Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Last week my wife, Sylvia, and I talked about transistor radios. To clarify, the subject was not a pivotal part of our communication, but it did come up.
After more than 40 years of marriage, I am sure it’s possible we may have touched on the subject more than once. But after this discussion, I remembered my first transistor radio. To call it a radio is perhaps generous. It only received static and even that was distorted, as I recall. It was round, plastic, green I think, with a plug-in ear piece.
The fact it didn’t work wasn’t unique to this type of radio; its “Sputnik” appearance is what made it interesting. Since it didn’t work as a radio, and was not that well-suited for playing catch, like a lot of things, it just disappeared.
While remembering it, I remarked to myself that I wished I had kept that little piece of personal history. I doubt it would have made a substantial addition to my anemic retirement account, but it would be of some interest, a curiosity at least. I’m not familiar enough with the physiology of the brain to know what portion lights up at the thought of lost opportunities, but that corner of my mind must have sprung to life.
There, in the regret corner, was my wife’s Mustang and at least two pickup trucks I had owned. I began to think about how much time we spend deciding what to throw away and what to keep, or, in other words, deciding what has value and what does not.
I also began to think about relationships. At what point do we place a limit on their value, how much invested energy is too much, and what are the consequences of writing people off? Conversely, is there another regret corner populated by things and emotions — and even people — that we have held on to for too long?
Like all questions related to the human condition, these are hardly new; many have certainly been pondered by larger intellects than mine. Without making any attempt at an in-depth survey, it was Jesus who asked two ultimate value questions specifically. Let me give you some context.
The tax collector Matthew had recorded a difficult circumstance in what we refer to as the sixteenth chapter of his letter. Jesus had predicted his own death. That prediction did not work for Peter, who responded in classical Peter form. He decided to fix it, and as a result, received one of the most devastating responses in the gospels Matt 16:23
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” NIV
Shortly after, helping Peter sort out his priorities, Jesus asked the questions to His disciples, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” NIV
In a culture where it has been said, “the one who dies with the most toys wins,” Jesus reframes the question with, “what value will there be if you have it all but in the process give up your soul?” We already possess a thing of incomparable value — the soul. Just what is it that would make us decide to trade it away?
It is the human soul where Jesus places supreme value. His question seems to challenge us to accurately determine for ourselves the value of what we possess.
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.