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The Power of Values

The word “values” appears over and over in our conversations, our news casts, our politics, our opinions pieces and a variety of other communications.  But I’ve learned that even though many people use this word with regularity, it seems that they haven’t really given much thought to what it actually means. In short, a value is something that you either find important, or that you see as having worth.  We understand this word readily when we’re about to make an expensive purchase.  We want to make sure that what we’re exchanging our money for is “valuable.”  We want the new car or the new purchase to be worth the money we’re sacrificing.  This is because money isn’t just the loss of digits in a bank’s computer, and it isn't just the disappearance of green cotton paper from your wallet.  It is because money initially came to us at a sacrifice of part of our life. Interestingly, the more valuable you find something, the greater the sacrifice will be that you are willing to make. 

The less-than-thoughtful way that we usually employ the term “value” is in regard to moral behaviors we avoid.  A person might think to themselves, “I have family values so I don’t engage in those kinds of behaviors.”  Of course, what family you belong to might determine what those values are. Unfortunately, too many people don’t really think about what they’re actually valuing when they avoid a particular behavior – but they should. They should also think about what they’re valuing when they positively engage in a particular kind of behavior.  For instance, I attend church because I find a relationship with God and his people to be valuable.  The benefit of a faith community which gives me a cultural base and reinforces my walk with God is worth the sacrifice I make for that community. I avoid other behaviors because of what I value as well.  For instance, I try not to lie because I think it is wrong (though that may be part of my reasoning). Instead, I try not to lie because I value the truth – knowing that deceit will destroy what light, accuracy, and trust I have in my life. That includes lying to myself.  

Jesus hits on that point in a round-a-bout way in Matthew 16:26 when he asks what does a man get if he exchanges his soul for the world?  In other words, what do you think is more valuable, the eternal core of who you are, or the temporary worth of the world?  The wise person will answer that no material thing, or transient earthly pleasure is worth the exchange of one’s soul. That juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. 

A good practice in life is to take a regular inventory of what you say you value, and then comparing what you say you value with how you are behaving. Those things that you behaviorally sacrifice for are the things that you value. Once you’ve looked at that inventory with honest eyes, it is always a good idea to then ask yourself if those things you’ve been valuing are worth the cost of those behaviors. 

What do you value in life? How would others know that? What is your highest value?

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