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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13.44-46).
On most days I drink coffee across the street from our town’s bingo hall. From the coffee shop’s deck you are impressed by a panoramic view of the “PLAYMOR Bingo” sign. And on any given night there are hundreds of patrons crowded over their cards hoping that tonight will be the night. It’s a very simple pursuit really. Load up as many cards as you can afford and ride “B-27” to glory.
My intention is not to bemoan the ills of gambling. In fact, it’s a slippery slope and comes down to a matter of the heart. After all, I’ll drop $30 to chase a little white ball into the woods (not so simple a pursuit). It’s not that gambling does not offend biblical principles; but that we too easily point our fingers at it as if we do not offend biblical principles with our “less offensive” but equally destructive vices. I’m sure golf has ruined as many a marriage as gambling.
So, before we snub and snort at the Playmor congregation we must realize that we are all sellouts. We make deals with our souls everyday in hopes of a return well beyond our investment. God has wired us to seek contentment and happiness. However, Adam has brought a plethora of more cards to play. Now, we belly up to the world’s buffet, gorging ourselves on anything that will slake the soul’s palate. Call it what you want, but there is a bingo player in all of us.
Do I sell out to (or for) the kingdom of heaven? Is God’s work so valuable to me that I organize and devote my life to enjoying its treasure? Do I find in God’s pleasure a joy worth every dime, every discipline, and every dream? Can I not wait to get together again with my brothers and sisters to worship the pearl we’ve found (or that found us!)?
At least today, the bingo players have taught me more than my foursome. I’m jealous that they so gladly, so freely, so chummy enter their sanctuary, supposing they’ll leave different than when they arrived. They’ll arrive early for a good spot, stay late for good sport, and concentrate long on bingo’s liturgy. They’ll sup on nachos and candy bars to make it through.
The church has the deed on the treasure-stocked field, and we’ll gather as if we’ve been sold a bill-of-goods. The church carries with her history’s finest pearl, and we’ll assemble as if it were a Happy Meal prize. We’ll slip in the back and slink out the same. We arrive just in time and leave in no time. Sleepy-eyed and shuffle-footed we barely concentrate until a good nap gets us through gospel’s liturgy. And the Lord’s Table is hardly a meal to be compared to the parlor’s snack or the local buffet. Starve the soul but satiate the belly.
I wonder if when a Playmor congregant passes a church he grows jealous at the hope he sees entering and leaving. Or, is he glad he’s not like those dreary-souled churchfolk, who do not offer what his favorite cards promise? Oh, that I would recover the value of God’s kingdom in my soul. Oh, that someone would drink coffee across from my church and seek her treasure.