I have been spending time recently sorting through my collection of baseball cards. I had collected baseball cards when I was a kid. I really had not taken it too seriously. There was something exciting about opening a new pack of cards and seeing what I got. When I open those packs, I was looking for two things; the bubble gum and Cleveland Indians. Those were the most important to me. The rest would get thrown in a box or attached to the spokes on front wheel of my bike. (some of you will understand) Today, I cringe at the Mickey Mantle cards I destroyed. If only I had known!
In the mid-80’s, I started collecting seriously. I had a friend who collected, and he gave me the courage to jump in again. We would trade cards, with the goal of making a complete set for each year. We would also talk baseball. In those years when I actively collected baseball cards, I knew the players. I paid much closer attention to what was going on. I didn’t just read the final scores in the paper, I actually paid attention to the box scores.
Somewhere in the mid-90s the price of a pack of cards increased to the point where I could no long justify buying them. Periodically I would buy some, just for fun, but I didn’t indulge regularly. I introduced my boys to baseball cards, but they never caught on, so my collecting days came to an end.
Now, as I face a major move, I have to decide what I am going to do with my collection. I will keep some of it for sentimental reasons. A small portion I will take to a dealer to see if there is any value left in them. The majority will go on a garage sale table. I have been organizing them in order to hopefully entice someone to buy some of them. When I was actively collecting, there was value in baseball cards. Today, not so much. Their value is determined by the value others place on them. They have no intrinsic value of their own.
My baseball card collection is an illustration of how we approach life. We tend to collect and hang onto those things that we think are of value. Some of those things have intrinsic value. Most of those things don’t. They only have value for a time; which is often temporary and fleeting. Had I sold my baseball cards a number of years ago, I could have reaped a nice prophet. Today, I will be lucky to earn a few dollars.
When it comes to material things, the ultimate end is not all that important. The things of real value are not material, but spiritual. The material things of this world are given to us from God to be used and enjoyed, but not to be held onto and hoarded. There is an expiration date on the value of all material things. God wants us to pay attention to those things that have real eternal value. We can boil this category down into two sets; those things that enhance our relationship with God and those things that enrich our relationships with others.
The most valuable thing that we can hold onto is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is the gold standard for everything else in life. Paul made that clear in Philippians 3:7-11.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
As Paul looked back and evaluated his life, he realized that all of his accomplishments were of no value, if they were not linked to his relationship with Jesus. What really gave value to his life was growing deeper in his relationship with Christ. Everything else was just baseball cards in a box.
The second thing of real value is our relationship with other people. When Jesus was asked what was of the most value in life He included our relationships with others. Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40) God created us to live in community with Him and with one another. When we invest in the lives of others we invest in eternity.
I guess the real lesson I have been learning while sorting baseball cards is the need to put things into perspective. The real value of those baseball cards was not in the cards themselves. It was in the fun of discovery, of sorting and organizing, and of the comradery of sharing the experience with others. Once they were all collected and neatly stored in a box, their value diminished.
In life, the real value is in the journey. Each experience is a gift from God that He wants to use to shape us as people and to draw us to Himself. Part of God’s gift is the delight we experience as we face each new adventure. If we try to hang onto those experiences, they lose their value. The real value in the material blessings that God has given us is enjoying them and using them for His glory. If we make material things an end in themselves, they lose all of their real value. They become baseball cards in a box.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.