I bought a loaf of bread this morning. That’s not really all that unusual, and certainly not what you’d call newsworthy, but there was something different about this particular loaf of bread. It was the same name-brand bread we usually buy, but I bought it at a different store for the sake of convenience. It was in the same bag, it felt the same, it looked the same, and when I got it home, it smelled and tasted just like the last loaf of bread we bought.
So, what was the big difference? The store we usually shop at sells this loaf of bread for $1.49, but the store I was in sells the very same loaf of bread for $1.09. Why would the same loaf of bread, delivered by the same truck and unloaded by the same driver cost so much more at one store than the other? Both stores had their own “store brands,” both are chain stores of comparable size, in the same neighborhood, with comparable overhead. After processing the dilemma well into my second peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I concluded that there was only one reason why one store could charge forty cents more for the exact same product: As long as there are enough people who will buy that bread for $1.49, they’ll cheerfully sell it for $1.49.
It’s funny how we assign value to things. When you’re out of bread and in a hurry, $1.49 doesn’t seem so bad. When it’s close to payday and you’re short on funds, $1.49 seems like highway robbery. In either case, the bread is the same—it still weighs the same, smells the same, tastes the same—but our perception of the bread’s value is different. Changes in environment and circumstance often cause a shift in perceived value. If you doubt that, visit a grocery store within a few hours of a hurricane or other major storm, and watch people fight over the last loaf of bread or gallon of milk. People who would never dream of buying those high-priced “premium” brands gladly pay whatever price appears on the cash register, and normally peaceful folks turn almost violent as they scramble for whatever is left on the shelves.
Some folks apply the same shifting scale of value to people. Many of us have experienced someone treating us as a valued friend, only to be used by our “friend,” and then quickly forgotten. Many an employer has hired highly-skilled people to help them survive a time of crisis, promising a future of growth and stability, only to eliminate their position in a few months after the crisis has passed. Neighbors become friends when one needs to borrow something, but seldom speak afterward. The “me-first” priorities of our self-oriented society are often expressed in our shallow, need-based relationships.
Sadly, we even allow those perverted values to affect our relationship with God. Things get tough, we cry out for God to help us, He does, and we go our way without even so much as a “thank you.” Someone said that there are no Atheists in foxholes, and I believe that’s the truth—but there isn’t much memory in those foxholes, either. Imagine how much it would break your heart if your children would only talk with you when they wanted something or were in trouble, and then ignored you until the next crisis or need. People do that to God every day.
Fortunately, God doesn’t treat us that way in return. He puts up with our insults and selfish indifference, and even though we break His heart at times, He looks at us through His tears and knows our potential, and like the loving Father that He is, He patiently waits for us to grow up and return to Him the love that He’s so freely shown to us—sometimes, waiting for even a simple “thank you” or simple acknowledgment of His presence.
Father God, I’m glad you love me enough to put up with me. I love You, too, and I just want to say thanks. Thanks for loving me, thanks for my family and my good life, and thanks for letting me help you sometimes, when people around me need help and you use me to do it. Oh, and thanks for the good price on that bread this morning, so close to payday when I was short on cash. Amen.