If you’ve seen the news recently, your heart probably goes out to the people in California who have lost their homes—even their lives—to wildfires. I read about one couple who started packing their car with priceless vases and artwork, only to find they couldn’t evacuate in time. They lost everything but survived.
If you had a wildfire tearing toward you, what would you do? While I hope this scenario never happens, the question does prompt us to consider what we value most.
In Luke 7, a discouraged John the Baptist questioned if he’d missed the mark, if everything he “valued” counted for anything. He sent a message from prison to Jesus along these lines: Are you really the Christ, or should I look for someone else? Given his circumstances, can we blame him for asking if he were following the right man? After all, heralding Christ’s arrival (his life’s work) was costing him everything. Had he chosen the wrong path?
Recently, my Bible study group discussed this interesting passage, and I’d like to share some takeaways that might help us discern if what we’re valuing is worthwhile.
Test #1 – Does what we value stand up to Scripture?
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22 NKJV)
Before we’re tempted to judge John for his doubts, let’s consider his point of view. He had done the job God had given him, and now, he was sitting in prison. Seemingly forgotten. If we were in his shoes, we probably would have had a few questions of our own.
Though at first Jesus’ response seems strange, let’s take a closer look. By citing His miraculous works, Jesus reminded John of the Old Testament prophecy He was completing. (See Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6.)
In other words, Jesus said: Yes, John, I am who you think I am. Look how I’m fulfilling the prophecy of God’s Word.
How can we use Scripture to evaluate our values and choices? Consider these principles. Are our motives:
- Generated by the Spirit or the lustful desires? (Galatians 6)
- Generated out of true love or selfishness? (I Corinthian 13)
- Generated by the desire to please God or others? (Matthew 6:24, Galatians 1:10)
Test #2 – Does what we value matter for eternity?
“For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28 NKJV)
At first, this verse had my friends and me puzzled. Why does Jesus call John “the greatest” and then say that whoever is least in the kingdom of God “is greater”?
The difference is the perspective of eternity. In terms of his earthly ministry, the prophet John surpassed all other prophets. The Old Testament prophets had the job of foretelling the coming of Christ, but John was the only one to announce, “The Messiah is here!”
Although John’s mission on earth merited the highest honor, it paled in comparison to the worth of a person’s salvation. “Whoever is least in the kingdom of God” is someone who accepts God’s gift of salvation. That salvation matters for all eternity and is therefore “greater” than any earthly ministry, no matter how great.
Jesus isn’t saying that John’s work wasn’t important. Instead, He’s saying what’s more important is the consequence of that work: the salvation of souls.
How can we use eternity as a touchstone for our values? Remember that …
- Earthly possessions fade; eternal treasures last. (Matthew 6:19-21)
- Selfish ambition doesn’t satisfy; Jesus set the example of serving others. (Philippians 2)
- The substance of our work matters less than our faithfulness to it. (Matthew 25:14-29)
Here on earth, fire may raze everything in its path. Not so in eternity. At the end of our lives, when we stand before God, He will judge our works by fire and sift out what doesn’t matter from what does. (See I Corinthians 3:9-15.) The fire won’t burn “enduring” deeds. Paul makes clear that our works don’t impact our salvation, but they do affect our eternal reward. (See I Corinthians 3:15.)
Do the things we care most deeply about matter for eternity? We can’t define our success by others’ opinions or monetary gain, though there’s nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves. However, what we value most should transcend the temporary.
For reflection: What do I want most right now? How does this desire stand up against these two tests?
[Click to tweet: What do you value? Does it matter in light of eternity? Guest post by @kjhogrefe on BigSisterKnows. @bigsistertweets]