Measuring What It’s Worth by What We Give in Exchange

How much I value something can be measured by what I’ll give up for it. This is a basic truism behind all financial transactions. I value a burger from Flat Branch more than I do from McDonald’s and accordingly will pay more.

But it encompasses more than just money: if some famous chef from the Food Network were coming to Columbia, and for $25 I could spend a Saturday learning from him how to cook, I might not find the money a big deal, but giving up a weekend day would be. I wouldn’t value the learning opportunity enough to give up my Saturday for it.

This dynamic of knowing how much we value something by what we’ll give up for it can be applied to our faith—we can measure how much we value Christ by what we’ll give up for him. (This is just one lens; we need to keep the heart in view). Will I give up sleep in the morning to get up to read my Bible and pray? Will I give up golf or brunch on a Sunday morning to worship?

It’s not sacrifice just for sacrifice’s sake. It’s about giving up something specifically in exchange for how it enables me to follow Christ. What’s more valuable to me? To put it another way, you can assess what I treasure by where I put my money, my time, and my energy.

All this came home to me again this week through a blog post by one of my former students. Chris teaches in Africa at the Uganda Martyrs Seminary. He describes the ministry life of one of his students who just graduated in December:

  • At the age of 25 I think he is, he is minister of a parish with 16 churches. That means him and 15 lay-readers working underneath him. He is responsible for all of them.
  • The main church (‘mother church’) has 200 people in it. An average weekly collection is approximately £4. About 40% of that goes to the diocese and archdeaconery. The rest is for his wages, and any church projects to run. His congregation is poor. He is poor.
  • The main church, the most well-constructed one of the lot, has no roof. The congregation crowd to one side in the shade and move as the sun moves.
  • His house has an ant-hill that has built up inside it. His bed after just a few weeks is getting devoured by the ants. And he has a snake problem.
  • His outside ‘long-drop’ toilet is a few planks of wood over a deep pit. It’s so old and so unstable he has tied a rope to a nearby tree and holds onto that whilst doing his business in case the floor gives way and he plummets in. People regularly die in Uganda that way.
  • The house has no electricity, and it’s a 1.5km walk to collect water.
  • Many of the Christians in the church are involved in spirit-worship and traditional African religion.
  • Each church can be kilometres apart, but he has no means of transport apart form his own two feet. And it can get hot, very hot there.

My context differs—almost assuredly yours does too—but it does encourage me to weigh my heart. How much am I treasuring Christ? What is he worth to me? Would I joyfully put myself in that kind of situation if it enabled me to minister to people and follow Christ? What am I giving up in exchange for knowing him and making him known?

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