Pearls have historically commanded high prices. Their expensiveness is the result of their rarity. Thousands upon thousands of oysters are examined each year, but only a small percentage of them contain genuine pearls. I’ve read that out of every three tons of pearl-producing oysters, on average only three of the oysters have pearls inside them.
At one point, however, the market began to be atypically flooded with large quantities of pearls. As a matter of fact, there were so many pearls available that merchants began to seriously question the pearls’ authenticity. Were these new pearls merely well done imitations produced by man? No. Upon examination, the pearls were found to have actually been made by oysters.
Finally, after further investigation, the mystery was solved. As it turned out, the Japanese merchants had figured out a way to cause almost every pearl oyster to produce a pearl. You see, the merchants knew that a pearl is formed when some kind of foreign substance (a parasite, a grain of sand, etc.) gets lodged in a certain part of the oyster. To ease the irritation caused by the substance, the oyster begins to secrete a protective fluid called nacre that covers over the substance. This process continues and the nacre eventually hardens into a glorious pearl. Of course, all this takes a few years to happen. So, what the merchants were doing was harvesting oysters, purposely inserting artificial substances in them (substances such as beads or tiny bits of shell or buckshot), placing the oysters back into the ocean by means of nets, and then harvesting them again a few years later to retrieve the pearls. The larger the artificial substance, the larger the pearl.
When the market became glutted with pearls, wealthy buyers began to demand that each pearl be put to a special test to see whether or not it had been artificially created. This test involved the use of X-ray. Under X-ray, the false “hearts” created by the artificial substances could be seen. In this way, the genuine pearls could be identified and priced accordingly.
This illustration reminds me that, sadly, our churches are home to some fake Christians. On the outside, these people look saved. They carry Bibles, know the lingo, pray, sing the hymns, put money in the offering plates, etc. But on the inside their hearts are false. They don’t truly know Christ as Savior. They aren’t born again (John 3:3). God the Holy Spirit does not dwell inside them (Romans 8:9). They aren’t in the family of God (John 1:9-13).
I have no delusions that we will ever get it all sorted out this side of eternity. For one thing, lost people don’t always act lost. For another, saved people don’t always act saved. We can rest assured, though, that Jesus knows how to X-ray each person’s heart and there simply is no fooling Him. I can honestly say that being placed under His X-ray doesn’t frighten me. But can you say the same thing? If you can’t, you really need to ask yourself why that is.