While employing a young man to help him clean out a rental house, the landlord discovered an old box of denim pants left in the basement. In disgust, he told the young helper to dispose of this accumulated junk. The young man asked if he could take the contents to someone he knew to see if it had any worth. He asked if he and the landlord could split any proceeds he might be able to gain from this “junk.” My friend agreed to the arrangement and commenced to clean while his helper took the box of jeans out of the house.
It was only a short time before the young man returned, and handed the landlord $300 as his half of the money he was able to receive from that box of jeans. My friend was stunned. He had no idea that someone would attach so much worth to that old box of denim jeans.
Recently, I was in a thrift store and overheard a customer telling the proprietor that her price on a crystal bowl and cups was far too little. The customer was a collector of crystal and knew the characteristics and cut of that line of crystal. She suggested the store should place a price many times higher than they were asking.
How is worth determined? Worth is determined by what someone knowledgeable is willing to give in exchange. A work of art is not worth millions of dollars, unless an art dealer or patron who knows the intrinsic value and history of that piece is willing pay that price. There are very few customers who are willing or able to pay $200,000 for a Bentley automobile, or a $90,000 wristwatch. But there are some people who place that kind of worth on those items and are willing to pay the price to possess them.
What do you think you are worth as a person? There is a lot of discussion about “self-worth,” the value an individual places on himself. That is important, because we act out from that inward assessment. The person who considers himself important struts through life; while the rejected soul hardly looks up. Hopes and expectations rest on the unspoken worth we (or others) think we have.
But the true worth of people should not be determined by what they think of themselves, but by the assessment of an independent expert who knows their history and potential — and is willing to invest in them. Like the old jeans in the basement or the crystal bowl in the thrift store, they may be in need of cleansing or even repair, but the expert knows the value and is willing to make the investment. They are worth more than they or others even know.
If you really want to know what you are worth, take a fresh look at the death of Jesus. Everyone around his crucifixion, even the thief beside him and the centurion heading the death detail, knew he was dying in the place of someone else (Luke 23:41, 47). The Creator, knowing the investment he placed in humanity, was offering up his innocent life to give people a chance to be restored to their original purpose. He didn’t help angels when they sinned, but He came to the rescue of people (Hebrews 2:16; 2 Peter 2:4). The crucifixion was God’s graphic illustration of human worth. In Christ, love allowed his outstretched arms to be nailed to the cross to tell everyone, “You are worth this much.”
Perhaps it would be more fitting for us to see people, not in the fickle terms of “self-worth,” but in the light of “Calvary-worth.” That’s the price God was willing to pay for us — even in our flawed and tarnished condition.
Don’t give up hope on yourself or others. Take a long look at the value God has placed on our lives. We are not just an old “box of jeans” to be thrown in the dump, or an old glass bowl with a cheap price at the thrift store. Give the divine appraiser a chance to show you the value of your life. You are worth far more than you can imagine.
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.