John Steinbeck’s literary genus is well known, but not many have read his penetrating little book called The Pearl. Steinbeck’s story begins with a poor Mexican pearl diver named Kino. He happily ekes out a living for his wife and son with a little canoe and a thatch hut on the beach.
When Kino’s child is bitten by a scorpion, his world is turned upside down, for he does not have enough money to pay a doctor to treat the child or a priest to pray for him. At this moment, Kino discovers a pearl as big as his fist: The “Pearl of the World,” the most incredible treasure the village has ever seen.
Now Kino will be rich. His son will be healed. Life will be transformed. But, things don’t work out that way. Greed takes over the village. Thieves attempt to rob him. Kino’s friends grow psychotically jealous. Kino begins to spend all his energies protecting his treasure.
In the end Kino loses everything: His home, his child, his little canoe by which he made a living, and his ability to escape to a better life. He and his wife stand on the shoreline and heave the evil pearl back into the ocean.
Steinbeck’s little story is about far more than a poor Mexican diver. It a tale of human nature; it is about getting what one wants, only to discover that the fulfillment of that desire is one’s undoing.
We all enter this world as treasure seekers. The search is intrinsic, natural, and good. Jesus spoke of it in a way that Steinbeck copied: We are searching for the “Pearl of Great Price,” that invaluable treasure of the soul worth more than all the world.
The glitch is that many of the things we seek are detrimental to us and to the world. My guess is that the majority of our suffering is the direct result of our improper and misguided searches. To quote an old country song, we go “looking for love in all the wrong places.” And when we go looking in all the wrong places, we end up with all the wrong outcomes.
But it’s never too late to find satisfaction. We just have to turn our attention to the true treasure of the soul, the Pearl of Great Price. We just have to search in the right place, and almost magically, we end up with the right results.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.