July 1, 2013

Considering Value

Cars, college, clothes, food, fun, housing, health...a list of important aspects of life could go on and on. Have you ever considered what these items are worth? What is their value to you personally? The answer cannot always be calculated in dollars and cents, so how can we evaluate true value?

To begin with, we know that an item’s worth must be measured by some other factor—usually dollars, but sometimes through hours of labor needed to acquire the item, by comparing it with other like items, or by learning the opinions of others. For instance, to buy a car, a person has to part with hard-earned cash. To acquire a college education takes a lot of cash, along with many hours devoted to studying and the loss of many hours of sleep. To find something’s real worth, we must ask ourselves, What would I be willing to give in exchange for this? That is its value.

When assessing an item’s worth, one thing to keep in mind is that value is not fixed—it can be different for everyone, and can change over time. A toddler might drag around a tattered old blankie he is so attached to that he doesn’t even want Mom to wash it. To anyone else, that blanket is worthless, but to the toddler, it brings comfort that nothing else can provide. Thus, it is priceless! A teenager’s most prized possession might be an ipad or a smart phone. That teen’s grandparents would probably care little for the electronic gadget. At the same time, they might have some old family photos or heirlooms that they consider to be treasures. In fact, they might even be holding on to someone else’s tattered old blankie! Because these items hold precious memories, they are irreplaceable. The rest of the world might not be willing to spend a dime on them, but that is no problem because the treasures will never be for sale.

Now consider the value of something very personal. What value do you put on having a right relationship with God? If you are saved, you asked God for forgiveness and gave up your former life of sin in exchange for a relationship with Him. At the point of that transaction, a powerful change took place and you became a new creature in Christ.

As you grow in Him, those looking on may admire your peacefulness, courage, amiable attitude, moral values, and inner strength and beauty. The attributes they find attractive in you are directly related to your relationship with God. In addition, at salvation you became eligible to receive all of the blessings and provisions that God has promised to His children, not the least of which is an eternal home in Heaven. So, what is this relationship with God worth to you? Is there anything valuable enough to trade for these blessings?

Let’s consider an example of how others chose to value their relationships with God. In the first chapter of the Book of Daniel, it tells that when Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity, their captors recognized something special about them. They had superior abilities to other young men and were placed in an elite group to be trained for special service within the Babylonian kingdom. As a result, they were offered the finest from King Nebuchadnezzar’s kitchen. Here was the conflict—the king’s meat was not prepared according to the instructions God had given the Jews. The Hebrew boys felt that to accept the food would dishonor God, the One who had given them the superior abilities which had brought the king’s favor in the first place. They understood that the source of their talents was God, and if that factor were removed from the equation, their talents would also be affected.

Daniel and his friends chose to eat pulse (a vegetarian meal) and to drink water instead of the king’s meat and wine. At the end of their three-year trial period, the Hebrew boys were healthier, stronger, and smarter than their peers. But it wasn’t the pulse that improved their health; it was God. Because they understood the true value of their relationship with God—that He was the source of everything good in their lives—they chose to guard it above all else and never traded it away.

The value of salvation

In Mathew 13:44-46, Christ painted a picture of the value of the Gospel by comparing it to hidden treasure and a “pearl of great price.” In His illustration, merchants were willing to give up everything they owned in exchange for these treasures, because they recognized the benefits and new opportunities ownership would bring. They held nothing back and they had no regrets. Jesus said this is how we should view our salvation—it is more valuable than anything else in life.

Yet, we cannot buy a right relationship with God. Nothing we own is valuable enough to make the purchase. In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we read that silver and gold, eloquent speeches, or following religious customs will not get it for us. Instead, the price paid for our salvation was the precious blood of Christ himself. We are of such high value to Him that He was willing to give His own life to redeem us! All we must do is come to Him in repentance and choose to follow Him.

The temptation to trade

Despite the incomparable value of a right relationship with God, the devil will still try to persuade us to exchange it for something else. And he employs a cunning strategy. Often he will not propose that we turn away from God entirely; all he wants is a little compromise, or for us to take a step back from God. He knows that even a small concession will cause the value of our treasure to diminish. Our peace and joy will begin to lessen, or our faith will weaken.

If our enemy can cheapen our relationship with God in any way, he knows that we are more likely to trade it in and our witness to others is also weaker. The caution for the Christian is to never compromise in following God—not in the slightest way. We have nothing to gain by turning back from God, and everything to lose.

Once we fully recognize the value of our relationship with God, our purpose to protect and care for it will affect our everyday choices. Others might prefer to get a little more sleep rather than to wake up early to read God’s Word and converse with Him in prayer; we do so because we understand that spending time with God safeguards our treasure. When deciding what to do with our free time, we avoid anything that would weaken us spiritually or dishonor God, and look for opportunities that would strengthen us spiritually and glorify God. We choose our friends carefully, being aware that friends have a strong influence on our opinions and decisions. In fact, we avoid any relationships that would jeopardize the most important relationship we have. It is simply not worth the risk.

Making your assessment

The Bible is full of good and bad examples to learn from. Esau did not recognize the value of his birthright, and traded it for a bowl of food (see Genesis 25). Later, he bitterly regretted that decision. Lot chose to move closer and closer to the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it cost him his fortune, his family, and God’s blessing (see Genesis 13 and 19). We know that those who exchange their salvation for the pleasures and conveniences of this world will ultimately end in eternal death, with the devil laughing all the way.

In contrast, Daniel and his friends, as well as many others, understood that sacrificing anything in order to hold on to the “pearl of great price” would end in God’s blessing. To them, their relationship with Him was worth protecting at all costs. Daniel and the other Hebrew boys were living in a foreign country, away from their families and support systems, and at the mercy of a powerful king. Even under such extreme circumstances, they chose to take a stand for God, and ended with the best possible results because of it.

The simple idea of assessing values and making exchanges weaves through every part of our lives. Each day we make trades, and at some point we all must decide what a right relationship with God is worth to us personally. What is He worth to you? The answer is clear—He is priceless. What would you trade for the blessings God wants to give you? Make sure that answer is clear as well—absolutely nothing is worth more!

apostolic faith magazine