Stuart's Thought for the Day Video

Pause for Thought

I caught a few minutes of an antiques programme earlier on. I‘m rarely around to watch them but have long been fascinated by the Antiques Roadshow and Flog It, as much as anything to watch people’s faces when the value of their ‘treasure’ is revealed. An artwork unattractive to me can fetch thousands of pounds, while a nice piece of china or furniture stays down in the hundreds. Ian once took an ‘artisan-made’ walking stick made from a tree branch and cleverly carved to the Roadshow (it still lives in my study), but despite an expert’s approval its value was never going to keep us going for more than a couple of days!  I’m often astounded at the prices certain objects attract, but I guess I don’t share the purchasers’ values and tastes. We all have our favourite possessions, whatever they’re worth, often for sentimental rather than fiscal reasons. Maybe a lighted candle and cool drink will help us reflect on the things we consider most valuable, and how that might be expressed in our faith journey.

What’s it worth?

Jesus then gave the people some more pictures to reflect on. “God’s New World is like a field with buried treasure hidden from sight. Someone came along and discovered it, then buried it again. He went and sold everything he had and bought the field. God’s New World is also like a jeweller with a speciality in pearls. One day she came across a particularly valuable pearl so she mortgaged her business in order to pay for it. Or think of God’s New World as like a large net dragged through the sea to catch every kind of fish. Once the net’s full the fishers bring it to land and sort the edible fish into buckets. The fish which are not saleable as food they throw back into the water.”

Over the years we’ve collected a few ‘antiques’, generally through family or occasionally making a modest purchase. I’m particularly fond of my old maps of Austria, and also a few books, not because I’d make a fortune selling them, but because they resonate with my past – my journey, and my journeys to other places. We also have a few family items, some of which have accompanied our journey even from childhood, all of which will travel with us into the future. No doubt you have your own treasures which have played a major part in your life and experience. So, what would you rescue first if your home was damaged or under threat? The most frequent answer to that is photographs, worth little in hard currency, but priceless in the value of the stories and experience they encompass. Watching people bringing their personal treasures for analysis and valuation on the Antiques Roadshow, I love to see their reactions when their expert reveals their worth.

Jesus said more about human values than almost anything else. He frequently focused on our relationship with money and possessions, in the process infuriating his opponents. Despite the appearance they liked to promote, money and status counted for a great deal in their view. From ostentatiously making large donations in the Temple, to fleecing the poor as they bought the compulsory sacrifices for worshipping God ‘correctly’, they provoked Jesus into making some of his most trenchant judgements on their attitudes and behaviour. Many of Jesus’ parables focus on the values of God’s kingdom in contrast to those of the world around, and here Matthew gathers 3 of them, each very short and direct, The treasure buried in a field highlights the commitment of the purchaser, who recognising its value, mortgages his entire business to get his hands on the field with that hidden fortune. Jesus makes the same point about the top-quality pearl, to pay for which a jeweller sells her entire stock. Hebrew exaggeration for sure, but Jesus’ hearers would have understood instantly the point he was making – following the way of Jesus means letting go of what we hold on to, in order to gain something vastly more valuable. And using an equally familiar image the net full of fish being sorted is a picture of God ‘sorting’ the valuable fish and the rest. Jesus wants his followers to understand that the values of God’s kingdom are immeasurably greater and more long-term than anything else we can imagine – what we consider most valuable, or even priceless, is worth giving up in order to be part of it.

It doesn’t take much to recognise the futility of what the world around thinks of as valuable. Advertising campaigns and marketing strategies aimed at selling us products we don’t need while ignoring the realities of grinding poverty, climate change and the treatment of people as disposable commodities. A significant majority of people are seeking a better alternative, focused on a deeper reality and seeing the whole world with different eyes. So, what are the things in your life you consider most valuable? What would you give up – money, time, possessions, personal space - in order to play your part in transforming the world by sharing the good news of God in Jesus?

Prayer for today

Lord Jesus, you challenged the cruelty and greed of your generation
Proclaiming instead God’s kingdom of peace, justice and love.
Help us not to be influenced by short-term, self-centred values,
but strengthen our commitment to building your kingdom of love and peace. Amen.

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Pause for Thought:

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