Sunday, November 20, 2011

Education & Ministry – Where's the Value in That?

As this calendar year draws to a close and the academic year quickly reaches its mid-point, I find myself in a pattern of reflection and evaluation. The influence of the materialistic culture surrounding me is screaming, “There must be a positive return on your investments!” I mean everything worth doing or anything worth having is universally attached to its dollar value isn't it?

The perceived “Value” of ______ (you name it) is directly proportional to the financial investment necessary to acquire the item. It's been a while since I've studied economics and I have never had an opportunity to teach the economic laws that govern our interactions in the market place; however, I feel confident you'll be able to at least acknowledge them even if you have no interest in understanding them. (Don't cheat and skip this vary basic summary of Economic Laws. It is relevant to the point I'm making.)

The Law of Supply and Demand – the availability of an item will either increase or decrease the demand for the item – huge supply = diminished demand/diminished supply = huge demand – to influence the price simply control the supply.

The Law of Diminishing Returns – at some point (which varies from item to item) the more you invest in the items production there will be a declining value experienced on the return from your investment.

The Income Leisure Trade Off – in order to increase income you must decrease leisure activities.

These laws work well when we are applying them to business and, to some degree, they can be applied successfully to interpersonal relationships, but we completely “upset the apple cart” when we apply them in the arenas of education and Christian ministry. Both these “Businesses” are in reality “Service Industries” who's products “Value” is immeasurable by market standards.

The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:1-3 (NIV)

In order to weigh the value of either education or Christian ministry we would need access to the eternal perspective. God's not sharing that vantage point so we are powerless to measure the value of these endeavors. What we do have the power to calculate is the cost of not providing these services. In Micah chapter 6 verses 10-12 God is addressing issues related to societal ills. Those same problems exist today. Do you think He has learned tolerance? Will He accept our inaction because the “cost” outweighed the “Value” in our minds? When we approach Godly pursuits we must do it with integrity and humility if we expect to benefit from Godly wisdom.

How can I tolerate your merchants who use dishonest scales and weights?” Micah 6:11 (NLT)

So what is the “cost” of NOT providing both education and Christian ministry? Charles Dickens knew the answer. Have you read his work, The Christmas Carol, if you have you can ask the Ghost of Christmas Present. “IGNORANCE and WANT” are the result – both of whom will and have devastated society throughout history.

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” James 4:2 (NLT)

If you too have entered the phase of your year which includes reflection and evaluation, please do not use Economic Laws to measure Spiritual value. As we prepare to make the end of the year sacrifices we should take action from the perspective of the LOVE that builds up instead of the knowledge that gives us a “Big Head” and pays no attention to the “Heart of God”.

But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1b (NIV)

God is all about “seeking and saving the lost”. We should be about “making disciples”. That has eternal and inherent “value” which is immeasurable by the exchange rates of this world. “Freely you have received. Freely give.” The return on the investment is in God's hands.

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