Monday, January 26, 2009

Supremely valuable (Mat. 13)

"Opportunity cost" is a phrase you'll find in economics textbooks. The cost of doing item A is, you can't do item B. Given limited resources of time and capital, we make choices every day, every moment. Will I update my blog? Or play a computer game for five minutes? The book The Unheavenly City defined the poverty-mentality as "present-oriented." If you always do, at the moment, that which looks most appealing, at the moment, you are and will be poor. Or, as a wise sloganeer said, "If you do what you like you won't like what you do." Comoputer programmers coined the term "dogwash" to describe this phenomenon. The closer you get to the deadline of a major project, the more urgent other chores look. Yes, I need to debug this module, but the dog really needs washing ...

Laying claim to something supremely valuable requires the sacrifice of something, or perhaps everything, less valuable. Properly appreciating one's wife, for example, means forgoing every other woman on earth. Jesus described God's Kingdom in terms familiar to people whose poverty was relieved by hopes of good luck from time to time:
Göklerin Egemenliği, tarlada saklı bir defineye benzer. Bunu bulan adam yine saklamış. Sevinç içinde gitmiş, varını yoğunu satıp o tarlayı satın almış.
And, a few words:
  • tarlada -- field
  • defineye -- treasure
  • saklı -- to hide
  • var -- there is
  • yok -- there is not
  • varını yoğunu -- everything; lock, stock and barrel[1]
  • satın almış-- to buy
  • satın -- to sell
Discovering unexpected resources will test your character. A daughter who'd selected a worthless husband frequently called her parents for financial help. Then, one glad night, she called with good news, for a change. They'd won $5,000 on the lottery! To the aging parents, this looked like the opportunity to get caught up on bills, to get ahead. A few nights later, the daughter called again, begging for help. What happened to the jackpot? "Oh, we spent that on more lottery tickets."

In America, the vast majority of big winners at the lottery are worse off in five years than they were before they won. Expenses (and needy relatives) grow faster than unearned income.

In this case, the unexpected resource found by some, overlooked by others, is the Kingdom of Heaven. The opportunity to be in on what God is up to, to find a place in His ongoing program, a position on His team. Something of so much eternal and transcendent value that people have gone singing to their deaths in order to participate.

Well, as financial guru Peter Daniels once said, "The cost of a small dream is exactly the same as the cost of a big dream -- your whole life." May our merciful Creator grant us grace to dream big, live big, and spurn petty distractions in pursuit of worthy goals.


[1] This metaphor comes from America's historic love of firearms, and refers to parts of a rifle.

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