In my Sunday school class I just finished teaching Hidden Treasure, the first set of video lessons in the Modern Parables series. I can already tell this series is going to end up being one of the most engaging classes I’ve taught to date.
The short film is based on the parable in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Set in a modern context, the “treasure” in this film is a reservoir of oil hiding beneath a seemingly worthless piece of property off the highway. A real estate agent stumbles on the oil and spends the rest of the movie selling all his possessions to buy the land.
What I Loved
- The style of the film really matched the mood of the original parable. The main character is based on a persona found in a lot of Frank Copra films. Copra was behind films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Through these films, Copra created a likable “everyman” character (played by actors like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper) who found himself trying to do what was right in an extraordinary situation, despite the opposition of others. Hidden Treasure utilizes this kind of character, and it was an excellent choice for recreating the mood of Jesus’ parable.
- The joy of obtaining the kingdom stands out as a key theme. Jesus said “in this joy” the man buys the field, and this movie captures that excitement very well. The real estate agent is bull-headed and obsessed about getting the fortune. He offers viewers a great picture of contagious joy. The jazz soundtrack of the film adds to this mood as well.
- The film captures some of the hidden costs often not considered when looking at this parable. The man is married with children, so selling all he has to buy the property has implications not only for him but for his whole family. His seeming “irresponsibility” is really brought out in light of these facts.
- The ending captures the real value of the kingdom of God. The end of the film features a brief news broadcast where the anchorman mentions how the new oil field owners are currently in negotiation with the there largest oil companies in the world, positioned to make a fortune on the property. One question I asked my class is how they think the movie would have felt without that end scene, and this really generated discussion about the true value of the kingdom regardless of what we give up to obtain it.
- The movie used an appropriate level of humor. The actors all captured a kind of humor that didn’t make you role your eyes.
What I Added
- One participant raised a good question about an alternate interpretation to the parable. C.I. Scofield believed the parable had to do with Christ purchasing his people. It was good that I had two weeks for this set of lessons because I was able to do some additional research on this interpretation. I was able to explain why I favor the traditional interpretation, which led to a very stimulating discussion about how to interpret parables generally.
- I felt the parable needed some more explanation in context. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure is set in the context of 8 parables in Matthew 13. The discussion guide really does not bring out this context, and I thought it was important for the purpose understanding the overall thrust of this parable.
Buy the DVD
You can purchase this DVD on the Compass Classroom website, but I would go ahead and buy the whole set. It is well worth it.