How would you describe the kingdom of heaven? Sounds like a loaded question, doesn’t it? When we look at the kingdom of heaven, we turn to passages like Matthew 13 to gain glimpses, to attain even the slightest of understandings. In this particular section of Matthew, Jesus speaks to his followers in a unique way—in parables. It is in these parables that Jesus gives them stories, images, visions of what the kingdom of heaven is like. He moves from mustard seeds to leavened bread, from treasure hidden in a field to a merchant in search of fine pearls, even to a net that catches an array of fish. Although these are dramatically different visions, they all have one thing in common: each one seeks to capture some description of the kingdom of heaven.
So often, we look at the fine details of these parables. How is the kingdom of heaven connected to the smallest of all seeds, the mustard seed? Is the kingdom of heaven in the power of the mustard seed? The unstoppable movement that mustard seeds have once they are planted? How is the kingdom of heaven like a merchant in search of fine pearls? Is the pearl what represents the kingdom of heaven? Still, there is one aspect of each parable that we often overlook, beyond the phrase the kingdom of heaven is like: each parable details the work of human beings.
The man took and sowed the mustard seed, the woman took and hid leaven in bread, the man found the treasure in the field, the merchant was in search of fine pearls, and—let’s be honest—the net could not have magically thrown itself into the water to catch this vast array of fish. God is calling his people to join in on the work of advancing the kingdom—in the here and now.
Have you ever had someone want to help you with a task such as taking out the trash, baking, or even doing the dishes? By saying yes, you know that this is, at the end, going to cause more work for you to do. Recently, I had a young girl offer to help me take down some signs after our summer program was done for the day. In my head I thought, “This will take me 2 minutes to do by myself… I don’t want to have to coach you through it…” But, for some odd reason, I replied with a spunky, “Sure!” Did it take twice as long to get the sign down? Of course. But this girl, through her genuine curiosity, asked some sweet questions about why we ran a program through the summer and why we thought it was so important to have signs such as this one hung up in the gym area—a sign that reminded kids of who we are and why we exist. There was, I can only believe, more fruit from that two-minute conversation than anything else that I experienced throughout our program that day.
I wonder if this is sometimes how God feels about us. Could God advance the coming of the kingdom in His own time and strength? Of course. But God is inviting us, asking us—will you join me in furthering my kingdom? As these parables show, the coming of God’s kingdom is not loud, big, or flashy. Rather the coming of the kingdom is often through the small and seemingly insignificant. But it includes our active participation. It is the stirring in our hearts, the calling we feel pressed upon us from the Lord alone that gives us courage to step in.
The kingdom of heaven is like…
Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is like the conversation you had with your neighbor as you got your mail today. The kingdom of heaven might be the aisle of the grocery store, a cup of coffee with a new friend, or even our table over a meal.
The kingdom of heaven is in the small and seemingly insignificant—but it is in the here and now, in the present, and God is inviting us to join him. How? I cannot answer that for you… but believe that it all begins by being faithful—faithful to that stirring in your heart, that calling you feel pressed upon you, giving you courage to step in. And then trust—trust that God will move mountains, advancing the coming of God’s kingdom through your actions—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
The kingdom of heaven is like…
How would you answer this today?