and to player, not to mention the wage packets which the players will receive, are quite astounding. Can any individual really be worth so much? And the figures quoted will inevitably bring the inevitable comparisons - can a footballer really be £75 million, while the nurses who work in our hospitals cost about £25,000 a year. So, one footballer is worth 3,125 nurses. Is this really a just situation?
Actually it is a rather unreal comparison. It is not the man who is valued so highly. The money in these situations is about business judgments, not really about the individual, and certainly not whether he is a nice person or not.
However, it does raise an important question. How much do we really value people? And why is there such a discrepancy between the money which people attract and how important we might think them to be?
It was Oscar Wilde, who in 1892 gave us a useful definition - A cynic, he said, is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
And we live in a very cynical society. (At least in the way of that definition). We live in a society in which almost everything and everyone has a price. Money measures value, worth. It defines importance, status, happiness.
Yet in all cases money, good, possessions are things which are hear today and gone tomorrow. They may give great comfort, but they do not last.
Today’s readings tell a different story.
In today's Old Testament reading, the new king, Solomon, asks not for long life, nor for riches, nor for victory in battle. He does not ask for worldly success, fame, adulation or celebrity. No, he asks for discernment, wisdom, the ability to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Solomon asks for the grace to be able to judge the values, not the prices.
And that too is the meaning of these two little parables in the Gospel: the finder of the treasure and the finder of the pearls recognise them for what they are. Like the expert on the Antiques Road Show, they can tell the difference between an old vase and a valuable antique.
Our treasure, our pearls are those sought by Solomon, wisdom, discernment, an ability to know the difference between good and evil, to seek goodness, justice and peace, to exercise mercy and compassion, to recognise the needy around us, to use the things that do not last by living the virtues which are eternal.
True value is not to be found in scarcity, or celebrity, or victory, but in knowing the difference between right and wrong, between true or false; true value is found in love and loyalty, in compassion and mercy - these are things which last for ever, the treasures which are here for more than just the a day.
True treasures outlive passing pleasures.They neither fail nor rot away. They are a glimpse of heaven on earth - and the bricks which tile the road to the Kingdom.