Thursday, November 6, 2014

What’s Something Worth?

My vintage record albums, vestiges of my youth,
apparently aren't worth what I thought they were.

There are two kinds of people: Those that like garage sales, and those that don’t. I count myself among the latter.

My wife and daughters enjoy staging garage sales, gathering stuff from around the house they no longer want or need and seeing if other people will buy them. They also like to visit other people’s garage sales to see what “treasures” they may discover.

On the other hand, I think garage sales are more trouble than they’re worth. You spend all that time sorting through your possessions, deciding what you want to part with, price it, display it, and then hope someone sees value in what you’re offering. Then you have to gather up and put away what’s left. The only time I think it’s worthwhile is when you’ve made enough money to justify the time invested.

But one universal element of garage sales is very interesting, as someone reminded me recently. We might present an item for sale and put a price on it, but people are only willing to pay what they think it’s worth. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, and vice versa.

At a garage sale, the seller’s opinion doesn’t matter. Beauty – or treasure – is in the eye of the beholder. The same principle holds true for other types of transactions, whether you’re selling an old car, a piece of furniture or a collectible.

Not long ago I decided it was time to purge a portion of my collection of vinyl records, some of them nearly 50 years old. I took them to a local store to see what I could get. I understand how retailing works, so I wasn’t expecting to receive the store price for similar vintage albums, but recordings by Country Joe and the Fish, Paul Anka, the Four Seasons and Chubby Checker ought to worth at least $5-10 dollars each, right? Well, the shop proprietor didn’t think so. Apparently my fond memories of music from bygone days weren’t worth as much as I had imagined.

Extend this idea of someone being willing to pay only what they think something is worth into the spiritual realm. An oft-repeated verse, embraced by some and scorned by others, is John 3:16, “For God so loved the worth that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What does that say about how God values us?

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came to earth not only to live and teach and model how to live, but also to make the once-and-for-all-atonement for the sin of mankind, that we might be redeemed – absolved of the punishment for our own wrongdoing and rebellion against God. Why? Because we’re such nice folks? Not hardly.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is, according to the Scriptures, no “plan B.” God didn’t have to pay the penalty for our sins, to “take the rap for us” as an old friend used to say. But God did. Why? Because, as John 3:16 tells us, He loved the world – and each of us – that much.

In His teachings, Jesus gave numerous examples of lost treasures – including a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. The shepherd, the owner of the missing coin, and the father of the “prodigal son” each placed premium value on what had been lost. These parables served as examples of how much God values His children, and the extremes He’s willing to take to find them and bring them into His family.

On TV’s “Antique Roadshow,” people bringing an old stool, a painting they found stashed in an attic, or a vase they inherited from Aunt Bertha are amazed to discover their seemingly ordinary object is worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars. In an even more profound sense, that’s how God sees us. We might regard ourselves as quite ordinary, but in His view we’re priceless, truly worth dying for. Think about that for a while. 

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