A dear friend of mine once said, “People today know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.” While it sounds a little bit cynical, for the most part it is true. My cell phone has an app that allows me to scan the barcodes on most items. I can then compare that price with others over the internet, without leaving the store. This helps me make decisions regarding price, but not value. There is no app that can tell me the value of an item. The value of something is very subjective, as it has to do with what an item means to me. How significant, useful and important an item is to me determines its value.
In the 1960’s and 70’s baby boomers rebelled against what they saw as the gross materialism of their parent’s generation. By the 1990’s these same boomers had become more materialistic than their parents ever dreamed of being. The so-called “Big Box” stores were born, and easy credit was created to help feed the greed. We developed a sort of unwritten promise that everyone could have almost anything they wanted, by purchasing it on credit. Beautiful homes, nice cars and lavish entertainment systems were within the reach of all.
My grandfather used to say, “If you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler.” But when the fiddler’s bill came due, many could not pay and the whole economy came crashing down. There are numerous reasons why the economy turned sour, and our purpose here is not to examine them all. The point is that almost an entire generation of people sought to possess “treasures on earth” only to have their treasures taken away in financial failures, job losses, foreclosures and repossessions. The treasures we sought were not abiding.
Right now, the hottest political issue is how to put the economy back like it was. I have no doubt that we will eventually get there, because as a people we want it so badly. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus’ words can speak so clearly to our situation some two thousand years later? (Actually, it is not all that amazing.) This generation is not greedier than any other that has come before, or will follow. We are not greedier than the people Jesus spoke to when he preached this “Sermon on the Mount.” We simply have had more opportunities and blessings.
Let us get back to talking about things of value again. How much would you value an eternal relationship with the omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty and merciful God, who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love? Such a relationship would require serving God by living a life that exemplifies service to others. Such service brings more joy that removing the packing styrofoam from a new televisions set; and it is more lasting. Such service brings more joy than being seen in the newest car, wearing the most stylish clothes or living in the nicest neighborhood. The joy that comes from serving God is great, and it lasts for an eternity.
While service is its’ own reward, Jesus tells us that we are also building up “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Does this mean that moths do not go to heaven?) We have to decide which treasures we are going to pursue. Jesus makes it clear that we cannot serve two masters. Material possessions are certainly a blessing, but if we love them too much they will possess us and become false gods. As Joshua said to the Israelites when they were about to take possession of the Promised Land, “Choose this day whom you will serve…”