Monday, January 7, 2019

What is Value?

This Sunday we launched into a new sermon series titled "Mark my word." To me, it echoes the words of an old western gunfighter, possibly Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. 

When all of your value is measured by the weight and promise of your word, you make sure to say it slow and serious.

God made a promise to us. He spoke the word, and he told us to hold him to it. He would not go back on his word. It was a done deal. That promise was a rescue plan. The word he spoke was the name of his son Jesus, who gave his life so that we may be reunited with God. The power that resurrected Jesus is the power that lives within us, and that same word echoes within every beat of our hearts. Those echoes declare our promise of eternal life. It's mind-blowing to think it through, but it's also easy to miss in the hectic pace of our daily lives.

In the first week, we took a look at Paul's letter to the Philippians:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Philippians 3:7-16 

Tim Peace, Mount Carmel Christian Church's Teaching Minister (and my friend), concluded in his message that Paul's ONE WORD that served as his focal lens was "valued." This got me thinking...

What is "value"? How do we really measure this complex and abstract, yet simple and concrete concept?

Economically, the value of something is controlled by the principle of "Supply and Demand."
  • If supply is down and demand is down - value is dead - think about that pair of pea green bell polyester pants in your grandpa's closet. Both the producer and consumer suffer greatly.
  • If supply is up and demand is down - value is down, this is the dream scenario for a communistic economy. As history as revealed, this is very complicated to retain a sense of stability and ultimately fails to deliver a healthy quality of life. Producers suffer without competition, and their product becomes valueless. Consumers grow complacent with low standards and technological advancements cease.
  • If supply is down and demand is up - value is up, this is the sweet spot of a capitalistic economy. As long as checks and balances are followed so as not to create monopolies and price gouging, a healthy society can practice fair trade where the majority of the population can thrive. In the end, the producer thrives above the consumer.
  • If supply is up and demand is up - you have abundant life. This is the perfect scenario where both the producers and consumers are able to thrive. The only illusion of this reality is what is painted for us of the Kingdom of Heaven, where all of our needs will be met in abundance, yet no price will need to be paid.
These principles guide the attribution of value to material goods. As a society, we are prone to using these same principles to assess our own value or the values of others. Materialism is dangerous and destructive. If we conclude that our value comes from the collection of external forces, we are locked into a storm of variables that are outside of our control. Your value ends up under the control of the marketers and social influencers of a constantly changing social narrative.
The value of human life is summed up in the three big questions in life:

  • Who am I? (Identity)
  • What is my Purpose?
  • Where do I Belong?

In math terms: V = I + P + B

As a Christ follower, we are asked to answer all of these big worldview questions with the name of Jesus - God's One Word (John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

Our Identity is in Christ
Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Our Purpose is in Christ
Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

John 6:29 - Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Matthew 28:18-20 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Our Belonging is in Christ
Romans 12:4-5 - For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.


So taking this all into perspective, I found myself challenged on what my one word for 2019 would be. In the last two years, I chose the word "Listen". I wanted to grow in my ability to listen to others and listen inwardly to myself, my chaotic thoughts before they came spewing out of my mouth impulsively, and to the convictions of my faith made alive by the Holy Spirit.

For 2019, I have chosen the word "Response". It is two-fold. Having put the initial work towards growing my listening skills, I feel like I am ready to begin responding. This takes careful attention to details and discipline to not become reactive. Responding waits, it calculates, it counts the cost of what is to be said and promised and then it delivers it once in a single, slow, and purposeful way. I have the bad habit of saying the first thing that comes to my mind the second it hits my brain. The first time I listen to my thoughts is when they are already hanging out there in the open air. If I hear something that needs to be refined or reiterated, my impulsive action is to repeat myself with added clarity or emphasis, something that I previously found exciting, invigorating, and "deep". I later found out through the listening processes to those whom I hold close to me, that this process is exhausting, potentially arrogant, possibly boring, and often confusing, as I come across as trying to convince myself of what I am saying more than the person I am speaking to. By choosing to wait, weight the cost of my words, and then respond, my goal is to grow in both respects for myself and respect for others. I don't want to be the immature "know it all" or the person who has to fill the awkward silence. I want to be like Jesus and I want my words to be loaded with value.

I also want to grow in Responsibility. I want to take ownership of my faults, and by avoiding the temptation to react, I want to become action oriented with a precalculated plan to overcome my faults and to aid and equip others to also overcome my lack of communication and faulted actions. By not allowing myself to point blame at anyone else but myself, my goal is to grow in respect for myself and for others.

Love has never been an issue for me. I feel loved by a lot of people. I don't really struggle with loving myself and ultimately, it is very easy for me to love God and feel loved by God.

Respect is hard for me. I have never had a lot of respect for myself. I masked that weakness with a lot of confidence. I am a doer. I am very confident in my ability to do stuff. I am very confident in my ability to earn the affection of others by doing stuff for them. I thrive off of this exchange of service for affirmation. The difficulty is that confidence does not guarantee respect. I often find myself reflecting on times where I overextend myself as a people pleaser and I sell myself short. I lower my value (my time and talents) to make sure I am selected to serve in the role that I desire. I become aware that I have done this without any competition or need to have done so. I allow bitterness to fester deep within me when I continue to struggle to manage my resources and properly value my relationships that suffer because of my reduced presence, and I suffer from that ongoing spiral.

None of that can happen without a foundation of respect. Love is given freely as a gift. Respect is earned through sacrificial service. It's time to get to work.

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