Greetings from the end of a long, hot Texas summer! We have finally entered the only other season that we have in Texas, known as “not summer,” and thank the Lord that we made it. The evenings and mornings are cool and glorious, and though we all try not to let the oppressively hot season affect us, a drop in temperature always makes it seem like hope has been restored.
Earlier this week, I was enjoying the wonderful morning weather on a walk with my dog, Maggie, when I heard the sound of a golf cart coming behind us - it was my father! Even though we have now lived in the same town again for 25 years, I still haven’t gotten over the pleasant surprise of bumping into my parents out and about in town. We lived across the country from each other for a season, and being together again is such an unexpected blessing.
He was headed home, so for just a moment I wondered where he might have been so early. When I remembered, I realized instantly what the subject of this blog post would be. Recently, I brought up the idea that a large part of our culture is has developed a new religion, and that Christians must take care not to become swept along. In the last post, we examined being careful not to engage in the Culture of Comment all around us. This time, let's think about the question,
What are you worth?
Not just your life, but also your time and effort - what kind of price can be put on such things?
That morning, my dad was heading home from the golf clubhouse, where he and a group of people meet one early morning each week to spruce up the golf course. They pick up trash, fix the divots, and otherwise get things back into perfect order. Similarly, he and another group from church regularly give time to doing odd jobs around the church property - changing light bulbs, cleaning messes, straightening papers and books, and keeping things in order. These examples are indicative of the way he and my mother have chosen to live, and not just in their retirement years.
My father is one who, after he retired from 30 years in the Navy, taught at a military college for a few years, and then gave a decade at our local high school in an effort to help young people learn math and even a little bit of respect. Next, he taught for the prison system, helping men who made some terrible choices have a chance of making a life for themselves once they were released. Likewise, my mother has volunteered for every group my sister and I were in, and for all kinds of church and community ventures through the years. During Covid, they both participated in drive-by golf cart greetings for people who were shut in all alone. They are always visiting and caring for others, rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. They give so much of their time to help people, and they have been that way all my life.
They don’t do this for recognition or accolades. Neither of them are running for political office or some other position. They give of themselves, and know that what they get in return has nothing to do with money or fame or power. It has everything to do with helping others know that they are seen and heard and cared for. It has everything to do with looking to help the next generation have a good start. It has everything to do with keeping things in order, and even making things better. They serve and give because they are grateful for what they have had, and want others to have it, too.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking and living is no longer the norm in our society. Instead, most of us sit around, bemoaning the fact that things just aren’t like they used to be. Our schools are struggling. Our churches are not nearly as full as they once were. Kids are disrespectful and can’t pull themselves together. Things look so run down and uncared for. Families are falling apart, the suicide rate is alarmingly high, and substance abuse and even overdose deaths are all too common. Why are things so bad? Why doesn’t someone do something?
Last week, a royal person, when participating in an official function on behalf of their ruling family, was quoted as saying, “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.” What a striking contrast with the late Queen Elizabeth, who selflessly and tirelessly served her God and her people for 70 years. But it should not be surprising - this thought is in the very air of our modern culture and is a tenet of its new religion.
The worldview assumes that each person’s worth literally boils down a dollar amount. In this way of thinking, the value of your life is dictated by your lifetime bottom line. How much are you worth? This danger does not apply to just one political or ideological branch: some have to be careful of a tendency to want to always make more no matter the cost, and others have to be careful not to want to take more no matter the consequences. Either way, the danger is found in evaluating the worth of a human being in terms of money.
If you cost someone else too much to bring into the world or to stay in the world, you aren’t worth it and are terminated. If you aren’t constantly adding to the bottom line of net worth, then you aren’t really living or being true to yourself. Choices in life, death, education, marriage, vocation, location, parenting, philanthropy, and so many other avenues are made depending on how much a person can make and how much each decision will cost them. Does it help my resume? Does it take from my retirement? Does it cost me or benefit me in any way?
No one considers the possibility that there might be quite a few things in life worth much more than money. No one stops to think about what will happen if and when money is suddenly worth much less than it is today. No one is encouraged to volunteer or give freely, instead everyone is coached to ask, “what is in it for me?” It is no longer thought of to do something for nothing - not even for our own families and communities.
This way of thinking leads to so many difficult and even dangerous ideas, actions, and inactions, and we must be careful not to become engulfed by it.
The good news is that Jesus showed us what to do and how to think rightly about this. As followers of Christ, and as people who believe the Bible, we know that every man, woman, and child is lovingly created in the image of God. This means that there is no price high enough to equate to the worth of a human being: each person, whether they live in a palace or a shelter, is God’s treasured masterpiece. One of the best-loved passages in scripture reminds us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” God lovingly and carefully made us, and then spared no expense in redeeming us.
The ideal of Christian service, which has inspired many of the greatest people in history, and still inspires people like my parents and others like them, was modeled by Jesus Himself. He gave His own life to love and serve all of us. He left the glory and majesty of Heaven to come to this fallen earth, tirelessly showing all of us what real, abundant life can look like.
He showed us that we were all striving in the wrong direction in looking for abundant life, and getting things backwards. It isn't about power, or possession, or political gain. He plainly told HIs disciples, when they were lagging behind Him on the road one day and indulging in their usual argument about which one of them was the greatest, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” The One who actually is the greatest showed us how a real King lives, by making Himself the lowest and giving everything for us.
This is exactly the opposite of what our culture preaches. It says take and get all you can. It says demand your rights. It says don't do anything that doesn't directly benefit you. But this makes people miserable, and so many people get hurt. All you have to do is read the headlines to see that all the money and fame and power in the world can't keep anyone happy or fulfilled for long.
Following Jesus' way in being servant of all can be described by the idea that love finds a need and meets it. We don’t have to wait for someone to tell us that someone needs help or visiting or encouraging, we can look around and see who needs our help. We don’t need to be told to clean or fix things, we can see that it needs to be done and take care of it. Our cities and towns are the place we all have to live, together, and it is our responsibility to keep them in top order. Our schools and churches are where our minds and spirits are nourished and it is up to all of us to keep them healthy. When we all do this, things remain in order, people are helped, and few remain uncared for.
The world says your life is only worth a dollar amount. God says your life, and your neighbors' lives, are worth more than could ever be counted. He gave of Himself to save us and serve us; now it is our turn. We can give ourselves and our time and resources to help others, and will find that this brings more joy, purpose, and fulfillment than any amount of money ever could.
We do not have to fall into line with what our culture is saying. Instead, we can follow Jesus and give of ourselves, knowing that what we will get in return has nothing to do with money or fame or power. It has everything to do with helping others know that they are seen and heard and cared for. It has everything to do with looking to help the next generation have a good start. It has everything to do with keeping things in order, and even making things better. We can love and serve and give because we are grateful for what we have, and want others to have it, too.
This week marks the end of a special era in human history. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain has passed from this life, and gone to be with her Lord and Savior forever. Considering that there are photos and videos of her still fulfilling her duties and graciously receiving Britain’s new Prime Minister a mere two days before her passing, we can give thanks to God for this special woman as she finally enters her rest.
There is nobody like her. I wonder if anyone will emerge from the current era to be role model for the younger set like Queen Elizabeth has been to so many us who have come before? She ruled for 70 years, meaning that for almost everyone alive today she has always been the queen of England. Her life marked an entire era of time that perhaps someday will be referred to as the second Elizabethan age. As the rest of the world went through its many kings, presidents, prime ministers, and dictators, Queen Elizabeth lived and served gracefully, bringing a steadiness and sense of timelessness to the world. Her life was so special, and there is so much we can learn from her example.
Of course, she was born into royalty as the granddaughter of the king, and therefore had a rather unusual perspective on life for her whole life. When Elizabeth was just 10 years old, her grandfather died and her uncle soon abdicated his role as king, leaving Elizabeth the heir to the throne. At the tender age of 25, an age when so many of us are still trying to figure out who we are and what we ought to be doing, her father died and she became the queen of a vast number of the world’s people. The rest of the world joined in the excitement. My mother, who was 10 in 1952, remembers her whole class gathering at the home of the one family in town who had a television set to watch the coronation of the young new queen. It was an exciting and hopeful event.
There are some pretty amazing things that came with her unique position. She never had to have a driver’s license or a passport, as all of those things were issued to everyone else in her own name! Her image has been on all the coinage and currency, postage stamps, and legal documents for Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations around the globe for the better part of a century. She met most of the world’s leaders throughout her long reign, and was given beautiful gifts of honor and respect by a great number of them. She traveled the world and was celebrated by gatherings of thousands everywhere she went. She lived in fabulous palaces and had beautiful clothes and jewels, and people to attend to her every need. She attended balls and galas, and really lived all of the fairy tale ideals.
Though she was surrounded by opulence and plenty all her life, she was not ruined by them. People were continually shocked by what a normal woman she was. She loved her husband and children, her parents and sister, her dogs and horses. She had a wonderfully regular daily routine that she maintained wherever she happened to be in the world. She was kind and gracious and respectful to all, whether family, stranger, servant, or world leader. There is a story of an encounter with two American tourists who did not realize who she was, and she just played along and even took a photo for them. Her bodyguard laughed, wondering if anyone would ever tell those two who they had been speaking with that day.
She deeply loved her God and country. At a young age she committed herself to the service of both, famously saying on her 21st birthday, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Though many under her dominion practiced other faiths, she boldly and lovingly represented the goodness and majesty of Christ, and always referred to Him as her Lord. Though many in her care had widely differing political opinions from one another, she loved and hoped for all of her subjects, living above and beyond politics. She knew exactly who she was and exactly Who and what she represented, and took great care never to do anything that did not represent God and country rightly.
Certainly not every person born or married into human royalty has viewed the position and privilege in quite the same way that Queen Elizabeth did. So many have wasted and squandered and misused their influence. There is much in the written record about her, documenting that even at a very early age she had a deep understanding of what it meant to be the child of a king. Friends and contemporaries testify that she was always both grateful and dutiful. She was a person like all the rest of us, and must have had off days, but we never saw them. She kept her frustrations to herself. There were no bitter and weeping interviews when she felt she just couldn’t take it anymore. There were no sensational books or exposés about her secret and awful hidden vices. For nine decades, this lovely woman lived her life of service to God and others. She never wavered, she never complained, and she never quit. Right up to the end she was the steady and responsible queen that her people and the rest of the world could count on to do what was right.
It is such a lovely thought to picture such a graceful and dedicated queen finally entering into the courts of the King of all Kings. May her memory be a blessing for many generations to come.
What can we learn from such a life well-lived? None of us are likely to ever know the kind of broad power and significance that she had by virtue of her office and birth, but each of us has our own sphere of influence in this life. We have the opportunity to choose to live a life of unfailing service and encouragement.
There is something wired deep inside every person that longs for a good person to rule. We seem intuitively to know that things were supposed to be a certain way, and they are not. We know that everything about illness and death feels wrong. We know that injustice and poverty and misuse of power are wrong, and should not exist. We know that the weak and vulnerable should be loved and cared for by those who are stronger. We know that families should be healthy, not broken. There is something in every heart that yearns for true justice and peace, and wisdom and plenty for all. Our hearts are longing for the very one who made and sustains us - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elizabeth exemplified a true servant of this good King. She believed that her honor came only from Him, and always sought to point back to Him. She knew that He was the giver of life, and the One from Whom all blessings flow. On His behalf, she strove to rule with wisdom, grace, and justice, and always had a hopeful and encouraging outlook for her people - the people she knew He loved so much. She stood for righteousness and peace, and against division and unbelief. She determined to always remind her people of who they were, and of what they could be with a little faith and diligence.
I am grateful to have witnessed someone stand steadfast and faithful for the entire fifty years of my life and beyond. We are blessed to have had such an example of a strong and committed leader, who spent a long lifetime in joyful service as a child of the King. What a difference it could make if many of us determined to serve God and the people in our lives with such unfailing hope and faithfulness.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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