One Saturday in 2009 we spent the day celebrating the church we were attending’s 50th anniversary with a community fun day. As part of the event there were carnival style games for kids. The kids earned tickets playing the games and then redeemed their tickets for prizes. I had the pleasure of manning the prize table. There was a wonderful variety of prizes. The prizes started out with values of 1 ticket through 6 tickets. As the day progressed an inflation rate hit. The largest teddy bear that was originally available for 6 tickets jumped to a whopping 20 ticket prize. The light-up bouncing balls that could be had for 4 tickets early in the day cost 6 tickets by the end of the day. Many other prizes rapidly increased in value.
The main reason for the increase was due to the enthusiasm and aptitude the kids had for the games. At first they would come to the table in their excitement with only 2 or 3 tickets. But all too soon, they were showing up with pockets full of tickets. One girl had 54 tickets and that wasn’t her first trip to the prize table. I had to increase the value of the prizes in order to impose some limits and because the 6 ticket prizes were quickly disappearing.
As the prize values went up I noticed an interesting phenomenon: when a prize’s ticket value went up they became more desirable. The light-up bouncing balls were ignored at a price of 5 tickets. They quickly began to disappear at a cost of 6 tickets. The passed over 2 ticket pack of gumballs sold out at 4 tickets. The more value we placed on an item the more they were valued.
Two portions of scripture came to mind as I watched this play out. The first one is in Luke chapter 7:
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” ”Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The woman in this story recognized the high value of the forgiveness that Jesus offered. She was willing to give something of great value in exchange for it. And, even with the expensive perfume, she understood that it was something she could not purchase so she poured out her tears upon Jesus’ feet. Jesus contrasts her attitude with that of the Pharisee, Simon, who saw so little value in having Jesus as his dinner guest that he didn’t even bother with the customary hospitality of providing water for Jesus to wash his feet. Simon was forgiven little not because he didn’t need forgiveness but because he neither recognized his debt of sin nor the value of the forgiveness Jesus was offering.
The second portion of scripture is from 1 Corinthians chapter 9:
19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Paul is willing to pay whatever the price to win the prize because he recognizes the value of the prize. What is that prize? It’s a crown. I ran a search in Biblegateway.com on the word crown to get a better understanding of just what that crown is. In the New Testament there are several crowns mentioned. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19 the crown is the believers whom Paul preached the gospel to:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
In 2 Timothy 4 the crown is a crown of righteousness:
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
In James 1 there is the crown of life:
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
In 1 Peter 5 There’s a crown of glory:
4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
I enjoyed watching the kids get so excited over winning the prizes. When they didn’t have enough tickets for a desired prize they wouldn’t complain they would just run back to the games, compete some more, win some more tickets and come back for it. In life, we need to keep competing for our tickets for our prize of a crown. What do we get tickets for? We get tickets for those people we present the gospel to, for fighting the good fight and keeping the faith, for persevering under trial, and for longing for Jesus’ return.
” I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11)