Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about value, worth, cost, priceless. Usually we use these words in regards to money and stuff. “That service is valuable. Our trip was worth every penny paid. How much does this cost? That is an antique, it’s priceless.” But what about the heart? Can a heart, and the love kept inside, have value or worth? Can a heart cost something? Can it be priceless? What happens when the two spheres overlap and there’s an area where money, stuff, and the heart get tangled? Is the tangle bad?
People are emotional, our emotions influence us. Because we’re emotional, we attach emotional value to our stuff. “This came from my grandma. That came from our weekend in Vermont.” Something that is from a person we love has more value. Something that is from a special time is full of special memories, and they’re all rolled up and tucked away in the shadows and cracks of the object. Such as something bought to commemorate a rite of passage.
In the end, these things are just things: a book, a vase, a painting, a ring. They’re just paper, glass, canvas covered in colored acrylic, and metal. But our hearts are involved, stuff and the heart overlap. These mere items represent people and time and achievement. They are the material trail that shows the history of our life.
Our heart is inside, we use stuff to express what’s inside to others. I often say, “You can tell a lot about someone by their bookshelf.” The things we read, the odd bits of wood and china interspersed along the edge of the shelf – it all says something about the heart that put it there.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with commemoration, history, and expression. These are important parts of life. Things have a way of punctuating these parts of life. Most of the artwork in my house was painted by my brother or my daughter. I have driftwood from Lake Michigan everywhere because that lake is in my blood and I need something from the lake near me. My books, what can I say about my books? I once mourned the loss of my books during the end times. Time has not ended, my books and I are still together, but the thought of the loss caused me to weep in sorrow.
It’s all just stuff, but it is also a representation of what’s inside of me. This is true about most people and their stuff. This tangle of heart and stuff brings a lot of complication when terms like value, cost or worth come into the conversation. What is the value assigned to? The stuff, or the heart? Or the attachment between the heart and the stuff?
I think the term “priceless” doesn’t really exist. The idea exists, but the reality doesn’t. There is always a cost, a price. Stuff cost money. Housework costs energy. Love costs time. Your life’s work cost you your life. Anything you put your heart into whether its love, parenting, work, or stuff costs you your heart.
Stuff is easy to value. There is science, logic, and economics to tell us what stuff is worth. The heart on the other hand… what can we consult when putting value on the heart? There are a lot of dysfunctional sources I could talk about which most people turn to for answers to this question. But I think we all know what those sources are. Rather, let’s talk about the one source we should consult: the bible. The bible does indeed tell us the value, worth, and even cost of our heart.
Let me make an awful comparison between a popular movie and the bible. Bear with me, I think it will bring a new perspective to an old book. In the movie The Notebook an old man visits an old woman and reads her a story. The story is a love story full of innocence, passion, uncertainty, heartbreak, and triumph. At the end of the movie you find out the love story is their story. He wrote their story and read it to his wife every day to remind her fading memory of their love. The story tells the woman who she is and that she is loved.
The bible has a similar function. It is a love story between God and His people full of the same elements: innocence, passion, uncertainty, heartbreak, and triumph. God inspired the writing of the bible in order to tell us our love story with Him and to remind our fading memory of His love for us.
In the beginning was the Trinity (one God in three persons). God said, let’s share our perfect love. So He created people and began to share His love. Eve was deceived by the devil to eat the forbidden fruit with Adam and sin entered the world. Division between God and His people entered the relationship. God spends the rest of the book doing everything in His power to remove the division. Ultimately He sends Jesus through the virgin birth and Mary. Jesus lives and teaches and dies. He resurrects on the third day and defeats sin and death. He made a way to remove the division. All we have to do is accept Jesus, accept what He’s done, and accept the removal of division.
According to our “notebook,” we are children of the Most High God, and we are loved with an everlasting love that spends millennia and humiliation and blood to get us back. Our hearts are worth the love of God, they are worth dying for. They cost Christ a death on the cross. To God it was worth it all, because now His people have a way back to Him. A way to righteousness – a way to a right relationship – and ultimately a restored relationship.
So what are we doing with our hearts in return? How are we spending our time and our hearts? Yes, you can spend your heart. If you can give your heart, you can spend your heart. Are we spending our hearts on our own pursuits or on the journey along the Way back to God? (Christianity used to be called “The Way.” The term “Christianity” came later.) Or are we spending our hearts on our stuff, becoming curates of our own historical collection?
How do you spend your heart on stuff? Say you have a house full of antiques. Antiques are old and generally fragile. You can’t replace an antique because it’s from a time gone by. To have a house full of antiques means you have to be willing to spend time and money on up-keep and preservation. You have to live with kid gloves on, move gently whether it’s walking or sitting or holding. You have to live as if you were a whisper so as not to damage the antiques. Some would say the antiques were priceless, but I would say they cost a lifestyle, a heart.
Let’s say you were like me, and you had a house full of books. Books call out to you, “Read me!” so you spend a lot of time reading. Books tell you about other books so you buy more books. Books need a proper habitat, so you acquire an awful lot of bookshelves. Books take you away to other lands, other times and other worlds even. Books are full of people you love, people you hate, people you love to hate. Everything your heart could ever desire is in a book, you just have to find the right book. Some would say books are priceless, I would say books cost time, tea (you can’t read without a cup nearby), a heart.
What about the house itself? Your vision, will and checkbook merge into a singularity that brings forth the perfect house. A sophisticated, understated jewel. Or maybe an unconventional statement piece full of color and out-of-the-box thinking. Yet to live in a jewel you become a crystal; to live in a statement you become a yell. Neither setting allows you to be a human. Some would say the perfect house is priceless. I would say it costs an inordinate amount of money and time. It cost a home to have a perfect house. It cost a heart.
What would it look like to spend your heart on Jesus? For the Apostle Paul it looked like living a life that seemed foolish, weak and dishonorable according to the standards of his culture. It looked like a lack of food and water, outdated clothes that were possibly threadbare. It looked like cruel treatment from others, homelessness, and hard work that some would say “didn’t amount to anything,” since he had nothing to show for it. He described himself as “the scum of the earth, the garbage of this world – right up to this moment.” (1 Cor. 4:10-13 NIV)
Paul spent his reputation and resources, his heart, on missions. He poured himself into people and preaching the gospel. He accepted the removal of division from God. He accepted the love of Jesus into his heart, and he spent that in love for others.
That is an extreme example of spending one’s heart on Jesus. But some would say Jesus gave it all, so will I. At the same time, the early church was not only made up of missionaries and apostles. There were also people who had homes large enough to open up to missionaries and host house churches. There were people who were wealthy and supported the church and the apostles. There were people who wrote as scribes for Paul and the other apostles. There were people who cooked, cleaned, and administered medical care to those who were injured for Christ. Some of them are named in the Pauline Epistles, most are not. They were there nonetheless, spending their hearts for Jesus in a way unique to their individual hearts.
I am considering how I spend my heart. I hope to cut expenditures that are selfish or empty. I no longer spend my heart on my books, in fact I neglect them! I still love them, but they don’t have my heart anymore. I’m working to put more and more of my heart into my pursuit of Jesus, my relationship with Him, and what I can do to give back to Him.