Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Evaluating our Values


We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.

 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.
 ― Benjamin Franklin


What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?
Mark 8:36

Profit? Gain? Jesus is trying to instill a value system. He is trying to teach us what one soul  our one and only precious soul  is worth  more than the whole world; more than all the money in all the world; more than all the pleasures in all the world. Jesus is teaching us values.

The first lesson of values, the kindergarten of moral education, is this: some things are more valuable than others. 

Some things are more valuable than others. 

This is a simple, but stark, and profoundly powerful reality: somethings are more  way more – valuable than others. This is stark reality: as clear as the sun in the sky. We all acknowledge it; no one, after all, pays $2000.00 for a pencil, or $100.00 for a pack of gum  but many many people trade their souls for the equivalent of a pack of gum.

To teach us this, Jesus places on the scale two objects of worth. On the one side: our soul; on the other side: the whole wide world. Weigh these out, he urges; do the math. There is some one thing that is more valuable than every single thing in all the world (all the clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, TV's, vacations, beaches, towers, countries, mountains, rivers, oceans): YOUR SOUL. Our soul is more valuable  not just than everything else in the world  but than everything else in the world combined.

When purchasing a thing, it is customary to ask, "How much?" How much does this cost? Then, once we know the price, we debate: is it worth it? We would all call the man a fool who paid $2000.00 for a pencil. Why? Because, clearly, this man does not the value of things.

A man with values is a man who has ordered his world according to the understanding that some things are more valuable than others. Lesson # 1: your soul is more valuable than anything else you will ever set your eyes on in this terrestial ball.

A thing is valuable if it, 1) lasts, 2) is beautiful (made well), 3) is good (well made), 4) is unique, 5) is ours, or bears some special relationship to us (i.e. your grandfather's watch).

Think back on Jesus words: "Loses his soul"  His one and only soul which must endure forever in either heaven or hell. Here is a thing that lasts forever, has potential to be gloriously beautiful, was made well by God, and is ours, and ours alone. With regard to the things around us, we need to know this: nothing is more valuable than a soul: our soul.

Different things have different value: yet, many live as if nothing but material possession or passing pleasure had much value. 

The man, for example, who sacrifices his marriage to his loving wife for the sake of a tryst with a stranger 
– he's like a man who trades $100.00 for a pack of gum; he's like a man who trades a brand new Lexus for a beat up '81 Pinto. A pastor friend once confronted such a man after an short-lived affair had ruined his marriage, decimated his 5 children, and alienated his close friends. The pastor asked him, "How could you pawn gold for dirt? How could you trade everything for nothing?"

Different things have different worth. When buying, this means some things are worth so much, and no more. Some things are overpriced; others, under-priced. We need to consider the cost of a thing before buying it; then, we need to consider what that thing is worth, really worth, TO US. As Jesus said, "Count the cost." In material matters, everyone counts the cost; in spiritual and moral matters, few do.

When making a business deal, it is customary to ask, "How much?" Let's take a moment and do some eternal business; let's consider the ledger on our souls; let's take a look at God's bank, and see how our account stands.

I submit to you that, at present, many things which are in actuality junk, are overpriced; many things which are truly eternally valuable are under priced. 

Our value system is disordered, and we are paying exorbitant prices for things that aren't worth a dime. Meanwhile, we are having a fire sale on things that will last forever 
 either honorably, or dishonorably  in the ages to come. At present, eternal things like truth, righteousness, love, integrity, loyalty, goodness, and the human soul are being devalued, and thrown out with the trash. At present, things like cars, houses, Ipods, custom rims, and designer clothes are ridiculously overpriced. People are literally selling their souls for designer jeans. 

We are being cheated, and we are cheating ourselves. Why? Because our value system is disordered: we have lost sight of what is actually valuable. Many, if not most, of our 'valuables' are, within a true E-VALUE-ATION, not valuable at all; and, we are undervaluing truly valuable things. 

There are many, many, many things more valuable than our 'valuables.' In fact, we ought to consider what our valuables are. Electronics? A nice care? A fine house? Designer clothes?

Let's focus on electronics for a moment. Consider, with the speed technology is moving, 5 months from now, most of our electronics will be outdated. Consider: 5 years from all of our snazzy electronics will be mocked  like we do VHS tapes  as has-been technology of old-timers. Consider: 50 years from now all our electronics will be in a landfill somewhere; meanwhile, most of us will be in eternity: beggars forever, in eternity.

There are no Ipods in Hell. 

Augustine once rebuked his generation, "Most men would rather have a good house than a good life." Why? Because they consider a good house of more value than a good life; their consideration needs adjustment. There are many, many things more valuable than our valuables: honor, freedom, the truth  these are all things more valuable than all the money in all the banks in the world. 

The problem is, those banks are probably filled with money got by dishonor, enslavement, and lies. This means that some of the richest men in the eyes of the world are, in fact, when it comes to a true E-VALUE-ATION, some of the poorest; they possess only trinkets. Meanwhile, utter beggars walk the world as unknown rich men. The poorest beggar in the poorest neighborhood in the world may, in fact, be far wealthier than anyone on the Fortune 500 list. Such a man may be rich with honor, freedom, and truth: in other words, truly rich. I'd like to see God's fortune 500 list sometime; it would rattle the world. He's hinted at it in these cryptic words, "Blessed are the poor."

The book of Proverbs often uses the phrase, "It is better..." 

It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud (Pr 16.19).

And, Jesus employs this formula often, "It is better... (Acts 20.35)" Why? Because the Bible is trying to instill a TRUE value system into our hearts and minds. Some  things are more valuable than others: it is better to be poor than a liar; it is better to be hungry than a scoundrel; it is better to be homeless than a thief; it is better to get an F, and fail, than cheat, and get an A; it is better to have no friends than bad friends; it is better to lose everything in the world than lose your soul in eternity.

Better, that is, if you understand what a thing is really worth.

King Xerxes of Persia once offered Leonidas, the storied Spartan General, the kingship of all of Greece in exchange for cooperation with the Persian conquest of Greece. I can hear Xerxes now, "You could be King! Leader, not just of your people, but all Greek peoples! The greatest man in all of Greece." And, in our own day, men are willing to trade their sacred honor in order to be King of their small circle of 5 friends. We have politicians in America who have sold their everlasting soul for the prestige of leading a city. So, how did Leonidas respond? 

"No deal."

The exact quote is, 

If you knew what is good in life, you would abstain from wishing for foreign things. For me it is better to die for Greece than to be monarch over my compatriots.

"If you knew what was good... it is better." Leonidas did the math in his head, and he saw plainly that it wasn't worth it. There was something more valuable than being King of Greece. In his mind, Xerxes was a charlatan salesman, offering him a pencil in exchange for a stack of gold. No deal.

 A man once bought a new car using money that was, in every sense, "ill-gotten gain," and "filthy lucre." He'd sacrificed his honesty and integrity as a middle man for "under the table" deals. He asked, "How do you like my car?" 

I responded, "How do you like your heart?"

"Give me a break," he answered, "I deserve a nice car. I've worked hard."

"How much?" I answered.

"For the car?" he replied.

 how much for your soul? How much of your soul did you sell? Your principles? Your values? How much? What did that car really cost you?"

As we lose our values, we lose the ability to value. Thus, Jesus says, "Don't throw pearls before swine." He is saying, "Don't give something precious and valuable to someone who does not understand its worth; such a person will, "turn and devour you." Strange, but true: You can give some people a diamond, and they will just throw it in the gutter, and turn and strike you down. Such people have no sense of the values of things; they cannot be trusted with true valuables.

As we lose our sense of value, something else happens. Something terrible. We begin to lose our value. We become light and insubstantial, like chaff the wind blows away (Psalm 1:1-2). We lose weight in the universe. A man with no values ends up having no value. 
Suffer me therefore, finally, to entreat you earnestly to "give yourself to prayer, to reading, and meditation" on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them, and never be content with a superficial knowledge. By this means, your thoughts will gradually grow weighty and judicious; and you hereby will be possessed of a valuable treasure, out of which you may produce "things new and old," to the glory of God.
-David Brainerd
John Bunyan, The Greatness of The Soul:

Because the soul, and the salvation of it, are such great, such wonderful great things; nothing is a matter of that concern as is, and should be, the soul of each one of you. House and land, trades and honours, places and preferments, what are they to salvation? to the salvation of the soul?

..Because I perceive that this so great a thing, and about which persons should be so much concerned, is neglected to amazement, and that by the most of men; yea, who is there of the many thousands that sit daily under the sound of the gospel that are concerned, heartily concerned, about the salvation of their souls?that is, concerned, I say, as the nature of the thing requireth. If ever a lamentation was fit to be taken up in this age about, for, or concerning anything, it is about, for, and concerning the horrid neglect that everywhere puts forth itself with reference to salvation. Where is one man in a thousand, yea, where is there two of ten thousand that do show by their conversation, public and private, that the soul, their own souls, are considered by them, and that they are taking that care for the salvation of them as becomes them, to wit, as the weight of the work, and the nature of salvation requireth? 

...the loss of the soul is the highest, the greatest loss; a loss that can never be repaired or made up. 

...How many are there that make the object of their love the most vile of men, the most base of things, because it flows from vile affections, and from the lusts of the flesh? God and Christ, good laws and good men, and their holy lives, they cannot abide, because their love wanteth a principle that should sanctify it in it's first motion, and that should steer it to a goodly object. 


If we lose the virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters, putting gain over national honor, and subordinating everything to mere ease of life, then we shall indeed reach a condition worse than that of the ancient civilizations in the years of their decay."

 "The Law of Civilization and Decay", The Forum (January 1897), reprinted in American Ideals (1926), vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., chapter 15, pp. 259–60.


“That which is called humanism, but what would be more correctly called irreligious anthropocentrism , cannot yield answers to the most essential questions of our life”
 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot the unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.” 
― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956


Once a man ceases to recognize the infinite value of the human soul... then all he can 
recognize is that man is something to be used. But then he will also have to go further and
recognize that some men can no longer be utilized, and he arrives at the concept that there are some lives that have no value at all. 

 Helmut Thielicke

Consider how much God hath done for us, how greatly he hath loved us, what he hath given us, when we were so unworthy, and when he could have no addition to his happiness by us. Consider that silver, and gold, and earthly crowns, were in his esteem but mean things to give us, and he hath therefore given us his own Son. Christ loved and pitied us, when we were poor, and he laid out himself to help, and even did shed his own blood for us without grudging. He did not think much to deny himself, and to be at great cost for us vile wretches, in order to make us rich, and to clothe us with kingly robes, when we were naked; to feast us at his own table with dainties infinitely costly, when we were starving; to advance us from the dunghill, and set us among princes, and make us to inherit the throne of his glory, and so to give us the enjoyment of the greatest wealth and plenty to all eternity... How unsuitable is it for us, who live only by kindness, to be unkind!
― Jonathan Edwards


WE are professors of Christianity, we pretend to be the followers of Jesus, and to make the gospel our rule. We have the Bible in our houses. Let us not behave ourselves in this particular, as if we had never see the Bible, as if we were ignorant of Christianity, and knew not what kind of religion it is. What will it signify to pretend to be Christians, and at the same time to live in the neglect of those rules of Christianity which are mainly insisted on in it?
― Jonathan Edwards


The soul of man is like a cipher, which is valued by that which is set before it. If it weary itself in the desire of earthly things, like the silk-worm, it finishes its work with its own destruction. But if on things above, when this earthly tabernacle is turned to ashes, there shall result a glorious phoenix for immortality.
― Richard Sibbes, A Breathing After God.

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