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WHAT IS YOUR PRICE?

 



WHAT IYOUR PRICE?

attending a game show wasn’t your idea of a vacation activity, but your kids wanted to go, so you gave in. Now that you’re here, you are beginning to enjoy it. The studio frenzy is contagious. The music is upbeat. The stage is colorful. And the stakes are high.

 

“Higher than they’ve ever been!” The show host brags. “Welcome to What Is Your Price?” You’re just about to ask your spouse if that is his real hair when he announces the pot: “Ten million dollars!”

The audience needs no prompting; they explode with applause.

 

“It’s the richest game in history,” the host beams. “Someone today will walk out of here with a check for ten million!” “Won’t be me,” you chuckle to your oldest child. “I’ve never had any luck at luck.”

 

“Shhhh,” she whispers, pointing to the stage. “They’re about to draw the name.”

Guess whose name they call. In the instant it takes to call it, you go from spectator to player. Your kids shriek, your spouse screams, and a thousand eyes watch the pretty girl take your hand and walk you to the stage.

 

“Open the curtains!” the host commands. You turn and watch as the curtains part and you gasp at the sight. A bright red wheelbarrow full of money—overflowing with money. The same girl who walked you to the stage now pushes the wheelbarrow in your direction, parking it in front of you.

“Ever seen ten million dollars?” asks the pearly toothed host.

 

“Not in a while,” you answer. The audience laughs like you were a stand-up comic.

“Dig your hands in it,” he invites. “Go ahead, dive in.”

You look at your family. One child is drooling, one is praying, and your mate is giving you two thumbs up. How can you refuse? You burrow in up to your shoulders and rise up, clutching a chestful of one-hundred-dollar bills.

 

“It can be yours. It can be all yours. The choice is up to you. The only question you have to answer is, ‘What is your price?’”

Applause rings again, the band plays, and you swallow hard. Behind you a second curtain opens, revealing a large placard. “What are you willing to give?” is written on the


top. The host explains the rules. “All you have to do is agree to one condition and you will receive the money.” “Ten million dollars!” you whisper to yourself.

Not one million or two, but ten million. No small sum. Nice nest egg. Ten million bucks would go a long way, right? Tuition paid off. Retirement guaranteed. Would open a few doors on a few cars or a new house (or several).

You could be quite the benefactor with such a sum. Help a few orphanages. Feed a few nations. Build some church buildings. Suddenly you understand: this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Take your pick. Just choose one option and the money is yours.”

A deep voice from another microphone begins reading the list.

“Put your children up for adoption.”

“Become a prostitute for a week.”

“Give up your American citizenship.”

“Abandon your church.”

“Abandon your family.”

“Kill a stranger.”

“Have a sex-change operation.”

“Leave your spouse.”

“Change your race.”

“That’s the list,” the host proclaims. “Now make your choice.”

The theme music begins, the audience is quiet, and your pulse is racing. You have a choice to make. No one can help you. You are on the stage. The decision is yours. No one can tell you what to pick.

But there is one thing I can tell you. I can tell you what others would do. Your neighbors have given their answers. In a national survey that asked the same question, many said what they would do. Seven percent of those who answered would murder for the money. Six percent would change their race. Four percent would change their sex.1

If money is the gauge of the heart, then this study revealed that money is on the heart of most Americans. In exchange for ten million dollars:

25 percent would abandon their family.

25 percent would abandon their church.

23 percent would become a prostitute for a week.

16 percent would give up their American citizenship. 16 percent would leave their spouse.

13 percent would put their children up for adoption.2

Even more revealing than what Americans would do for ten million dollars is that most would do something. Twothirds of those polled would agree to at least one—some to several—of the options. The majority, in other words, would not leave the stage empty-handed. They would pay the price to own the wheelbarrow.

What would you do? Or better, what are you doing?

“Get real, Max,” you are saying. “I’ve never had a shot at ten million.”

Perhaps not, but you’ve had a chance to make a thousand or a hundred or ten. The amount may not have been the same, but the choices were. Which makes the question even more disturbing. Some are willing to give up their family, faith, or morals for far less than ten million dollars.

Jesus had a word for that: greed.

Jesus also had a definition for greed. He called it the practice of measuring life by possessions.3

Greed equates a person’s worth with a person’s purse.

1.       You got a lot = you are a lot.

2.       You got a little = you are little.

The consequence of such a philosophy is predictable. If you are the sum of what you own, then by all means own it all. No price is too high. No payment is too much.

Now, very few would be guilty of blatant greed. Jesus knew that. That’s why he cautioned against “all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). Greed wears many faces.

When we lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I went to visit a member of our church. He had been a strong leader in the congregation, but for several Sundays we didn’t see or hear from him.

 

Friends told me he had inherited some money and was building a house. I found him at the construction site. He’d inherited three hundred dollars. With the money, he’d purchased a tiny lot adjacent to a polluted swamp. The plot of land was the size of a garage. On it he was, by hand, constructing a one-room house.

 

He gave me a tour of the project—it took about twenty seconds.

We sat in front and talked. I told him we’d missed him, that the church needed him back. He grew quiet and turned and looked at his house. When he turned again his eyes were moist.

“You’re right, Max,” he confessed. “I guess I just got too greedy.”

Greedy? I wanted to say. You’re building a hut in a swamp and you call it greed? But I didn’t say anything because he was right. Greed is relative. Greed is not defined by what something costs; it is measured by what it costs you.

 

If anything costs you your faith or your family, the price is too high.

Such is the point Jesus makes in the parable of the portfolio. Seems a fellow made a windfall profit off an investment. The land produced a bumper crop. He found himself with excess cash and an enviable question: “What will I do with my earnings?”

Doesn’t take him long to decide. He will save them. He will find a way to store them so he can live the good life. His plan? Accumulate. His aim? Wine, dine, shine, and recline. Move to the Sunbelt, play golf, kick back, and relax.

Suddenly, the man dies and another voice is heard. The voice of God. God has nothing kind to say to the man. His initial words are “Foolish man!”

On earth the man was respected. He is honored with a nice funeral and a mahogany casket. Gray flannels fill the auditorium with admiration for the canny businessman. But on the front pew is a family already starting to bicker over their dad’s estate. “Foolish man!” God declares. “So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20).

The man spent his life building a house of cards. He never saw the storm. And now, the wind has blown.

The storm wasn’t the only thing he didn’t see.

 

He never saw God. Note his first words after the capital gain. “What will I do?” (v. 17). He went to the wrong place and asked the wrong question. What if he’d gone to God and asked, “What would you have me to do?”

The man’s sin was not that he planned for the future. His sin was that his plans did not include God.

Imagine if someone treated you like this. Let’s say you bring over a housesitter to care for your home over a weekend. You leave her with keys, money, and instructions. And you leave to enjoy your trip.

When you return, you find your house has been painted purple. The locks have been changed, so you ring the doorbell and the housesitter answers. Before you can say anything, she escorts you in, proclaiming, “Look how I decorated my house!”

 

The fireplace has been replaced with an indoor waterfall. Carpet has been replaced with pink tile, and portraits of Elvis on black velvet line the walls.

“This isn’t your house!” you proclaim. “It’s mine.”

“Those aren’t your possessions,” God reminds us. “They are mine.”

“The Lord owns the world and everything in it—the heavens, even the highest heavens, are his” (Deut. 10:14).

God’s foremost rule of finance is: we own nothing. We are managers, not owners. Stewards, not landlords. Maintenance people, not proprietors. Our money is not ours; it is his.

This man, however, gave no thought to that. Please note that Jesus didn’t criticize this man’s affluence. He criticized his arrogance. The rich man’s words testify to his priority.

This is what I will do:

I will tear down . . .

I will store . . .

Then I can say to myself, “I have enough good things.” (Luke 12:18–19)

A schoolboy was once asked to define the parts of speech I and mine. He answered, “aggressive pronouns.” This rich man was aggressively self-centered. His world was fenced in by himself. He was blind. He didn’t see God. He didn’t see others. He saw only self.

“Foolish man,” God told him. “Tonight your life will be taken from you” (v. 20).

Strange, isn’t it, that this man had enough sense to acquire wealth but not enough to get ready for eternity? Stranger still, that we make the same mistake. I mean, it’s not as if God kept the future a secret. One glance at a cemetery should remind us; everyone dies. One visit to a funeral should convince us; we don’t take anything with us.

Hearses pull no U-Hauls.

Dead men push no ten-million-dollar wheelbarrows.

The game show was pretend, but the facts are real. You are on a stage. You have been given a prize. The stakes are high. Very high.

What is your price?

 


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