When I was in elementary school, I had a compulsive fear that our home was going to catch on fire. I often dreamed that I was standing outside our home watching it go up in flames. Why was I so concerned about it catching on fire? It wasn’t because I was concerned for our home or for my family. Instead, it was because I was concerned for all my toys. My toys, above everyone and everything else in my life, were the things which were most valuable to me.
Some people place value on a piece of property. Some people place value a specific home. Some people place value on a specific vehicle. Some people place value on their job title. Some people place value on their family. Some people, similar to the elementary school version of me, even place value on their toys. Who or what is most valuable to you? If you’re struggling to come up with an answer, ask yourself the question: Who or what would you be most terrified to lose? This is most likely the thing you value the most.
What Makes Something Valuable?
Although I’m going to get a little philosophical here, I think you might find value in this short discussion. What makes one piece of property valuable and another worthless? What makes one home valuable and another worthless? What makes an ounce of gold worth over a thousand dollars, but a large rock in my backyard worthless? The value of something is determined by the amount of something else a person is willing to give in exchange for it. For example, someone may be willing to exchange over a million dollars for a small plot of land on the beach in Fort Myers, Florida, but that same person would only be willing to exchange $20,000 for the same-size plot of land in Findlay, Ohio.
When I was growing up, beanie babies were a huge fad. People flocked to the stores in droves buying them up because they were told that beanie babies were going to be worth lots of money in the future. Although people are still willing to purchase the extremely rare beanie babies for a lot more money than was originally paid for them, the majority of them are not selling for as much today as was paid for them in the 1990s. They no longer carry the same value as they did twenty years ago. Similarly, I ask: How much value is found in a million dollar beach property when a hurricane hits and makes it part of the ocean? How much value is found in paper money when the government prints off paper money without gold reserves? How much value is found in a job title when the company goes out of business?
Does Our Work Really Matter?
I think most of us, especially millennials, want to do work that makes a difference in this world. We want to do work that matters; we want to do things that will have long-lasting value. For example, I don’t know anyone who would want to move a pile of dirt back and forth from one location to another day after day, even if he got paid good money for it. He wouldn’t see the value in moving a pile of dirt back and forth. But this same person may be interested in being on the project management team to construct a new building because that job would seem to add more value to society.
However, I have to ask: How much value is really added to society by being on the project management team to construct a new building? Even if you got a chance to work on a twenty-one story cancer research hospital at The Ohio State University, how much value is really found in spending four years of your life helping to construct that building? Many years from now when that building is falling apart and needs to be torn down, how much value will the building have? Buildings, which are inanimate objects, cannot last forever. Even the Egyptian pyramids, which were built thousands of years ago, yet still remain standing, will one day crumble to the ground.
How about if a cure for cancer was found within that building? Would it have long-lasting value at that point, even if it eventually got torn down? Initially, we would probably think that it would. But our conclusion here would be based on the assumption that our goal is to make it so that people never have to experience death. However, I’m convinced that whether people die of cancer or they die of some other cause, they will still one day die. Our medical advancements, which overall are allowing people to live longer, are still unable to keep people alive forever. Curing cancer, as great as it sounds, would only delay the inevitable.
Is There Something of Value Which Lasts Forever?
Some of you may decide to stop reading right here because you don’t like my seemingly pessimistic perspective on the way we ascribe value to worthless things. If you’re content living the way you are right now and don’t want to risk moving out of your comfort zone to find something potentially more valuable than what you currently possess, then feel free to stop reading. But if you have even a tiny hope that there’s something more out there that’s worth far more than everything you currently possess, then you may find value in hearing out the rest of what I have to say.
Personally, I am not content to continue accumulating possessions and doing work which has no eternal value. I’m no longer motivated to spend my relatively short life trying to find mere temporary happiness in accumulating millions of dollars-worth of wealth, becoming the CEO of a company, and developing lots of good character traits when I’ve discovered something, or rather someone, of so much value who can give me eternal happiness. And I want to share this “someone” with you because I want you to find him too.
When Jesus was a human being on earth, he told a parable which gave me the answer to my question:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44
At the heart of the kingdom of heaven is its King: Jesus. In this parable, Jesus was referring to himself as the treasure which is worth far more than everything else the man had accumulated. He is so valuable that the man who found him joyfully sold everything he had in order to get him. Here's what this might look like for us today.
Let’s say you are walking down the road and while looking out across a recently-plowed farm field, you see the sun reflecting off something shiny. In your curiosity, you decide to walk over to it to see what it is. When you pick it up, you realize that it is a small gold nugget worth a few thousand dollars. Let’s say you, like Mary Poppins, are able to pull a shovel out of your backpack and started digging to see if there is more. Within a few minutes, you discover that there is an extensive amount of gold buried beneath the top soil which is worth millions of dollars. What would you do? Would you steal it off of the farmer’s land? Hopefully not. Would you cover it up and walk away like you saw nothing? Again, hopefully not. Wouldn’t you go to the farmer and ask how much he wanted for his field? After giving you a price, wouldn’t you do everything you could, including selling all your “valuable” stuff, in order to purchase this field? As a matter of fact, wouldn’t you joyfully sell all your "valuable" stuff in order to buy the field? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that what you’re giving up is far less valuable than what you’re getting in return.
Jesus claimed to be the gold in the field that is not just worth millions of dollars, but is actually of infinite value. He can give us more than mere temporary happiness, but rather, he can give us eternal happiness! Who doesn’t want that? Personally, I see such great value in Jesus that I’ve, sometimes tangibly and sometimes intangibly, joyfully given up everything in which I formerly found value in order to have him. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night anxiously worrying about a fire destroying all my toys because I have someone of so much greater value who can never be taken away from me.
 Some people claim that Jesus wants to make us happy by giving us lots of wealth or by shielding us from painful experiences, but this is not what Jesus said. He said we may literally lose everything we have and that we will endure literal pain and suffering. The eternal happiness found in Jesus is not found in what he gives us, but in him. He is the greatest treasure rather than a means to obtain what we believe to be the greatest treasure.