“What Are You Worth?”
Pastor Tom Millner
Luke 9:57-62; Mark 8:34-38
January 16, 2011
We’ve been inundated this week by the news around the tragedy in Arizona. Six people killed by what some have labeled a “loose cannon lunatic.” Fingers were pointed at opposing ideological views. Political pundits postulate profusely about the power of the opposition to change the tone of the rhetoric pouring forth. We ask; when will this stuff end? When will there be a world where there is peace and tolerance, acceptance, mutual support and caring for each other? We remember the Christmas song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by Jill and Sy Miller in 1955.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
We are family.
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.
The words in the last stanza are words we need to heed today and every day; “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Some Christians cry out for Christ to come and then all the carnage will cease. We believe that’s true, but He already has given us ample example of living out His Kingdom now! Some argue for better gun control while others argue for more access to arms for protection. Guns are only as good as the one who does or does not pull the trigger. It’s what’s behind the finger that creates the carnage, not the finger itself. As we’ve said before, the value of a quarter inch drill is not the drill but in the whole you get!
So, what’s a human life worth? We’re told that there are rather basic ingredients that make up the bulk of the human body. According to Answers.com; “The human body's basic ingredients are water, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, ions, salt, bases, acids, carbon-dioxide, and hydrogen peroxide. The human body is made up of 2/3's of water and has enough iron to make a 3 inch nail. The human body's total amount of water can fill a 10 gallon tank. The human body has three basic elements: Oxygen (61% or 43kg), carbon (23% or 16kg), and hydrogen (10% or 7kg). The human body contains 8 pints of blood. If you were to somehow remove the entire DNA from a single sell and lay it all down by the ends, it would be 6 feet in length.” All together, the estimated cost of these ingredients would be well under $100.00. So, it looks like there’s about $1,000 sitting in here this morning. Some folks paid more than that for their pet! My health insurance costs more than that each month. The birth of our Granddaughter cost about twenty times that amount. Isn’t it odd that it should cost so much to deliver so little net value? But wait a minute; my Granddaughter is priceless! There must be something more in the value of the individual than the sum of the ingredients!
The impoverished quake survivor in Haiti who lives from scrap to scrap, who lives without hope of gainful employment or means to acquire more, values self to a degree greater than the sum of his elemental parts. Humans living in proximity of one another will vie for rank, status, and a higher level of perceived worth. Some are comfortable letting others hold rank. Others are not satisfied until a higher rank is achieved. If all the elemental parts of any person adds up to only a nominal amount, what accounts for the true value of a human? Is one more valuable than another? Does the value have to do with what the person does with that bundle of elements sorted out in the process of gestation? Our human way of thinking tells us that it is what we do with what we have that brings the value to us. Does the short life of young Christina Greene who was killed in Arizona this week have more intrinsic value than the 88 year old Hazel Poteat who passed away in rural NC? How do you calculate your value? The answer lies not in looking at others or around you, but rather with looking up to see what is within you!
1. God thinks you are worth dying for! How worthy does one need to be in order to be valued so much that the God of the universe would actually give Himself as a sacrifice to human death and suffering, just to demonstrate His love? John 3 mentions the “whosoever” that believes and the “whosoever” that doesn’t. John does not state that the value of the one is greater than the other. He only references the consequences of the act of belief. We Bible thumping Christians sometimes look with disdain at the “non-believers” as those pesky losers who have just missed the boat. Some of us have experienced the condemnation from the “broader” church for being who we are in spite of “Who” we believe! In His death, Christ calls us into relationship with Him in a way that was not possible before His death. We have the freedom to choose to engage that relationship or not. Simply muttering the words “I believe” followed by acts that shout “I need to receive” is not the “believe” for the “whosoever” that John writes about. You see, Jesus believes you are worth enough to have laid down His life for you. His life was the greatest price He could pay; rendering the one for whom He died to be of highest value. I believe that on that great judgment day we’ll hear echoed the words of the great prophet, Ricky Ricardo shouted; “Lucy, you got some e’splainin to do.” Paul reminds us in his letter to the church at Ephesus that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”
2. Our worth is not measured by our system of accounting! We strive to gain by what we get. Power, influence, knowledge, possessions or holdings are measures we use to determine one’s worth. It seems we’ll go to any length to have others affirm our value. Some go to extreme lengths to protect their self-value by taking their lives (and death) into their own hands. We saw in today’s Gospel readings that human nature (as compared to God’s nature) hasn’t changed much in over 2000 years. We make declarations to follow Him, yet are deterred by this that, or the other that somehow distracts us from the path of relationship with Him. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to fit Him in. Bills to pay, people to see, places to go, and a to-do list to complete consume our space and time. At the end of the day, we so often long for more. He says “here I am knocking...” “Right, God; let me finish this, let me do that; then I will be with you." In Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 9 that we read today; “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” Notice it doesn’t say “worthy” of the Kingdom; it say’s “fit.” When we don’t serve our role in relationship with Him, it doesn’t mean we aren’t any longer worthy of His love and mercy, it means we aren’t fit (competent) to serve in His kingdom. Worth has been established by virtue of God’s act of love at the cross. God calls us to be fit in His service! We’ve heard it said that this life is the kindergarten for eternity. So many of us are holding ourselves back in preschool! Relationship opportunities surround us, but we are too busy shining the walls of self-perception to engage relationship with others. We cry “fill ME” Lord, “inspire ME” Lord, “grant ME” Lord… “Have my will be done” Lord. If God believes you are worth dying for don’t you think He’s worth living for? He’s given us everything we need…He’s assessed our net worth as priceless. He’s asked us to share the wealth he’s assessed. You see, that person next to you has a priceless value. The dude that ticked you off the last time also has a priceless value. The guy who pulled the trigger this week and mercilessly killed six priceless recipients of God’s love is himself priceless before God. When will we learn that what God desires for us is not pretentious piety, but pure and unadulterated surrender of self in relationship? How do we have that with him? Matthew 25:45 states “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” When we know we’re in relationship with Him is when we see the evidence in relation to others. That’s priceless!
3. The fullness of your worth expresses itself one act at a time! When Jesus prayed in the garden before His arrest, He prayed not for a crown of glory but for the will of His Father to be done. The value of that act is available to every human who has and will ever live since then. Without the act, the value would not have been realized. Abraham’s act of hospitality to three strangers spawned a bond with God that produced a people of faith. The act of perseverance by Moses led to the exodus of the Jews from their slavery in Egypt. The bull’s eye aim of the young David spawned the dawn of a great kingdom. The surrender of the family fishing business to follow an itinerant preacher spawned the Rock upon which a great church was built. The act of nailing the tenants of faith to a church in Germany led to a mighty reformation. The belief that God values the quality of one’s character over the color of one’s skin led to steps away from open bigotry. What are these lives worth? Their worth is immeasurable! The value of each lives on through the impact on all.
In case you haven’t noticed, God’s call to us is not to just an exclusive with Him. It’s a bond with you, Him, and me. You can’t have one without the other. When you marry that partner, you get the family as well! The command He gives is a love response from Him: to love Him above all else (including self) and to love one another as if the other were as valuable as self. Mark 8:34-38 “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Want to know what you’re worth?
Three nails + one cross + surrender ÷ mankind = priceless!