THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS ARE OFTEN FREE
Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63, Luke 13:1-5
March 15, 1998 by Tad Mitsui
We often consider cash as a measure for value; and this is a serious spiritual problem. Often we don”t know what real value means, and treat ourselves and each other poorly. Lord Beaverbrook, one of the richest men Canada has ever produced, was quoted as saying, "Everybody has a price… I would even go to hell if the price is right." A comedian, Jackie Mason, had a similar line about patriotism. It goes something like this: "I love America. I would give up anything for America. I would give up even my wife for America. But money? No! That”s different." We too often measure the value of things by looking at the price tags, and forget what is truly valuable does not cost money. This is why we call what is truly preciously "priceless", because we can not buy it.
Lent is the season to repent. The colour purple in the church is the symbol of repentance. To repent means not just to say sorry for what we did wrong, but also to change our mind and make a u-turn. Today”s scriptures suggest that we change our attitude and to start seeing the real value in what is freely available but priceless. Then, we will see what is truly important in our life is spiritual and free. We will understand the meaning of Isaiah”s words, "Those who thirst, come to the water. Those who are hungry, come to the food without money. Why spend money for things that are worthless. Why labour for things that do not satisfy. Come to me, says God."
Think about what you miss when you are way from home for a period. You miss people and things you have at home for free. You miss the baby who keeps you awake at night, and the kids who never stop to demand your attention and your time. You miss your wife who knows you a little bit too well. You miss your home and those messy rooms where you know exactly where things are. You feel comfortable when you are surrounded by those who love you and with things that are familiar to you. I attended many international meetings held in luxury hotels, with swimming pools, and good food, all paid for by somebody else. But always within a few days, I became homesick missing my family, my messy house and the home cooked meals.
They are the most important items in your life. And they don”t have any price tags attached to them. Also those freely available items in our lives are essential. Our life will be seriously in danger, if we do not know the affection and care that people give us freely in our homes and our communities. I was listening to the report on the sexual exploitation of children last week. Most of those children who end up on the streets, come from dysfunctional homes where they did not receive affection nor attention. Instead, they often received abuse and rejection, and their emotional growth had stopped. They are like a baby crying out for any kind of attention, even though they have the bodies of adolescents. We do not survive very long physically, if we do not receive affection.
A lack of emotional care affects us not only spiritually but physically; even animals can not survive very long without daily dose of attention. There was a well known experiment with mice. Two groups of mice lived under exactly the same conditions; same food, same environment, etc. But each mouse in one group received a head to toe rub everyday, and the others didn”t. The effects were quite definite. Those who received daily attention grew fatter and healthy looking, and lived longer. The others, though they were just as well fed and well provided for physically as the other group, but without daily rub they were less healthy and died earlier. A constant assurance of love is as essential to us as food and water.
It is well known fact that if we are emotionally secure in the knowledge that we are accepted and loved, we can stand up to difficult conditions longer than those who feel insecure. Misfortunes and tragedies hit all of us from time to time. Those who feel secure can take them as challenges, fight back, and survive them. But those who feel alone in the world because of experiences of rejection in the past, take such difficulty as a punishment. They end up bitter and often resort to self-destructive behaviours. What love gives does not cost any money. But it is far more valuable and long lasting than what money can buy.
Money represents only a part of us. Giving money is an manageable sacrifice. We can even pretend to be a good person by giving up a certain amount of money we can afford to throw away. We will look good, even though we are mean spirited inside. But in reality we can not get away with it. We must realize that the most important things in our lives, although they have no monetary value, are also very costly. It is because love demands a total commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. It is just like there is no such thing as half pregnant; a commitment is always total. Therefore you can not buy love with money. Money can actually makes it cheap, and there is no such thing as cheap love. Love is always priceless. If you can buy it, it is not love; it is travesty of love, like prostitution. Love is priceless. It is so costly that it takes only a total commitment, but not in terms of money.
Loving God is a total commitment. We love God by loving our neighbours. To love God and to love people are one and the same thing. It is just like the Apostle John said in his letters, "If someone says that he loves God and does not love people, he is a liar." There are many ways to love. You can love people with money, too, if it is a genuine expression of what is inside of you. But if there is no love inside, money can be an indication of deceit.
When I was working in Africa, sometimes I saw people stuffing the coffins of their deceased family members with the receipts for the giving to the church. I appreciated their desperate attempts to make sure that their loved ones went to heaven. But money could not buy entry into heaven. Salvation is given freely. Christ sacrificed his life on the cross without demanding any payment from us. He did that because he loved us. So it was free; there was no precondition nor advance payment required. All we need to do is to accept his love and love him in return. Just like Isaiah suggested, "Come and drink the water and eat the food without money." Jesus is inviting us to come to a banquet. His table is always overloaded, the cups run over, the flour and oil never diminish, milk and honey are plentiful. You don”t need to pay, as his banquet is always free. What is it required of us, then? Nothing. Just love him. Then we will know how to love our neighbours. It is a total commitment to love. But it is a happiest commitment, because love is a great joy as we all know.