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How Much Does a Life Cost?

The “potency of life” is simply an economic one: “In social and political sciences, it is the marginal cost of death prevention in a certain class of circumstances.” In other words, to determine how much a human being’s life is worth, you simply need the right mathematical equation.

Consider insurance companies.

They allow you to determine how much your own life is worth and that of your spouse. It’s called a “Life Insurance Policy”.  Then they have you pay them money every month for your guesstimate to “insure” that, in the unfortunate event you die, that you life is actually worth the value you placed on it. I have decide my own life is worth “X” amount of dollars and I pay a small fee every month to “insure” that when the time comes, other people will benefit from the value I placed on my own life.  Pretty neat racket, eh?!  And also entirely premised on narcissism.

Or consider adoption

Most families and agencies put the price of a international adoption right around $30,000, give or take.  Domestic adoption can sometimes cost less, but not necessarily. Here, the cost (roughly a year’s salary for most Americans) must dramatically dissuade families from adopting.  If the costs were lower would more people adopt?

Maybe?

Probably?

Or a soldier.

Earlier this year, it was suggested that a soldier in Afghanistan for one year cost the federal government between $850,000 to $1.4 million. A typical sergeant makes roughly $30,000 of that per year (hey, that’s about the exact cost of an adoption…!).

The price of a life during the post-Exodus wanderings?

A measly half-shekel.Image

God required that a census be taken (Ex. 38:25-31) and each man paid a “ransom” with a half-shekel. No more. No less.

“The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives.” (Ex. 30:15).

That’s the cost of a life to God and everybody’s life was worth the same.

Seems…cheap.

“What about the guy who had lots of sheep and goats and cattle and silver and gold and fine clothes and luxurious tents? Surely he was asked to contribute more!”

Nope. Half-shekel.

Yeah, we don’t like the whole “Everyone’s equal” idea when it knocks us down to a lower level.  Our “Everyone’s equal” speech usually equates to others being dragged up to our “prestigious” level rather than us being knocked down to their murky level.  And we hate being equal with others on lower levels than we picture ourselves to be at.  We think, “I’m sure I would have at least thrown in a whole shekel!”

But the Israelites – both rich and poor – were all in the same predicament: wandering in the desert and completely reliant on God.  And since they were all in the same situation, they all had to pay the same price: a mere half-shekel.

And then I read this today: “[God] estimates every sinner at the same value, and consequently requires the same price to be paid for every one, for the beggar as well as for the king, for the least as well as for the greatest sinner. Such…is the nature of what sinners need to be redeemed from (Gal. 3:13), and such the nature of the soul, that no mere nominal price…or any price, however great, a sinner might be capable of giving, can suffice to satisfy the law’s demands or those of the holy and righteous lawgiver.” – William Brown.

The Israelite man paid his ransom and became, in a sense, his own property.  But sinner cannot ever remotely come close to paying their own debt for they have nothing with which to contribute to their own cause.  They’re bankrupt in every sense.

But then this.

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (I Peter 1:18, 19)

Sinners cannot pay their own way. But Jesus can and did.  Having paid the ransom for sinners, they become sons and daughters of the Sacrifice, the Great High Priest, “for he has fully paid for all my sins.”

So what does a life cost? Economically speaking, somewhere between $30k and $1.4 million depending on how you run the numbers.  Biblically speaking, a life – and a sinful one at that – costs a mere drop of Jesus’ blood.  It costs nothing for us and cost everything for Him.

How much does a life cost?

A single drop of priceless, invaluable, inestimable

Blood.

 

Enjoy First Year of Teaching: Check

For those of you who are not teachers, it is a commonly held belief that the first year of teaching is supposed to be hell. Think “Hell Week” of military boot camp spread over the course of ten months. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. For every teacher that had a bearable first year, I know of ten who nearly committed homicide. Going into a first year, I expected it to be a year of mere survival tactics, suffering, gnashing of teeth, and blatant horror.

But it wasn’t. Not even close.

I actually really enjoyed my first year. I don’t think I merely survived it; I think I actually thrived.

As I reflect back on my first year, there are a number of blessings I take away and treasure.

I think part of my success was due to the fact that I am older than a typical first year teacher coupled with the fact that I’m married and have two children. The skills and “thick skin” that comes with parenting is easily tranferred to classroom management. In a word, I’m used to young people not liking me. Likewise, I never felt threatened and insecure being around or in front of students. However, like being a daddy, teaching required certain timely moments of vulnerability. There is no doubt that being a father to my children helped me enjoy being a teacher to my students.

Having spent time volunteering in Young Life also provided some necessary skills required to thrive as a teacher, most notably, the notion of “Earning the right to be heard.” This axiom is both true of youth ministry and teaching. My method or technique (if it can be called that) was spending time outside of the classroom building relationships so I didn’t have to worry about it inside the classroom. Hallway conversations, games of ping pong, and hanging around the lockers or the exit when the afternoon bell rang paved the way for productive classroom time. Being involved and invested in the lives of my students paid huge dividends for them and me. It’s good for students to see and know their teachers are human and not merely points of authority and it’s good for teachers to see their students as human, not merely grade percentages or attendance marks.

Another hidden gem of my first year was my 45 minute one-way drive to and from school. I was repeatedly asked, “How’s the drive?” To be honest, the drive was awesome. I frequently used the time to think about and pray for my students, their families, and my colleagues. Listening to theological podcasts and audiobooks was also part of this cherished time. Worshipping through singing was also an enjoyable part of my driving experience. I developed an great playlist of classic hymns and sang them often. Out loud. Repeatedly.

As part of teaching and driving, I desired to use social media to help guide my drives. Periodically, I would chat with students on Facebook or send them a message asking how they were doing and if there was anything I could be praying for during this time. I also had face-to-face conversations that helped fill this pool of prayer requests and made eyes-open-while-driving prayer deeply meaningful.

Having good students is also a key part of successful teaching. Thankfully, our school has this in large quantity. Of course, things got a bit squirrelly at the end, but if it hadn’t I would have been concerned.

Having a fellow like-minded teacher in Jenn was also a means of grace. Her patience and generosity qualify her for sainthood. As a teacher and a person, she is my foil and the moment I realized that made all the difference.

Finally, doing something I love and enjoy combined with a level of skill and giftedness has made the difference. I always appreciated my jobs and the opportunity to make money and provide for life. Enjoying the process of providing is worth all the pain and sacrifice that it took to reach this point.

Being able to go through my first year of teaching was not a tale of survival fraught with peril at every turn. It was like breathing a sigh of relief, like coming home.

Barefoot…for Jesus

Two things I enjoy: running and Jesus.  Two things I am trying to get better at: running barefoot and loving and understanding Jesus. In my random cyber-universe, I happened across this blog post about barefoot running and its author, Jason Robillard has some interesting points (scroll down to the bottom of his article). I quickly made some helpful connections to Christianity.

Robillard is discussing fanaticism.  He starts off talking about a former professor who was an Apple fanatic (aren’t they all?!?!).  His professor’s fanaticism ended up driving him away from Apple’s amazingly wonderful and glorious products (oops!).  He relates this experience to the excitement one gets about barefoot running and gives four ways that barefoot running enthusiasts can share their excitement without being overwhelming by shoving their agenda and “dogma” down their prospective convert’s throat.  Here are his four points:

1. Be skeptical of your own beliefs, no matter how strong. 

2. Know your audience; learn to pick up on subtle cues.

3. Accept that we’re all different and there may be more than one solution.

4. Avoid dogma.

As Robillard assimilated his fanatic experience with evangelizing about barefoot running, I’d like to take his point and assimilate them to Christian evangelism. Well, 3 of the 4 anyway.  I think these are helpful points to consider when sharing the Gospel with people. Why? Let’s go point-by-point.

1. Be skeptical of your own beliefs, no matter how strong.  Perhaps the best, most lingering piece of advice I ever received was similar: “Be a strict critic of yourself and have compassion on others and their beliefs.”  In other words, you’d better know what you believe and why you believe it.  About barefoot running AND Jesus Christ.  Being skeptical or critical of your own beliefs means you are willing to admit when you are wrong and be quick to do so.  As a Christian, is also requiresyou and I to be honest about holes in our beliefs and willing to grow in our understanding of the Bible.  We ought to be like the noble Bereans of Acts 17 who, when Paul taught them something new, went right back to the Bible to see if what he said was true.  Being skeptical and critical of our beliefs does not require that we are quick to trade our theological paradigm for another.  We are not to be tossed around by every wave of doctrine we come across.  However, we ought to be continually molding and shaping what we believe and hold fast and humbly to the fundamentals.

2. Know your audience; learn to pick up on subtle cues.  If you’ve ever sold something, anything, you know about this point.  I used to sell shoes and there comes a point where some customer’s eyes glaze over and you know they’re not interested in what you’re selling.  Or, if someone randomly stop by your house for no apparent reason while you’re busy with something else and they just. Don’t. LEAVE. UGH!  “Don’t they get it? I’m right in the middle of something important!”  And then you start to get frustrated by their lack of understanding of your subtle cues: walking closer to the door, saying you have a lot to do today, starting their car for them…It’s great and wonderful to share Jesus and to do so with a certain boldness and authenticity.  But it may be a bit awkward in the grocery store check-out lane.  Not for you…for them.  I know when my message is not getting through to my students because they sleep.  What about your unsaved neighbor?  Or your unregenerate family member?  Are you browbeating them and they’re sending you clues but you’re not picking up on them?  Remember: few if any are browbeaten into the Kingdom of God. Pay attention.

3. Accept that we’re all different and there may be more than one solution.  True of barefoot running and running shoes, not true of God.  Despite what Oprah Winfrey says, Jesus is the only way to God.  There are not many roads to one God. Nope.  There’s one and his name is Jesus.  So we are all different, but the problem is universal: sin, and there’s only one solution: Christ.  But a different interpretation of his point could be this: We’re different and there is no one method or style or speech in evangelism that effectively reaches every single person.  What I mean is this: the message, the content, the Gospel is the same and never changes; however, our methods, approaches and style may according to time, place, audience, etc.  The Gospel is the unchanging Word of God.  How we present that to people may (and should) vary.  Example: Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 2 is very different from Luke’s version in Luke 3.  Matthew is writing to a very Jewish audience and traces Jesus’ line back to Abraham.  Luke is writing to a much broader audience.  Same message, different methods.

4. Avoid dogma.  Boy this one’s tough ain’t it?  Robillard says it this way, “The phrases were predictable… they were the dogmatic statements that we repeat without much critical thought.  The idea behind the statements make sense; they’re the basics we use to teach others.  However, when repeated out of context they sound like crazy rants from fanatics.”  Are you a crazy, fanatical Jesus-person?  When you talk about Jesus, do people look at you like you’re drunk? What lines or phrases or statements do you make about Jesus that are cliche? Now to some extent the world will think people who believe in Jesus are crazy and fanatical for their beliefs, but we don’t have to add craziness and fanaticism and offense to the already offensive Gospel.  Be sure that when people argue against you (and they will), that they’re not arguing with you, but with God and the Bible.  Make what you say to them compelling and logical and reasonable and true so when they respond, they are responding positively or negatively to God, not you.

Applying Robillard’s four points to our work of sharing the Good News leads us to this point: it’s not about us. It’s not about me.  It’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus.  We don’t save, Jesus saves.  We may offer the message of salvation to someone, but we don’t save them.  The Holy Spirit does.  It’s not even about sharing how wonderful Jesus is in my life, “Don’t you want that too?” The Gospel that saves is not our testimony, it’s about Christ.  Read the whole book of Acts beginning to end (it won’t take that long.  We’ll wait right here.).  There are several sermons recorded in Acts by wonderful men who had first-hand and direct interaction with Jesus.  Not one single time to they ever suggest that, “Jesus worked a miracle in my life.  Wouldn’t you want that in your life?”  They remarkably do not talk about themselves and their experiences.  They talk instead about Jesus and how he did things healed people, fulfilled prophecy, and rose again from the dead. And they did so in a reasoned, logical, concise, objective way.

How do you share the Gospel?