Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is A Crystal Vase Valuable If It's Free?

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces."
Matthew 7:6

For many years I thought that this verse of scripture was a little out of place. It immediately follows verses which caution us against being judgmental and precedes verses which teach us how to ask, seek and receive. I also thought that referring to dogs and swine was a little harsh.

I'm still not sure that I understand how the verses in Matthew 7:1-8 come together but I now understand that Jesus was just trying to make the point that not everyone is receptive to the gospel message and in those situations it makes no sense to press the point or be judgmental.

I also now understand that Matthew 7:6 has very practical, every day relevance. Simply put, gifts are not always appreciated by those who don't perceive their value. When this happens there is no sense in being upset about it or judging the person.

Here's an example. Many years ago, while going through a bout of depression, I gave a Mikasa vase to a friend. I'd had the vase for many years but at that moment, I just thought that this friend might enjoy it more than I. A few years later, I was in the friend's kitchen helping her entertain guests. I happened to look under her kitchen sink for a dish pan and, lo and behold, there was the crystal vase. My first thought was, "who puts a valuable crystal vase under the sink with their pots and pans?" But then I realized that it was my friend's vase now to do with as she pleased. But that incident made me think.

I've always believed that to whom much is given, much is required, a value instilled in me by my mom. So, over the years I've given away many items. When I replaced my computers I refurbished the old ones and passed them on. When I hadn't worn an item of clothing for a year or two, and it was still in great condition, I passed it on. Cookware, I wasn't using was passed on. If something was in disrepair I threw it out but if something still had value I passed it on. It just seemed like it was the right thing to do. I also applied this same practice to my time and professional skills. And I know that I'm not the only one who believes and does this.

However, now I know that not all of these gifts were appreciated, not because they were not valuable but because they were free to the recipient. The computer, leather suit or crystal vase suddenly was seen as not quite as valuable because they free. And that made me think, is that the way that we treat God's gifts?

How would we view Jesus if he were on the earth today? Would we think that he was less of a minister because he didn't have a mega-church or a big congregation?

After all, we only think that musicians really have talent if they have big recording contracts?

Poets and writers are only valued if they have published works?

Housewives are perceived as not making as valuable a contribution to the household as their working spouse.

And while the tasks performed by persons who care for our sick and elderly loved ones in nursing homes are perceived as "work", the same tasks performed for free by full-time home caregivers is not.

Is a crystal vase valuable if it's free?

Not everyone appreciates the gift of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. They don't perceive the value of the gift because it was done for free. There's no sense in judging them, threatening them with hell fire or beating them over the head with the bible. They're not ready to receive it.

And I guess that's where the "ask and keep asking" verse ties in.

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