I came across a sad confession back in 2011 as I read through the postings of my friends on Facebook. A young father wrote of his feelings of failure in this life. I sensed his feelings were due to that measuring stick we call "The American Dream". A man is supposed to find himself a good job that pays well and allows him to acquire all the material pleasures of the good life- a home, a car, a refrigerator with an ice dispenser, and of course, a big screen tv. It is a common feature of life in these United States to place worth on the “stuff” one amasses throughout life. If we are to believe Madison Avenue, people are valuable if they own things of value.
What things are considered valuable today? Back in February 2011 when this article was first published the most valuable athlete in the world was Tiger Woods. He had amassed $110 million over 13 years through his winnings, endorsements and business ventures. Since then Wood’s life has taken several twists and turns. I’m fairly certain he is not the most valuable athlete now but he still has the recognition factor going in his favor. At that time the most valuable home, owned by Mukesh Ambani, was a one-billion dollar skyscraper mansion called "Antilla" in Mumbai, India. The first 6 floors of this mansion were comprised of a parking garage. The remainder of the 27 story building housed Mukesh, his wife, 3 children and 600 servants. The most valuable gem was a flawless, blue diamond estimated to be worth $4 million. The most valuable car (which could still be driven legally on the street) was a Bugatti Veyron. It cost only $1,700,000. I’m not sure if these items still retain their titles of “most valuable” but even if something else has replaced them one thing is for sure, you will either think their value is absurd or valid and no matter what you will be basing your opinion on these things by ranking them in some sort of value system.
The psalmist warns us in Psalm 49 (vv. 16-20) to remember that wealth accumulated on this earth cannot be taken with us when we die, a theme humorously presented in the popular play and movie “You Can’t Take It With You”. While George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart were probably not thinking Biblically, the catchy phrase is a theme examined frequently in Scripture. But more importantly than the accumulation of wealth, the Bible is clear that people are not valuable to God because of their valuables; they are valuable because He loves them. Passage after passage emphasizes that our sense of value and accomplishment must be taken from a different criteria than that of the world. Oddly enough, the story of Cinderella illustrates what the Bible teaches. Cinderella's father had married a proud and haughty woman, who relegated Cinderella to servitude after he died. The "wicked" stepmother repeatedly told Cinderella that she was "common" and of little value. However when the prince enters the story all that changes. The extent of the prince's love for Cinderella compels him to search the kingdom high and low until he finds her. His love demonstrates her value and he goes to great lengths to be reunited with her.
Jesus told a parable about the same kind of love in Luke 15 (vv.3-7). A shepherd with a large flock has lost one of his sheep. Rather than leave it in the wilderness to succumb to the elements, the shepherd searches out the lost sheep and brings the little wanderer back to the fold. The terrain where shepherds keep their flocks in Israel emphasizes the extreme this shepherd goes to in order to find his little lost lamb. Rocky, with sparse vegetation and dangerous caverns, the shepherd risks his own life to be reunited with his wayward sheep. This is a picture of God's love. He has gone to great lengths in expressing His love for us and demonstrating our value to Him (see Phil. 2:5-8).
In can be easy to fall prey to calculating our value in terms of our earthly possessions and accomplishments as my friend on Facebook did. Whether the times are lean or prosperous our culture places a tremendous amount of value on wealth. Maybe you have been having similar feelings to that of my friend. If those doubts should arise, remember, God so loved you, that He sent His Son to save you. The world and its value system may lead you to believe that you are common. That is not true! The prince has traveled throughout the kingdom to find you. The Shepherd has searched the wilderness to bring you home. And there is no greater value than that.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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