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.
The first thing that occurs to us is that the treasure is completely unmerited, or at least not tied in with any.
Rather, the man apparently stumbles upon this valuable find. It's as if he has won the lottery, except he didn't even know he had a ticket. This is unlike the pearl of great price, which the merchant was actively seeking.
All of salvation history, says Rutler, can be seen as "an account of how the bumbling and stumbling human race won the Great Lottery," for "grace is gratuitous."
This is something I was trying to impart to my son the other day. He is prone to moods in which he questions the existence of God, or proclaims the whole business to be stupid or made-up. I remind him that thus far he has grown up in a Christian context, both at school and at home (and socially), such that the graces that have come to him as a consequence may well be invisible to him.
I tell him to imagine different circumstances in which there would be no channels for these graces. As Rutler puts it, if we could see behind the veil, we would likely "be astonished at how many times holy grace dropped into our laps without recognizing it." We would see how entitled and how spoiled we had been.
There is the grace and the response to it. In the parable, the man responds to the unexpected grace by selling everything and buying the field. He presumably sells everything because in light of what he has discovered, everything amounts to nothing.
I give this claim No Pinocchios, because a de-spiritualized life is hardly worth living, especially after one has tasted the alternative. If one has never experienced the grace -- if one has shut it out, rather -- then the treasure won't even be recognized as valuable.
No doubt this is why God withdraws the grace from time to time, so we don't lose our perspective. If it were always there, we wouldn't notice it -- like my son.
"What is granted can easily be taken for granted, without the faintest amen."
Christians who have not lost their perspective do not pretend to be better than non-Christians. Rather, they just stumbled upon the treasure. And "once this sacred deposit of faith is discovered by the gift of grace, the stumbler buys the field."