On Christmas day I was engrossed in conversation with some of my relatives on Lisa’s side of the family, we were deep in our exposition on the virtues of cheese. Yes, you heard me correctly. My sister-in-law had laid out a delightful selection of exotic cheeses and several of us were gathered around cutting off pieces and ingesting them while discussing types of cheeses and how amazing we all think cheese is. As we discussed the merits of the many varieties of cheeses my sister-in-law told a story of shopping with her son when he was given a sample of cheese that cost about $35 for a tiny wedge, she described the sample as probably being worth about seven dollars. As much as I love cheese (and I really really do), that price is just too high for me. Even if I knew the cheese to be incomparably delicious, I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money on a piece of food that is so quickly dispensed of. Pleasure for a moment, then it’s gone. Whether I’m frugal (or cheap) or perhaps just being reasonable, I’ve counted the cost and found I’m not willing to pay that much.
When you think about it, we’re always making judgments about these kinds of exchanges. What is worth what? What am I willing to sacrifice in order to get something else? What is most valuable to me? What has the most enduring value? Jesus discusses these sorts of trade-offs several times in his teachings and in his parables. One of the strongest value statements he makes is: “What good is it to gain the whole world and yet forfeit your soul?” (Mark 8:36). This appraisal is quite clear: if you imagine a set of scales placed down and everything in the world on one side of the scales, while your immortal soul rests on the other side; Jesus is saying the scales should tip toward the soul (that is, if you’re interested in God’s value assessment). So what is the actual cost of your faith? What have you actually paid and what are you actually paying for this treasure that is your inclusion in the Kingdom of God? Jesus said that gaining salvation-in-him is worth it all, but are you willing to pay? This matter of “Cost” will be the thrust of our sermon this week as we launch a new year of messages focused on a “Kingdom at War”.