What is Value?
It is a distinguishing hallmark of human beings to prioritize both people and things by the value that they have to us. This value can be downright cold and analytical, such as the price tag of a new car, or it can be warm and emotional, such as the companionship of a lifelong, treasured friend. We are wired to assess people and things in terms of “what’s in it for me?”, and the world that we find ourselves living in doesn’t do anything to lessen this tendency. Our world is intensely materialistic, and everything and everyone is increasingly analyzed through that lens; it is almost as if no other standard of value measurement even exists. If someone doesn’t have people and things of (material) value, that person almost automatically lacks stature in the eyes of the world; it is as if that person doesn’t amount to anything special or unique. Think of the desperation of such an arrangement: material value in terms of monetary wealth and possessions can (and does and will) come and go at a moment’s notice, and the value of reputations carefully cultivated over lifetimes can be shattered in the blink of an eye with one moment of ill-considered action, or with as little as a single false accusation. What we need is not a measurement of value that is so fickle as to depend on the fleeting fortunes of a world consumed with self-inflation, vain braggadocio, back-stabbing, endless ladder-climbing and hollow hopelessness, but a measurement of value that is constant, consistent, permeated with compassion and with love, filled to overflowing with knowledge, wisdom, discernment and understanding, and enduring.
Impossible, you say?
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Jesus Christ had a better way than the world, and He said as much:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
To better understand what Jesus Christ promises us, it is important to understand the true meaning of John 10:10 by looking at the surrounding verses:
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:1-16)
Jesus Christ portrays Himself as the Good Shepherd. He is the gentle and benevolent lover of our souls; He is our leader and protector, His every thought is for us and for our welfare, He fulfills every need that we have, and He is concerned for every last one of us because we belong to Him, because every last one of us was created in God’s image. Not only was Jesus Christ sent for the Jews, God’s special people: he was sent for all others as well… the ‘other sheep’. Note how all others mentioned are thieves and robbers, who came to the people of God by every other way except “the gate”… which was all the prophecies of the Old Testament scriptures testifying to Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In this equation, it is absolutely critical to understand that the value of people, as the world sees and counts the value of people, is not all important to Jesus Christ… and material things have no value at all. People have enduring value to Jesus Christ because they are precious and beautiful creations of God: God wants them to live abundantly, and God does not want any of them to be lost:
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)
Understand that if you see value only as the world sees value, there is no way that you will keep anything, because there will come a day when you will, whether you like it or not, leave everything in this world behind. There are many that will say, ‘OK, fine… so I die. But I will have lived well, and I will have possessed whatever I wanted.’ Read with trembling Jesus Christ’s testimony concerning the rich fool:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
The Apostle Paul talks about what we should be busy building in this world:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
If the foundation being built on is Jesus Christ, how then can anything that we value in this world, which is transient in nature, be built upon a foundation intended for eternity? Only the work that a man does that has value to God, by His standards, will be allowed to build upon the foundation of His Son… everything else will be subjected to fire in the Day of the Lord, and its quality will be tested by God’s standards. If we have a mind and a heart and a desire for God, and a thankfulness for, and a willingness to share, the salvation that He has sacrificed His only Son for, then our work glorifies the Father in the Son, and that work will survive the fire of a holy God, resulting in rewards to the builders at the Bema Seat of Jesus Christ. All other works that do not honor God and the things of God will be burned in the fire, and they will mean nothing; if their builders are believers, they will escape the flames of an eternal hell, but they will receive no rewards from Jesus Christ for what they have valued.
The Apostle Peter talks about the Day of the Lord, and what he says has emphasis for people who value God and the things of God, and for people who value the world and the things of the world:
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Peter 3:3-14)
What Peter talks about is a sobering truth… everything in this current world will be destroyed. There is no equivocation here. Whatever men so desperately desire and lust after, whatever men have built as a result of their arrogant pride and vanity, whatever they have slaved away lifetimes to obtain, whatever they have worshiped other than God… all of this will be lost when Jesus Christ returns in glory in blazing fire with the host of heaven and His holy ones. Will things of this world, which hold no value to God whatsoever, be all that you will have to present before Jesus Christ on the Day of the Lord, or will you have works that have glorified God, His Son our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit? Will you have worked for yourself, or will you have worked for the Kingdom of God? Will you have loved and embraced the world, and its value of a few years of temporal life, believing in not much more than yourself, or will you have loved and longed for God and the Son that He gave freely to a horrific death, believing in His power to deliver you from the sentence of eternal death to the value of a life with Him in eternal glory?
Jesus Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount are truly memorable:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:19-24)
Jesus Christ is eternal value. Embrace Him, and live in His liberating freedom as you have never lived. No earthly investments or prize possessions can have more value than the One whose hands and feet were nailed to the cross for you. Because of His suffering, you have been pardoned. Because of His blood, you have been washed clean. Because of His love, you have been called a child of God. Believe in Him as the one who died to redeem you from your sins, confess His Name before men, believe in your heart that God the Father Almighty raised Him from the dead, and you will live abundantly… not only in this world, but eternally in the world which is to come.