Did Jesus implicitly use an argument similar to Pascal’s Wager in his parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)?
Here are the parables:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
The point of the parables seems to be that one should embrace Christianity, no matter the earthly cost, because of the unmatchable riches of heavenly eternal life. That seems a fair reading; that’s the spin our pastor put on it in a recent sermon.
And this is quite similar to the point Pascal made in his famous wager: That one should embrace Christianity because the downsides of being wrong in believing are much less than the downsides of being wrong in not believing, while the upsides of being right in believing are so much greater than the upsides of being right in not believing.
Of course, Jesus is not going to encourage anyone explicitly to contemplate the nonexistence of the heavenly kingdom; He’s just comparing the riches of the heavenly kingdom (which means, implicitly, that it exists and will be available to the believer but not to the nonbeliever) with any possible riches on earth (which is all the nonbeliever can hope to gain, and all the believer can possibly lose). In the next few verses (Matthew 13:47-50), by the way, He drives home the point that, for those who forsake the kingdom of heaven, there’s not just a foregone upside but a huge downside:
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Anyway, while Jesus is not saying exactly the same thing in His parables that Pascal said with his wager, I still think I hear the echo of one in the other.