It’s been said that the kingdom of heaven is something everyone can afford; it costs everything, as these parables point out. But what’s most powerful about these examples — one man stumbling upon a treasure and another finding it after a long search — is their disposition towards “sacrificing” all they have. They are joyful. Joy is an overlooked aspect of Jesus’ teaching. His message of God’s love and compassion liberated people from guilt and fear, and his followers gladly left their former lives behind not out of obligation but out of joy.What does it mean for us to sell all that we have to acquire the treasure that Jesus promises? It may take most of our lives to figure it out — to let go of what doesn’t serve us and hold tight to the love of God.Somehow, the message of sacrifice to follow God has gotten confused. The joyful part is often left out. These parables describe people who are delighted to leave their former lives behind because what they’ve found is so magnificent. These are not people who are delaying gratification or otherwise setting aside the desire to be happy. These are people who have found something they can’t live without.Today’s reading gives us a picture of what our lives are to look like. We are the people who have discovered God’s love, and who are going about the process of letting go all the false treasures we’ve acquired in order to realize something far, far better. It is a joyful journey, not a grim one. It is something we feel so lucky to have discovered that we can’t quite contain ourselves.Unfortunately, in our culture, the Christian faith is not always known for its joy. It is known for its opposition to many social and political issues, and it is often depicted as backward and mean spirited. But this is not the faith that Jesus presented. This is not the road he called us to follow. He pointed us to the unconditional love of God — a treasure more valuable than all we have, and a treasure that all of us can afford.What does it mean for us to sell all that we have to acquire the treasure that Jesus promises? That is the question each of us must answer for ourselves. It may take most of our lives to figure it out — to let go of what doesn’t serve us and hold tight to the love of God. The good news of the Gospel is that the kingdom of God is a treasure, not a burden. We are not called to follow Jesus and give up any notion of pleasure or happiness. We are called to follow Jesus on a journey that is joyful, to a destination that is perfect. Does a joyful life mean one without pain or difficulty? No. We will have obstacles and setbacks, but we will also know that we are loved beyond measure, and connected to the unquenchable love of God.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]