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I recently read a true story about what we value in life. It was a story about a very wealthy woman on board the Titanic. She was already in a lifeboat that was soon to be lowered into the water. Suddenly, however, she wanted to return to her stateroom.


The crew responsible for lowering the lifeboat into the ocean could not believe their ears. Here was someone guaranteed a seat of safety from the icy-cold waters below, and yet she wanted to go retrieve something out of her stateroom. One of the men looked at this pitiful woman and forcefully told her she had three minutes to return, or else her seat would be given to someone else.


The woman raced back to her room, fighting against the tilt of the ship. She opened her closet and was immediately surrounded by expensive furs and priceless jewelry. The clock was steadily ticking as her eyes scanned for three specific items. Her hand passed over the jewels, she tossed aside the furs, and finally clutched the items for which she had gambled her seat. Racing back to the lifeboat, she realized her decision to rescue her precious items might very well have cost her the security of the lifeboat, and ultimately her life.


Completely out of breath, with her heart pounding inside her chest, she jumped into the lifeboat just before it was lowered into the black Atlantic waters below. With curious onlookers surrounding her, she slowly opened her hands to reveal her treasures to the other passengers. Cradled gently in the palm of her hand were not jewels or money—but rather, three small oranges. Amid all the confusion and tragedy, this wealthy woman had realized they might need something to eat to stay alive.


Think about that! That morning she treasured all her jewelry, furs, and fine clothing. As the Titanic was sinking, she cast all this aside in favor of some ordinary oranges.


Why do items of great worth instantly lose their significance in a crisis? The answer is – real value. She recognized that in a life-and-death situation her material goods held no real value, but she could help others with her oranges.


I think many affluent people begin to realize this as they get older. They begin to realize that the old proverbial phrase, “You can’t take it with you” is in fact true. If people could be honest with themselves, they would ask the question, “What has real value at this particular time in my life?”


I believe this is what Jesus was getting at when He asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul. For what will a man give in exchange for his soul.” (Mark 8:36-37)

This is a very penetrating question that Jesus asks. Is it worth gaining all the temporal wealth our hearts desire but in the process losing our soul for all eternity? Though they may not realize it, many people unfortunately seem to be more than willing to make that trade-off.


Michael Bloomberg is a multi-billionaire, one of the wealthiest people in the world. He seems to think he knows how to get into heaven. After pledging $50 million to advance his views on gun control, Bloomberg told The New York Times, “I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”[1] You have to wonder where he gets this idea?


We are told in Psalm 49:8-9 that the “redemption of a man’s soul is costly.” And even $50 million dollars is not enough. It says, “Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave.” That is of course, unless someone else pays that ultimate price for us.


The Apostle Peter spells it out quite clearly: “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was by the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18,19). You see, only faith in Christ and his shed blood can bring about the redemption of our souls.


And when we realize and accept the fact that God paid the ultimate price for our salvation – the death of his Son – we are left with no other option but to be eternally grateful for his loving grace and mercy. Suddenly, we realize that God’s love and mercy bestowed upon us should now be poured out towards others. We are no longer self-centered. Our value system has changed.


The Apostle John put it this way:


God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. . . Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth (1 John 3: 9-11,17).”


Here is a story that illustrates this truth expressed by John. It is titled, It’s What You Scatter:

I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes… I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes.


Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me. “Hello Barry, how are you today?” H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas. They sure look good.” “They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?” “Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.” “Good. Anything I can help you with?”

“No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.” “Would you like to take some home?” asked Mr. Miller. “No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ‘em with.” “Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?” “All I got is my prize marble here.” “Is that right? Let me see it”, said Mr. Miller… “Here ‘tis. She’s a dandy.” “I can see that. Hmm mmm, only thing is this one is blue, and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” the store owner asked. “Not zackley, but almost.”


“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you, and your next trip this way let me look at that red marble,” Mr. Miller told the boy. “Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.”


Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store.”


I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.


Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there, I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.


Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits, and white shirts . . . all very professional looking . . . They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one; each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.


Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her husband’s bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket. “Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size…they came to pay their debt.” “We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,” she confided, “but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho…”


With loving gentleness, she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.


The moral of this story: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds. We will not be remembered by how much money we had, but by what we did with our money. Jesus said, “a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God (Luke 12:20).” We need to make sure we are valuing the right things – eternal things like God, Jesus, salvation and heaven – not fleeting temporal things that in the light of eternity will prove empty and worthless.


Remember, life is not about how much you accumulate. It’s about investing in others. It's about loving others and positively impacting their lives for eternity. It’s to do what Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matt. 5:16).”


 

[1] Michael Bloomberg: 'I Have Earned My Place in Heaven', Washington Times, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/weekly-standard/michael-bloomberg-i-have-earned-my-place-in-heaven.

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