The Ultimate Exchange Rate: Real Value in a Material World

The Parable of the TalentsIt’s easy for us economist types to get caught up in earthly measurements of value — partly because it’s fun, but mostly because it’s important.

Even more important, however, is the pursuit of real value in heavenly terms. When it comes to this, we all struggle with getting the earthly “exchange rate” down, and as long as sin is around, we always will.

But Jesus gives us a pretty clear image of what it might ultimately look like in these back-to-back examples.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In other words, no matter how much we have accumulated in our own lives, whether it’s wealth, skills, prestige, or status, none of it matches up to the value of a life transformed and saved through Christ.

But how do we purchase such a life? How do we make this ultimate trade-in?

The first and most important answer is that we can’t — Jesus already paid the ultimate price through his blood, which pays for our entrance into the “kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son.” It is only through this propitiation that we can be saved.

But there is still this central notion throughout the Gospel of obedience, which Jesus often illuminates by talking about trade. The question rises: If the ultimate price is already paid, what is left to trade in? What are we leaving behind?

Some people misinterpret this next step to mean that in order to live out our post-salvation lives we have to literally sell all that we have in the material world. This is plainly not so and is purely materialistic. The Christian pursuit does not require mere abandonment of earthly tools, but rather a constant and continuous submission of our earthly resources to the heavenly economy.

We are earthly beings, so the earth-to-heaven conversion can be hard to grasp.

When we discover God we aren’t really discovering some flashy treasure box in a field. We aren’t really trading in our junk for an actual, physical pearl. Although Jesus uses material examples (and material demands) to show us the ultimate worthlessness of our earthly resources, the actual execution of the exchange does not follow a simple, materialistic structure.

Jesus never asks us to send our earthly stuff in an envelope addressed to heaven and be done with it. In fact, Jesus specifically tells us not to bury our resources in the ground out of the mere fear that we might fail Him. Likewise, he doesn’t give us a calculator to determine how much charity equals how many brownie points. Instead, He told us He would lead us and guide us into all things, showing us how to best use our resources — when to spend them, where to invest them, how to donate them. Only He knows the actual exchange rate — and it has far more to do with the individual motive and the individual action than it does with the actual numbers or items at stake.

For us as earthly beings, understanding the ultimate value is essential for activating such stewardship, because only when we understand the inferiority of our personal abilities and material outputs will we be able to follow God’s direction toward real profit — something entirely foreign to our earthly understanding. Thus, without continuous communion with God and an alignment to His ultimate value, we will inevitably either hoard our resources in vain or flush them down the toilet entirely.

Through this communion, each of us will learn to see our resources as God sees them, but the blueprint for stewardship is not something that can be preemptively mapped out in a blog post or a book. Sometimes the exchange rate will actually look good by earthly standards (e.g. “Start a business.”), but sometimes it won’t (e.g. “Be a missionary.”). God is the only one who can tell us what our earthly situation is going to look like, but whatever the case, it shouldn’t matter if we grasp the implications of the ultimate exchange rate.

How about you?

Do you realize how useless your riches are without God’s direction? Do you realize how filthy your charity is without God’s signature?

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  • Ken Hood Jr.

    Without God's direction our riches & our charity are useless via @remnantculture

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