A Pearl of Great Price


Excerpted from remarks at Godward Life, September 30, 2023

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. — Matthew 13:45-46

In our programs here at Bethlehem we will teach readers and writers about many figures of speech employed in both the Greatest Book and the Great Books. Professor Greever spoke last evening of typology, that is, biblical symbols we’re given of something future and distant, or examples prepared and evidently designed by God.

He told us of David as a “type” of Christ, made exemplary by his persistent suffering. Another “type” might be Jonah, who was a “type” of Christ in the way he emerged from the fish’s belly and thus appeared to rise from death to life. There are many such wonderful, helpful types that helpfully adorn God’s word.

And then there are also analogies: comparisons between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification.

Jesus uses such an analogy when he tells us in this passage of the Pearl of Great Value—or more specifically of this pearl-searching merchant himself—as being in some way comparable to the kingdom of heaven. It’s a one sentence parable that illuminates the concept of VALUE in the mind and heart of this man who finds something worth far more than anyone could sacrifice to acquire it. I’ll suggest that here it’s not the pearl, but rather the merchant’s exceeding joy in its discovery that is like the kingdom of heaven—he was ecstatically overwhelmed by the VALUE of his discovery.

And I don’t think it is a stretch for us this afternoon to represent Bethlehem College and Seminary’s “Education in Serious Joy” as similarly analogous to this concept of exceeding joy in the minds, hearts, and lives of the searchers, discoverers, and beneficiaries of such astounding VALUE—when we’re made able to enjoy something that otherwise seems so far beyond our reach and resources.

Our tuition rate is one of the lowest in American Christian higher education—only about $7,500 a year. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive. You’ve gathered this weekend, we hope, something of the high caliber of these professors, the good and virtuous aims of this education, and the quality of the worshipful students we attract.

Indeed, these hundreds of generous contributors of whom I spoke—men and women who are just saints of the church—come together every year to pay two-thirds of our students’ total tuition. They do so by supporting The Serious Joy Scholarship in dollar amounts large and small. Some provide multiple scholarships of $10,000, some single scholarships of $10,000 every year, some just half, some in quarter measure, and some in mites.

It is a marvelous personal ministry for Jesus Christ for all those who have taken up this cause—and who might yet, maybe even this afternoon. 

This is important. What the students receive is not low tuition. They receive pearls of great value. Things so profoundly valuable that they can be properly regarded as priceless. More valuable than silver or gold. More valuable than Ivy League credentials. More valuable than being the #1 Draft pick of a major league team. Pearls of great value, something worth far more than anyone could sacrifice to acquire…available at a price point to the student that permits them to be actually able to acquire it.

The Serious Joy Scholarship, and the low tuition price that it enables for the extraordinarily high-quality education received, is a more-than-compelling reason to come to Bethlehem College and Seminary. And for those, like me and many of you, whose task it is to contend in our generation for the sake of the next for the faith once given to the saints, The Serious Joy Scholarship is a most-worthy beneficiary of our stewardship, philanthropy, and prayers, and I hope in both cases—potential student or potential contributor—you will seize this opportunity and take up this charge, soon.

Rick Segal
Vice President of Advancement