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« Surgery Prep | Main | Minimalism »

The Intangibles

Confession alert.  Sometimes (actually, very often) I look around at my life and just say, “Wow!  I don’t deserve any of this.  I can’t even figure out why or how I am this blest!” It’s not that I’m worth much financially (ask my tax guy), or that I own multiple properties (I don’t), or that I have an assortment of vintage cars in a huge garage (nope).  It’s just that I have incredible assets like love, joy, and relationships, that may not bump the financial needle forward, but nevertheless profoundly enhance the quality of my life.  Remember, the intangibles are unquantifiable. 

But, we still don’t believe it. We like cold cash. Dollars and cents.  We measure (or we try to measure) everything material and tangible in financial terms.  (By the way, you’re worth about $4.65, maybe more if adjusted for inflation. Don’t be too depressed.  “According to a recent article in Wired magazine, a body could be worth up to $45 million — Calculated by selling the bone marrow, DNA, lungs, kidneys, heart … as components.”)  Anyway, Blue Book helps you to estimate the value of your vehicle; surveying eBay approximates the value of your antique Roseville Pottery collection, and your local numismatist will tell you how much your 1900’s pennies are worth.  In fact, it’s possible to comb through your entire holdings and come up with how much money you’re worth.   

Going further, there is even a position known as a Cost Estimator whose typical job is to identify factors affecting costs, such as production time, materials, and labor; read blueprints and technical documents in order to prepare estimates; collaborate with engineers, architects, clients, and contractors; calculate, analyze, and adjust estimates; recommend ways to reduce costs; work with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients; and maintain records of estimated and actual costs.  Everything, it would seem, has its price. 

You would be crazy, however, to let this compulsion to quantify everything you own bleed over into assessing the intangibles of life. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10. “For the price of wisdom is above rubies.” Job 28:18. And then, consider this stark question: Was the real price to betray Jesus thirty pieces of silver?  Even if Judas had received thirty trillion pieces of silver, it would not have been enough for the Master. 

Here’s the thing: If you gauge your net worth in dollars and cents, you are setting yourself up for a freefall into depression. Even if you’re doing okay, one dip in the stock market, one unfortunate contraction of a malevolent germ, one pink slip in your time card slot, one slip on the ice, one tragic moment on the freeway, two idiotic clicks on your computer mouse, and BAM!  Your meticulous compilation of units of value, all of your bean-counting fussiness, all of your excessive orderliness can come crashing down. 

To pastors and church leaders, don’t obsess so much on income and budgets, on attendance numbers and productivity goals, or on vision-driven strategies and stringent personnel training that you run roughshod over the intangibles of discipleship and loving God.  The more you base your hopes on political-campaign style programs, corporate-world techniques, and public relations tactics, the less you rely on the Holy Spirit, and the further you distance yourself from the warm glow of loving fellowship and the compassionate care of the body of Christ.  Those qualities don’t show up on the bottom line of your financial report. 

But, you say, what about the 3000 people who were added to the church on the Day of Pentecost?  Somebody must have been doing some quantifying!  You’re right, but it was after the fact! Going forward into the event, nobody had a clue about the outcome.  Moreover, I submit to you that the 120 disciples in the upper room didn’t know what this was all about.  They didn’t even know that they were going to speak in tongues!  They were simply were immersed in the worship of God and the devotion to the parting words of Jesus.    

If you live by the numbers, you’ll die by the numbers.  If productivity is the measure of your success, then it will also define your failure.  Slow down.  Drink in the divine presence.  Breathe in the mists of the glory of the King.  The intangibles of loving God transcend the external trappings of Christianity and escort you into a deeply satisfying relationship with God.  You can’t put a price on that. 

“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42.  NKJV 

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