Monday, May 30, 2005

How Much Will You Take For It?

I confess, I don't care for garage sales. I often wonder, "If it isn't good enough to live in that house, why do we think it is good enough for ours?" Fact is, I don't like any place where you have to barter or play pricing games. They are too much like life. I'll explain.

It happens to everyone, and this particular night it was my son's turn. The wind caught his door and it thumped into the car door next to him. I was blissfully unaware of this until we got halfway from the car to the restaurant and he said, "Dad, I'm not sure, but I might have dented that car." We walked back and checked the door. Yes, there were two dents in it. We opened ours. Yes, it matched one of the dents. The smaller dent was probably ours. I pulled out one of my business cards and wrote on the back of it that the owner should call us and we would take responsibility for fixing the door, no questions asked. Duncan wondered if we should have to fix the whole door when we were only responsible for the smallest dent. I told him that it was our job to have it fixed. They could decide whether or not to mistreat us. That was their decision. Our decision was to own up to what had happened.

We could have walked away, but think for a second. If I traded my living, breathing Christianity for a few hundred dollars it would have revealed that everything I preach and teach is a fraud. I couldn't sell my faith that cheaply.

And my son? I showed him no anger. He kept saying he was sorry until I held up my hand to stop him. "Duncan," I said, "you are a good son and a good man. You and I have a great relationship. This kind of accident can happen to anyone. Truth be told, it DOES happen to everybody some time or another. There is no way I am trading my relationship with you for five minutes of yelling and three or four days of making your life miserable. It isn't worth it. Let's go eat."

Why sell your son for a lot of yelling and feeling all self-righteous? Why sell your Christianity for a lousy wad of tens? It is still far too easy to sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and to sell your family for less.

It is far too easy to sell our unity in Christ for a song preference or a perferred interpretation of a beloved Scripture. It is far too easy to sell our relationship with our loving wives for a power play in an argument or for a half hour of lust fulfilled. It is far too easy to sell our call for evangelism, social justice, peacemaking for another raise, another filled line on our schedule, another entry in the Palm Pilot or ... a pair of shoes. Amos warns us twice (2:6; 8:6) against selling the needy so cheaply.

When we still lived in Scotland we had visitors from time to time. One time a couple came who said they wanted to come and work in Scotland with us to help us build the church. I didn't know him well but I was happy to show him around. He took lots of photos and wanted to have them developed so I took him to a chemist's and we waited a day (this was back in the 80's, children). When we came back for them and he was told by the little girl how much they cost he exploded. It was about twice what he paid for that service back home in the US. He was abusive and insistent about the evil being perpetuated on him. It got so bad that I got hold of his belt (he was a lot bigger than I) and pulled him away from the counter and out of the shop. "Congratulations," I told him. "You just sold that girl's soul for twelve pounds. I will never be able to talk to her about Jesus because she is going to associate me with the huge, red faced, angry American who berated and belittled her over something she could not control or change. I hope you feel better, but she doesn't, I don't, and Jesus doesn't since He now has to find someone else to reach her with the gospel of peace."

In case you are wondering, twelve pounds was about twenty dollars back then, but that isn't the point, is it? The point is that we have a tendency to sell for pennies those things most valuable: our character, relationships, reputations, influence.

Speaking of which... how much do you want for it?


At 5/31/2005 09:10:00 AM , Blogger Dan Gill said...

Wow. This hits me where I live, Patrick. Too often I've shouted at my kids, or chastized them for things that just aren't worth the time and breath it takes to be angry. I'm better about it today than I ever have been, but there is more to do.

Thank you for sharing this.

At 5/31/2005 09:14:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Now that is some powerful post! I wish I could have read this BEFORE I raised my two boys! :) Everybody needs this message, and I hope to let as many people as I can know about it.

PLEASE....PLEASE keep posting meat like this, Patrick!

Your brother,

At 5/31/2005 12:55:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

All I can say is that you have convicted me and I repent in my heart right now for all of those times I have sold out cheaply and ask the Lord to forgive me and help me do better next time I am tempted.

At 5/31/2005 07:50:00 PM , Blogger Jared Cramer said...

Thanks Patrick. I quoted this post on my blog today.

At 6/01/2005 09:55:00 PM , Blogger JP said...

whew!!! Great post,you have me convicted brother. Guilty I am. Patrick, you need come back to the Pitman church in New Jersey

At 6/02/2005 09:07:00 AM , Blogger Raymond Fleming said...


Great post.

It looks like we live about 90 miles from each other. I'm living and working near Lansing.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

(aka C. S. Bunyan)

At 6/02/2005 06:26:00 PM , Blogger Kari said...

But isn't it a little extreme to say that any form of discipline short of just simply learning and moving on is throwing away a relationship? I agree with what you're saying about winning the battle but losing the soul. However, eliminating punishment or scolding isn't always going to get the lesson across. (Note: I'm not disagreeing with the story about the car.) I'm not exactly a grown up, and I'm not ready to pretend to be one yet, but I think that the relationship between parent and child is created through those times where you get yelled at for using play-doh on the carpet, or get a spanking for running into the street. Because along with those times, there are far many more instances where there are zoos, family dinners, and family camping trips.
I think that knowing we shouldn't argue and fight and trade our Christianity isn't going to make us stop doing it. Because making mistakes is inevitable. But I think it's important that we have to remember that God is on our side, and when we own up to our actions he will forgive us and keep showing his love. I think it's easier for him to to because he's God. And we're not.

At 6/04/2005 07:26:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

Your story reminds me of one of the most powerful lessons learned from my father. He owned a shoe store where all of us (6) kids worked. I clearly remember walking into his office as he was doing bookwork. I asked him something to the effect of "wouldn't it be really easy for a person to write in the wrong numbers on purpose?"

He looked up from his books and said that it would, indeed, be easy to cheat. But then added, "But a Christian never cheats. Never" and went back to his books.

I was profoundly impacted and his words have come back to me many times in my own years as a business-woman. There've been opportunities to cheat, "but a Christian never cheat. Never" still rings true in my heart.

At 9/03/2005 11:07:00 AM , Blogger Lovell's Lookout said...

Patrick- Great BLOG. Just stumbled accross it from another one. I listend to your teaching from the Richland Hills mens retreat- it was encouraging.

Great insight on the cost of decisions. It convicted me of the ever greater need to be "led by the Spirit" in every situation.

I would like to add that when we do blow it-- we need to let God have the last word. Grace.
Concerning the loss of witness when we "loose it" and show ourselves rather than Christ. I have found that humbling myself and coming back to that person, asking for forgiveness and admiting fault, does much to restore witness and the validity of Christianity being about grace and second chances. The thing that is most repulsive to God in scripture seems to tie in with one of the greatest repulsions that non-believers have with Christians: the inability to be humble and admit our need for grace.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Lord, keep me humble.
Have a Great Day!!!


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