Value Added

A little news blip caught my attention this week. The Department of Treasury is seriously considering eliminating the penny and nickel from monetary circulation next year. This sort of thing has been talked about for years, and maybe it is being driven by all the "fiscal cliff" chatter. The article said it costs roughly 5 cents to produce a penny, and nearly 11 cents to produce a nickel. Quarters and dimes, on the other hand, cost less than their respective 25 and 10 cents to produce. There is also talk of replacing $1 bills with $1 coins, which would also produce great savings. There is much discussion about whether this is window dressing or if it would make a significant impact on our budgetary situation. Personally I am all for it-- and considering our leaders are contemplating cutting billions of dollars in aid to folk in need (clearly a justice issue), I'm for pinching every penny we can find elsewhere. You could say, wait for it: Changing our currency just makes sense. Or cents. You're welcome.

This time of year we're bombarded with advertising, consumer driven marketing, every one and every thing competing for our money. As I said before in this space, the United Methodist Church recently launched "Reclaim Christmas," a marketing campaign to help us be more attentive to godly things in December. The tag line: "Spend Less, Give More." I really like it. But I wonder if we ought to Reclaim Advent too. We can leave Christmas for its rightful place on the calendar: December 25-January 6 (you know, the whole 12 days of Christmas deal), and focus more on the message of Advent, which begins this Sunday for four weeks. Advent is a time of searching for a new reality, a new possibility, a new era, instituted by a God who promises to make all things new.

The discussion about currency got me thinking about the value of things, and not just materials used to produce coins. What value does human life have to God? And us? This text came to mind from the Sermon on the Mount: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) Or this: "But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:24). And check this out: "For, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Our lives matter to God-- they have value-- and the lives of every other person should have value to each of us. Reclaiming Advent helps us to understand the value, and responsibility, of every human life. Linking our present with God's future helps us to soften our hearts to suffering and injustice wherever it is found. Understanding the inherent value of human life fills each of us with purpose. We can no longer look away when our sisters and brothers hurt.

When you see a penny on the sidewalk or a nickel on the ground, do you pick it up? Try taking that penny to the bank and asking for the 5 cents it cost to produce the thing. Is the value of the coin even worth the effort to bend over and grab it? What if it was a $5 bill? Or $100? Two people will split the nearly $600 million Powerball jackpot this week. Are their lives inherently more valuable today than they were last week? What "change" could happen if in every penny and nickel we saw, not the faces of Lincoln or Jefferson, but the faces of the poor? The hungry? The lonely? The sick? The ones without water/medicine/peace/hope? The ones who, so often, whose lives are undervalued by you and me. It's not so with God!

May you reclaim Advent this December. May you hear, perhaps for the first time, the call of God to justice, mercy, and liberation for those in need. May you know that your life has value. Your life has purpose. Use that value and purpose for God's purposes and for what God values! "More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8).