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St Johns Southgate

12 May 2017

Assigning value to things

When I was a teenager I kept a seashell in my pocket. Wherever I went, I had it with me. It had been given to me by a friend and while it had no monetary value it was valuable to me. It represented true friendship, and in a strange way it reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this world.

Assigning value to inanimate objects is perfectly natural. Everyone does it. Maybe you wear a wedding ring and you can’t bear to take it off, even in the shower. Maybe you have a favourite scarf that your mother knitted for you. Maybe you’ve still got your security blanket from when you were a baby – that very first object you assigned value to.

But can you share these special objects? Is the meaning transferable?

My three-year-old son, Theodore, recently gave his precious Waddles the Penguin toy to our seven-month-old daughter to cuddle. I could see that for him it was a meaningful action that he expected would be appreciated all the more because of his own love for it.

But she just clawed at it and slobbered on it in much the same way that she would with any toy. Just because something is meaningful to one person doesn’t automatically mean it will be to others.

So, how can value be transferred?

Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t one for putting special value on objects. The Gospels of the New Testament don’t say anything about him always being sure to travel with his lucky walking stick, or always wearing his special sandals. But he knew a thing or two about value having it himself, lovingly seeing it in others, and making that love known.

The thing that sets Jesus apart is that his vision for life and love doesn’t require knick-knacks or special jewellery to express meaning. Jesus’s idea of how to transfer value, how to give and receive love, is to de-clutter – to dispense with tokenism and go straight to the person.

A key Christian understanding of God is that God loved the world so much that he didn’t just indicate his love by sending a series of signs or symbols, he sent himself – in the person of Jesus Christ. He sent himself to meet with humanity, to personally express his love for humanity, and ultimately to die for humanity.

The practice of Christian spirituality has so much to offer because it can break the cycle of relying on things – as meaningful as they may be – to represent some kind of love to us. Jesus isn’t represented by anything, he is available to us in the flesh. When Christians receive Holy Communion they are finding a personal connection with God because they believe that he himself actually constitutes that special meal.

We do all assign value to things. But consider this. God has assigned value to you. And there’s nothing you need to keep in your pocket, or wear around your neck, or snuggle up to at night to know that. God values you, and is always there to connect directly with you, so you need never feel alone or feel as if you’re only carrying a symbol of love. You’ve got so much more.


Tom Hoffmann

Pastor - St Johns Southgate Church

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