Friday, February 25, 2011

Valuable or Valued

Commentary on the Sabbath School lesson dated 2.26.11

If your house were on fire and you could only rescue one thing, would it be the most valuable or the thing you valued the most?  “What?”  you say.  “Wouldn’t that be the same thing?” 
Uh, no!  Let me give you an example.  My family and I have an old vase that my father probably found at a garage sale or something.  It is really, really ugly!  In fact, we have actually titled it, “The Ugly Vase”.  A couple of years ago, we ran across a picture of another vase by the same artist.  It was valued at about $2000.00.  Now, if we could find someone who collected truly ugly vases! 
Valuable or not, if our house was burning, that is not the item we would rescue!  The Ugly Vase may be valuable, but we do not value it.
So, as people, which are we – valuable or valued? 
“The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body, which breaks down as follows: 65% Oxygen, 18% Car.bon, 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen, 1.5% Calcium, 1% Phosphorous,0.35% Potassium, 0.25% Sulfur, 0.15% Sodium, 0.15% Chlorine, 0.05% Magnesium, 0.0004% Iron, 0.00004% Iodine.
“Additionally, it was discovered that our bodies contain trace quantities of fluorine, silicon, manganese, zinc, copper, aluminum, and arsenic. Together, all of the above amounts to less than one dollar!
“Our most valuable asset is our skin, which the Japanese invested their time and money in measuring. The method the Imperial State Institute for Nutrition at Tokyo developed for measuring the amount of a person's skin is to take a naked person, and to apply a strong, thin paper to every surface of his body. After the paper dries, they carefully remove it, cut it into small pieces, and painstakingly total the person's measurements. Cut and dried, the average person is the proud owner of fourteen to eighteen square feet of skin, with the variables in this figure being height, weight, and breast size. Basing the skin's value on the selling price of cowhide, which is approximately $.25 per square foot, the value of an average person's skin is about $3.50.”[1]
“When we total the monetary value of the elements in our bodies and the value of the average person's skin, we arrive at a net worth of $4.50!”[2]
Okay, let me just say…eeww!  Now, how does it feel to realize that physically you’re worth less than $5.00?  Not valuable, certainly!
In spite of that, Jesus demonstrated quite vividly at the cross, that He values us above His own life.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:1-3
In everyday life, people talk about self-esteem to discuss our own calculation of our own value or worth.  About 20 or 30 years ago, some folks, somewhere decided that everybody needs to feel valuable and so they started all kinds of projects to develop people’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, the self-esteem wasn’t built on anything of value.  It was just self-esteem for self-esteem’s sake.  That’s usually not a good thing!  Check out this example of someone who esteemed herself more highly than she ought:
“Florence Foster Jenkins, a soprano, loved to sing—especially the great operatic classics. She inherited money when she was in her 50s, which funded her musical career. It wasn't long before her popularity skyrocketed, holding annual recitals at the Ritz-Carlton in New York throughout the 1930s and 40s. But as one writer puts it, ‘History agrees, with hands held over its ears, that she couldn't sing for sour apples. Jenkins' nickname, behind her back, was 'the Tone-Deaf Diva,' or 'The Terror of the High C's.’ The writer adds that if you ever hear one of her old recordings, all that you'll hear will be ‘squeaks, squawks, and barks.’
“But get this: she didn't ever grasp that she was bad! When people laughed and hooted as she sang, she took it to be delirious enthusiasm for great music. She thought they loved her and her music.
“In 1944, when she was 76-years-old, she did a benefit concert for the armed forces at Carnegie Hall in New York. Thousands lined the streets to get tickets, and the performance sold out in minutes. The recording of that concert is still the third most requested album from Carnegie Hall recordings, punctuated by a painful rendition of ‘Ave Maria.’”[3]
Our self-worth or self-esteem can’t come from anything we have or do; it has to come from the value that Jesus puts on us.  Check out what author Mark Galli has to say abou it.
“I look at myself some days and it's hard to imagine that I am a miserable offender and that there is no health in me [as the Book of Common Prayer suggests]. I go to church. I read my Bible. I help at the homeless shelter once a month. At home, I do the dishes, take out the trash, and don't beat my children. I don't even ground them. Most nights, when I close my day with prayer (see there, regular prayer—another jewel in my crown), I usually have nothing but peccadilloes to confess—a little sloth here, some impatience there.
“…Others still fight not false guilt but spiritual despair. They believe, rightly so, that true religion is about love and grace. But they've heard a rumor that the Lord is a holy God, and they suspect that they just may be miserable sinners. So they spend their days making sure these two combustible ideas never mix—something repentance tries to do—because if they ever did, such people fear that the resulting explosion would blow their faith to smithereens.
“Add to this the twentieth-century fascination with self-esteem and a society hooked on affirmation steroids, and it is no wonder that we have created a faith that can hardly pronounce the word.”[4]
Does your self-esteem come from within yourself or from your value to Jesus Christ?  Remember: 
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” 1 Peter 2:9
Jesus loves us not because we are worthy to be loved, but because we are His.

[3] Doug George, "Florence Foster Jenkins: She played Carnegie Hall and she really couldn't sing a note?" Chicago Tribune (11-20-09)
[4] Mark Galli, Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love an Untamable God (Baker, 2006), pp. 34-35

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