For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 2:8-10
“’Can you tell me how much this is worth?’ asked the young father. He had already explained the whole story about finding the ring.
“’Well, based on your story and how badly this 1.2 carat has been treated, I’d say it’s worth about $50.’
“’$50! That’s ridiculous! How can it be worth only $50?’ he replied aghast.
“Actually, that’s not how the story went. The jeweler told the young father that it was worth $3,500. But things of true value are not appraised based on how they are treated. Their value comes from their true essence, from intrinsic worth.”
- Peter N. Robbins, a devotion titled “Diamond in the Sand”, in the devotion book God’s Abundance, edited by Kathy Collard Miller
In this devotion, Dr. Robbins paints a picture of children playing in a sand box. They had found a ring and they were taking turns burying the ring and then digging it up when the young father noticed the glitter in the sunlight.
It reminded me of my first trip to Southeast Asia. I flew to Thailand and worked there for two weeks, teaching the workers at the steel mill how to make quality hot rolled steel product. They introduced me to a jeweler in town. I brought back a ring for my wife. It was a ruby ring with some tiny diamonds. I paid about $100 for the ring.
After giving it to my wife, she happened to be in the mall, wearing the ring. She went to a high-end jewelry store (at least as malls go) and showed the sales clerk her ring. The sales clerk pulled out her loupe and studied the stone. She hinted that the ring was ‘worthless costume jewelry.’ The ring was too yellow. That means that the metal is some cheap alloy. The stone was clear, obviously cut glass, but she wasn’t sure. She called the manager over.
The manager took the ring and examined it with his loupe. He pronounced, “I’ll give you $1,500, but how did you acquire such an exquisite item?”
My wife said that she was going to keep the ring. She said that I had bought it in Thailand. She just wanted to know if her husband had been duped, since I knew nothing about jewelry. She then stood by while the manager gave the clerk a little teaching session. The gold was ‘too yellow’ because it was a 20+ carat gold, instead of the 14-18 carat gold sold in America. The stone was clear, because it was a natural stone. The rubies in America are manufactured stones, and they have a cloudy appearance.
My wife knew that the manager had given her a low offer and that at retail, the ring would sell for much more than what he offered.
While Dr. Robbins made up his story of a battered ring, my wife lived through the story. Of course, Dr. Robbins continues with a tale about what we are worth. He concludes with the fact that our Heavenly Father had to give up His Son, to die for us. Considering that, we are priceless! Just like the ring that my wife still wears a little over 20 years later. Hmmm, I wonder what the jeweler would offer now?
The Scripture above concludes with “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God created us for a purpose, to honor and glorify Him, our Creator. When Adam and Eve felt that they could be equal to God, it upset God greatly. God had established the rules regarding that disobedience, and the Fall of Man was the result. Yet, it pained God to see His creation in this broken state. If God did not love us, the sin of Adam and Eve and the broken relationship with Him would not bother Him.
I remember my chickens that I raised in the eighth grade. My Dad and I built a hatchery out of a small cardboard box (about 1.5 cubic ft capacity – a standard small box for books), a shallow cake pan filled with water, some wire mesh, and a single light bulb. The bulb provided the heat, which the eggs needed to hatch, but the excess heat evaporated the water to maintain a greater than average humidity – measured by a wet bulb thermometer. This little box got me to the State science fair finals for one reason alone. My Dad had gotten four eggs that were close to the point of hatching, and after I had placed them in the hatchery, they broke through their shells just as the judges reached my station. (These days, they’d never let you have live things on the floor of the science fair. The water for the humidity control would be considered a ‘chemical’ and thus, hazardous. My trip to the State finals was before the rules changed.)
The point in bringing that up is that I raised four roosters, no hens. If we had one rooster and three hens, we might have kept them for the eggs. When the four roosters got to be full grown – each wanting to be the alpha-male in the coop, my Dad told me that I was going to slaughter them when I got home from school that day. They would be chicken stew that night for supper. We might have lived in town for a couple of years by that time, but we were simple farm folk. I dreaded what was coming that evening. I may not have listened to a single teacher all that day. My mind was totally absorbed with what I had to do that night. What I did not know was that my Dad knew that I had grown attached to those chickens. He came home from his job at the poultry processing plant and slaughtered the chickens for me during his lunch break. I only had to clean up the mess of feathers when I got home. My Dad knew that I would die a little when those chickens died at my own hand.
Understand, I grew up, at least my early years, on a turkey farm. I played with the little chicks. I held the pullets (a little older birds, nearly a year old) while their beaks were clipped, when I was a little older. (Domestic turkeys have a genetic defect where their beaks curl too much, at full growth, unable to close their mouths. If the upper beak is not clipped [with a hot iron, so really burned], they would die of starvation due to being unable to clamp their beaks onto the food. Clipping the lower beak, which is never done, would allow the water to slip out as they raised their heads to swallow, thus leaving them dehydrated.) But after this beak clipping, the turkeys would be placed in the general population along with the full-grown turkeys. What might have been considered my playthings a year ago were just part of the flock. That’s growing up on a farm. With a well-maintained farm, there were always new chicks to play with.
I could walk through the poultry processing plant and not bat an eye as thousands of chickens would get prepared for the grocery store or the fast food place that sold fried chicken with a bunch of herbs and spices. But these four roosters were a bit different. I had made the hatchery. I had placed the eggs in the hatchery. I had moved our dog to my grandparents home so that I could use the dog run in our backyard as a chicken coop, making the necessary modifications myself. And I had tended them daily.
That day, about 55 years ago, was my Good Friday. It may not have gotten pitch black dark in the middle of the day, but there was darkness inside my consciousness.
My Dad wanted to teach me an important ‘farming’ lesson, but he taught me a value lesson about the love that God has for us. It doesn’t sound the same as John 3:16 when you say that “I gave up my four chicken ‘children’ so that we could have stew.” But I did give up what I loved. They were the reason that I got some blue ribbons. I doubt that if the eggs had not hatched at that precise moment that the judges would ever think that our cardboard box could work.
We focus on the sacrifice that Jesus made, by dying, but the Father sent Him to earth for just that one thing, to pay the penalty for us. And the Father was in Heaven, watching what was happening, with every bit of the power necessary to call a halt to it.
When I think back, did God do, as I did, and think about simply not going home from school that day and avoiding the pain? No, in a way, God had prepared Himself for that moment from the dawn of time itself, when He created the rules that ‘man’ would have to live by.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.