March 16, 2015

Trading Values

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever watched little kids with money? They have no concept of the different values of the coins, so they usually figure the more coins they have, the more money. Doesn't matter if you take their quarter and give them three pennies, they think they got the better end of the deal because now they have more than you do! At least one of my boys was amazed when they were little to be given money back after they paid for something, especially if they paid with a paper bill and received a few coins back. In their young minds it was like they got to keep whatever it was they bought and got more money to keep for later!

It's funny to see little kids with money, but it wouldn't be nearly so funny if they had the same understanding when they became adults. As we grow up we should learn the value of money. We learn the relative values of a lot of things, which helps us make decisions. We decide things like, "Which is worth more to me, the time it would take to accomplish this job, or the money it would cost to get someone else to do it for me?" We decide if we want to live in a house by the water, or if we want to be close enough to walk to the park, we decide if we want to stay at home with our kids or send them to daycare so we can contribute to the family's finances. All of these decisions are based, at least in part, on our concept of the value of the different options.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul had this to say about a trade the people of his day had made: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:23). I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message "They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand."

That doesn't sound like a wise trade, does it? It sounds rather like a small child being excited about the three pennies in his hand. We wouldn't make a foolish trade like that, would we?

Unfortunately, we would. In fact, we probably already have on some occasions. The people of Paul's day worshiped things rather than God. That attitude is alive and well today. Maybe we don't go out and buy "cheap figurines" and bring them home to altars we have made to house them, but we do sometimes offer our hearts to things other than God.

Sometimes it is a literal thing, or collection of things, anything that we seek after because it brings us feelings of worth or importance. Anything we value so much we would be devastated to lose it. 

Other times it isn't an actual thing, but a sport or hobby that takes so much of our time, energy and devotion that there is little or none left over for God. I have sometimes sat in church barely able to banish thoughts of quilting, so I know how easily a hobby can get in the way of worship.

Or perhaps it is a person. Someone who commands our complete attention, who makes us feel so whole and so special that we feel we don't need anything or anyone else at all. Sometimes spouses feel this way about each other, or parents feel this way about their children.

Or maybe it is books about Christian living. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Christian books. I read a lot of them, and I think they're valuable. I also think, though, that there are Christians who read those books, but never read the Bible for themselves. If that is the case, then they have traded away the actual words of God in exchange for a human's interpretation of His words. 

If we have given our worship to any of these things, then we too have "traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand."

So, have you been given three pennies in exchange for anything and mistakenly thought you got the better end of the deal? 

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