There is a story I don’t know if its apocryphal or not about a couple of teenagers who on April Fools Day went into a jewellery store and when the staff weren’t looking began to change the price tags around. They put the price tags from cheap items on expensive items and vice versa.
It sometimes feels to me like those pranksters have done the same in our contemporary culture. Our world seems to have mixed up values. People by the way they live their lives, order their priorities and spend their money and time value things that ultimately wont matter very much at all. Yet some things that seem to be of lasting value are not really counted as being of much importance.
I remember a Methodist minister in the US saying in a sermon “The business of life is to decide what price tags to put on which items” In other words one of the most fundamental things we can do in life is to decide what is of real value for us and to do that we need a value system that helps us understand what is worthless and what is worth everything.
That preacher’s words reminded me of two parables that Jesus told to make the same point
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13
“The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure” Jesus says, of incredible value. Talking about these two parables William Barclay writes that “But no matter whether discovery was the result of a moment or the result of a lifetime’s search the reaction was the same, everything had to be sold and sacrificed to gain the precious thing.” Jesus was teaching that no price is too high to pay to enter and live in the Kingdom of God, to follow the path of discipleship, to live life the Jesus way.
Yet when you look at how we as Christians spend our money, invest our time, order our priorities are they really any different from the way the rest of the people around us do? Do we really value different things because of the Kingdom of God from those who only know the kingdoms of this world?
Dallas Willard argued that the reason so many Christians don’t value the life of the Kingdom of God is because we really don’t believe Christ is smart.
“In our culture, and among Christians as well, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as “well-informed, “brilliant,” or “smart.” Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is taken as a mere icon, a wraith-like semblance of a man living on the margins of the “real life” where you and I must dwell. He is perhaps fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, but little more. But can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what Christian’s take him to be in other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all: the smartest person who ever lived, bringing us the best information on the most important subjects.”
What Willard is arguing is that we don’t value the Kingdom of God, we don’t see what ultimate value and importance things have in the light of the Kingdom of God because somewhere deep inside us we don’t believe that Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that the life of the kingdom of God is the best life, whatever the seeming sacrifices it involves. Jesus said that “I came to give life—life in all its fullness.” John 10:10 Jesus claim is that the most satisfying, enjoyable and meaningful life is the life of the Kingdom that he alone brings. If that is true, and it goes back to Willard’s point, do we believe Jesus knew what he was talking about, we should we value nothing more.
So let me ask you a question if someone was to look at your life, looked at how you spend your money, what you invest the most time in, what your priorities are would they conclude that you value the life of the Kingdom of God above everything else?