In his book ‘Lady Windemere’s Fan’, Oscar Wilde had Lord Darlington quip that a cynic was ”a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. So often society in general and we as individuals place value on the most extraordinary of suppositions. “Value” itself can be understood in several ways, but recently I came across the following definition:
“Value; the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange”
In its crudest form, value is expressed in terms of money; how much would someone pay for it? I am often baffled in the world of Art at the astronomical amounts of money that can be exchanged for such subjective objects. When it comes to such things as technical equipment, or cars, for instance, depreciation ensures that the amount of money exchanged at the point of purchase bears very little resemblance to the amount of money the said equipment or car can be valued at the second it leaves the store or car showroom. It is as if the very air outside of such places of commerce changes the intrinsic nature of the object itself.
W e often have a similar approach to desiring “stuff”. The latest “must-haves” become the obsolete “who-cares” at an ever-increasingly fast pace.
But what of people? How do we value others, or ourselves? At social gatherings, we usually use the one-step-two-step introduction of “What’s your name?” followed by the immediate “What do you do?” This underlines our perception that an individual is only worth continuing of our conversation and time if we can value what they do, as opposed to who they are.
In the last few years, my life has morphed from one of intense activity to one where my priorities have had to change, through my own choice. A lot of my time is spent waiting, and there are times when I am actually quite bored. It is one thing to hear the words,” I wish I had more time”; it is quite another to have more time yet not feel productive within it. There are times when I feel I might have achieved something, but then feel guilty that it is not something more. Valuing yourself in a vacuum is not easy.
There are some days when it is straightforward to have a kind word for someone, to spread a little cheer and happiness, and to help a friend in need. But what about the times when you are not feeling brilliant emotionally, or are struggling physically? Does the value of such acts change in such circumstances?
How do you value encouraging someone else, particularly if you are doing it from a bruised spirit? How do you cost a smile, when it is the last thing you feel like doing? How do you pour yourself out for someone else when you are desperately trying not to wince from pain?
Matthew chapter 10 starts with Jesus calling his 12 disciples together to “give them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness”, (Matthew 10:1) ,which is powerful and aspirational. However the chapter concludes with the instruction that anyone who “gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 12:42). Note also that the opening chapter of the Sermon on the Mount considers that those who could have been compelled, under Roman Occupation, to carry any load from a Roman soldier for a total of one mile, should then offer to carry it for an additional mile (Matthew 5:41). Doing more than expected is an act of grace. Doing so without broadcasting it is an act of humility.
I suspect that heaven has a currency we know little of. Heaven views value so differently. The life of the greatest sinner is considered worth the greatest possible price. Those who on earth would be rejected and ostracized are welcomed with open arms. The accomplishments worthy of the greatest publicizaton in heaven will be the ones that have taken place in secret on earth.
When you consider yourself, and feel that where you are, or what you are doing, has little worth, just remember that God considered your worth to be so enormous that He was prepared to make a Divine Exchange; He gave His Only Son for you, and considered that the price was worth every moment.