"How much does it cost?" "What's it worth?" These two questions may sound alike, but they are different. Very different.
"Cost" is the amount of money it takes to complete a purchase...the bill, the tab, the monetary expense required to accomplish a financial transaction. "Worth" is the usefulness of the object...the benefit, value, and importance of the thing purchased. It is the long-lasting return we derive from the item. Justification for paying a certain cost is usually determined on the basis of the personal worth that accompanies the purchase.
One other distinction must be emphasized. "Cost" is cold, objective, and even painful. Nor is it necessarily easy to accept. That's where "worth" plays a vital role. In our minds we juggle the unemotional, hard facts of cost along with the subjective, magnetic appeals of worth. Worth, when it does its job, convinces the buyer that either the cost is acceptable, or it says, "Don't do it...it isn't worth that kind of money."
The difference between handling our money wisely or foolishly is largely determined by the interplay between these two forces. Obviously, we have spent wisely when the cost is eclipsed by the worth. Again, that must be determined individually. That is why, in the long run, we can usually determine a person's scale of values by the things he or she purchases. Or, to use the words of Jesus: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21).
So next time you ask, "How much does it cost?" think also about "What's it worth?" This is especially true when we are deciding how to spend the money God's people have given for the upkeep and ministry of the church. While our stewardship should guard against extravagance, we certainly do not want to clothe the riches of Christ in rags.
Think about Sundays—your church life and the motivation you receive. Think about your children and their future. And their children's future. Think about your neighbourhood—unreached individuals by the hundreds. Think about the possibilities of radio or television outreach, perhaps a Christian school, enlarged missionary outreaches, room to grow, room to park! What's it worth?
Deciding whether something is worth the cost requires intense, effective, prevailing prayer, as well as the hard work of objective thinking. And then it requires courage to act on God's clear direction.
Ministries that stay alive are forever moving forward—walking along the ridge called "faith" overlooking that chasm called "impossibility."
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.