(This was originally published last Friday at sbcIMPACT)
My mom and I were shopping at K-Mart back in my much younger days. I was not easy to shop for – I was both very tall and unnaturally thin (trust me, it used to be true). Finding pants my size was not easy. That waist just doesn’t come in that length very often. But that day we found a pair, and at a price that amazed us. We snapped them up and headed to the cashier.
The younger whippersnappers who read this may not remember what price tags looked like in the 1970’s. There were no computer printouts with bar codes. There was a price on a sticky piece of paper affixed to the item you were going to purchase. And there was a problem with this one.
We went to the register and the lady looked at the price tag, at the pants, and then at us with suspicion. “This is not the right price tag,” she said. Someone switched the price tag. She thought it was us, but someone had taken a price tag off something cheap and put it on these pants.
I think that is exactly what has happened in this world. We have switched life’s price tags. We have taken the price tags off the valuable things and put them on cheap, worthless items. And we have taken the price tags off the cheap, worthless things and put them on the things of greatest value.
What is it that people value today? Money. Fame. Fun. Pleasure. Most Americans live under the conviction that, in fact, we can buy happiness. We exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of money and the things that money buys. Fame has become an end in itself. There are actually young people who idolize Paris Hilton. Why? She is famous. What did she do to get famous? NOTHING. She is famous for being famous. I was watching American Idol recently and was horrified as one girl (who had an awful voice) was going on and on about how important it was for America to see her. She just wanted to be famous. And we spend a massive amount of time watching movies, playing video games, and engaging in other entertainment pursuits. We listen to music that undermines our values and watch comedians blaspheme the things we believe. “But, Dave, he is SO funny.”
We have placed a high price tag on some things that just don’t matter. Let me ask you this. If money and fame were what really mattered in life, wouldn’t Hollywood types be the happiest folks around? Why would rehab be one of the growth industries in Southern California? Just this week, we witnessed another episode in the sad saga of Lindsay Lohan. She had everything that America’s youth seek, and I think it is safe to say that she is not a role model for anyone.
I was reading Sports Illustrated’s 2010 end-of-year issue this morning. It started me thinking about this entire subject. They had pages of memorials to great athletes and sports figures who had died in 2010. Many seemed to have lived long and happy lives. But I was struck at how many of these athletes, these men and women who had achieved enough fame to have their passings remembered in Sports Illustrated, lost their lives to suicide, violence and the effects of drug abuse.
I know that suicide happens in every segment of society, but I cannot believe that the proportions in Sports Illustrated are not way out of whack. Athlete after athlete who had achieved the dream descended to the point at which they brought an end to their own life.
Evidently, this is not a new problem. Almost 3000 years ago, Solomon addressed his sons about their priorities. He wanted them to remember that there were some higher price tags out there than just money and fame. In Proverbs 3:13-15, Solomon said,
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices in life that bring blessing, instead of the bad choices that bring dire consequences that rob life of joy. Life is choices and those choices have consequences. The things that matter most in life come as a result of God’s grace and the wise choices he enables us to make. Wisdom. Discernment. Prudence. The Fear of the Lord. Humility. These character qualities that are often disdained in our culture actually carry a much higher price tag than the things that we value.
Unfortunately, too often the church adopts the values of the culture and accepts the switched price tags. We baptize cultural values and make them our own. A lot of churches, pastors and people use Christ and “faith” as a way of getting the wealth, fame and fun that is valued in our culture at large.
Our job is to put the right price tags back on the right things, not to seek to be a better way of achieving the wrong things. We are about treasures in heaven and not about sanctifying mammon. We are about seeking the glory of God, not using our faith as a means of achieving our own glory. God created a world of pleasure, but we are to seek first the pleasure of God’s presence and power and not waste our lives in the pursuits of the “pleasures of sin”, even for a season.
One of our keys jobs as Christians and as the Church is to put the price tags back in the right place. We need to remind people with our lives and testimonies that we are seeking first the kingdom and its righteousness, that we believe that God’s wisdom really is worth more than silver or gold, that we care more about the glory of God than our own. By consistently proclaiming and living out the Word of God, we can restore the sense of value that God intended for his people to have.
Someone has switched the price tags. Let’s change them back!