What you value determines the value of everything else.
The gold atom has 79 protons and 79 electrons. It has an atomic weight of 196.967 atomic mass units. It has several isotopes, but in its most stable form it carries 118 neutrons in its nucleus. It melts at 1064.43 degrees Celsius. It is yellow. The atomic symbol Au is derived from the Latin aurum, which, loosely translated, means “glowing dawn.” People have been murdered to get it.
Lead has 82 protons, 82 electrons and 125 neutrons. It melts at 327.5 C. It is a dull gray, soft metal. Its chemical symbol is Pb, from the latin plumbum. It’s where we get our word “plumber.” It will give you brain damage.
Gold at one time gave value to our paper money. Today, if you have one ounce, it is worth $1,284. If you have one pound of lead, you have $1.08 and a potential health hazard. It’s not technically worthless, but close.
These two elements are different by three protons and seven neutrons. They are both soft metals. They are made of the differing numbers of the same stuff. Why do we murder for one and not the other? There is nothing about a gold atom per se that gives it worth. Arguably, lead may be more useful. It used to carry our water in pipes, protects us from radiation and was in our paint, for some reason. But there is nothing about lead’s chemical properties that gives it intrinsic monetary worthlessness. What is the source of the one’s worth and the other’s ignobility?
The cowrie shell was used for trade by Pacific islanders. Bat guano was used for trade by some tribes in Africa. At one time, rice was used as currency, which also served as a tasty, gluten-free snack if you had a little left over after paying your rent. But what do these things have in common—shells, rice, bat poo, gold? It is that we have assigned value to them; their worth is extrinsic, originating outside of themselves. They are valuable, have worth, because we say so. And a basic principle of value is that of supply. The greater the supply, the less demand—the less value. The more rare the supply, the greater value.
The word “blasphemy” comes from the Greek blax, meaning “slow, sluggish,” and pheme, meaning “fame” or “praise.” Blax has got to be an onomatopoeia. I don’t speak Greek, but if someone told me they were feeling blax, I would give them an understanding nod; the sound carries the meaning. Blasphemy is being slow to praise, or refusing to acknowledge good, eventually reversing moral values. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” This is blasphemy. As a kid the only time I heard the word blasphemy was when someone, usually my relatives, said, “Jeeeeesus Christ!” as a curse, exclamation or filler. But given what we all now know about blasphemy, that doesn’t make sense. If they are being slow to praise it’s because they don’t know to praise. What they have is not a reversing-values problem, but a valuing problem. They don’t know the worth of the name they speak; they haven’t been shown its value. The name is not gold to them; it’s lead. Plain plumbum.
Philippians 2:10 says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, not only on earth, but in heaven. Angels and demons, in all their terrifying glory and insidious defiance, will compulsively take a knee when the Word is spoken. Yet the portly fellow in the next cubicle uses it when his Snickers get stuck in the vending machine. The market is flooded with the name Jesus, reflecting how little his name, and he, is valued.
The kilogram is the standard unit of measurement for weight for the majority of the world. In 1895, the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK)—a cylindrical ingot forged from a platinum and iridium alloy—was manufactured so to have a standard weight. For those stalwart English-system users, and anyone one tuning in from Liberia or Myanmar, a kilo is about 2.2 pounds. If you look up the definition of the kilogram, it will say “a unit of measurement as being equal to the mass of the (IPK).” The IPK is the standard by which all other kilograms in the world are judged. It was forged into a cylindrical shape to decrease its surface area and is kept under lock and key, in a vacuum sealed chamber, in the dark, under three glass lids, in a Parisian vault. In 1889, 40 replicas were made using the IPK as the standard and sent around the world to various metrology institutions. The IPK is protected and highly valued because by it we are able to accurately weigh everything else. Metrologists are currently in a bustle because it appears the IPK has lost weight. It’s now a waif-ish 50 micrograms lighter than its brothers. What do you do when your standard of measurement loses its standard-ness? Or when the element by which we assign value to all things becomes worthless? How can all things not, along with it, lose their value?
The analogy of currency and weight only go so far, and we have reached the end of the road. We must cut across country from here. Unlike gold, Christ doesn’t have extrinsic value. He is the standard of value; he is intrinsically valuable. To put it another way, we have the word “value” because the idea of value comes from him. We have the word “standard” because he exists as the fundamental bedrock of reality. In other words, when we value anything, we are using our valuing muscle which was made reflexively to value him preeminently.
This is not a pep talk to share the gospel. It’s a whisper in the ear, a thought among friends. What do you value? What is he to you? What you value will be the standard by which you assign value to all things. If Christ is of no value to you, sharing the gospel is trading with Monopoly money; it has no purchasing power, it is unredeemable.
So why is Christ valuable to you? The Sunday school answer is because he has saved us from our sins. True. Wonderfully true. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking Christ only having long-term value, retirement value. Does he have pocket-money value, day-to-day worth, weekly savings? Why do you value him?
He is valuable to me because he saves me daily from a lurking depression. He is valuable because he has assigned value to me by considering me worth saving—something he and I are still in frequent disagreements over. He gives me weight in a grey, ghostly world, where I find myself jealous of bees because they can bend a blade of grass and I cannot seem to change anything. I value him because, for even a brief moment, I can take my eyes off myself. I can take the needle from my vein where I daily inject myself into myself, snorting others’ thoughts of me in thin white lines from a mirror where I see my own reflection. I value him because I look back at my life and see wheat where I have sown weeds, life where I spread death. I value him in secret ways, secret even to myself, as prayers slip out in thin ribbons of whisper. The sharpest truth I have learned over the past five years is my soul’s insidious proclivity to find new worthless things to value. Is this not the definition of sin: to value most what is not most valuable?
We are far more at risk of blasphemy than the world, for we know the value of Christ and, therefore, are at risk of treating him worthlessly. How will the world know of his value if we do not value him? The world’s value system is jacked. Its standard is losing weight. It’s as solid and immutable as the morning mist. It cannot be amended, only replaced—the self for the Word—and we will be made real by his Reality. How we value Christ daily shows his worth and value to a groping, blind, ghostly world.