Every once in a while I watch Antiques Road Show on PBS.  People who have inherited a family heirloom, or stumbled across a piece of art or furniture at a yard sale, or found an old porcelain doll from their childhood will drag their treasure in for an appraiser to assess its value on the open market.  It’s a great show.  It reminds me a little of the Big Spin that I used to watch as a teenager because, for some people, Antiques Road Show can feel a lot like winning the lottery.  The appraiser says, “You won’t believe this, but this Chinese vase dates back to Ming Dynasty.  It’s worth about $200,000 at auction,” and the woman gasps before going into cardiac arrest right on the set

I have to confess that I tend to get more enjoyment out of seeing it go the other way for the would-be hopefuls on the show.  When someone drags in a piece of furniture, I want the appraiser to say, “You have a really nice Swedish chair here.  It dates back to around 1998, and it sells for about $39.99 down at your local Ikea.”  In other words, the only value it has is the value that it has for you.  It has no real value to others.  It’s valuable only to the extent that you value it and use it.

As a small child I was given an old Lionel train set by some neighbors who’s son had died as a young boy more than twenty years prior.  The train set had never been used by the child.  Because it was given to me when I was an infant, my parents boxed it up, stored it in the rafters, and forgot about it.  After my father died, we found it.  The train set was almost 80 years old, and while the track was unusable from rust and corrosion, the engine and freight were in near perfect condition.  When I purchased new track at a local store, the man said, “People are afraid to play with trains that are as old as yours.  All they see is what the train is worth.  But when I see a train, all I see is a child’s toy that is meant for play.”

We’ve all met more than a few people who seem to care more about outward appearances and the world’s admiration that they do about their inner spiritual life and their core values.  When they polish their persona with religion or a public display of personal piety, they can look so perfect that you almost envy them.  But Jesus was not impressed.  Of the Pharisees and Scribes, he said, “Do what they teach, but don’t do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach” (Matthew 23:1-12).

Part of what Jesus was saying was that the real value of our faith comes down to whatever it’s worth to us personally, because no one else is appraising it.  The more of ourselves we put into our faith, the greater value it will have for us, and the more fruit it will bear in the world.  Jesus is not impressed by appearances, or by our outward religiosity, or by what others think of us.  We can drag out our faith and ask him how much he thinks its worth, but in the end, he just wants to know how much it’s worth to us.  Is it something you drag out from time to time like an antique, or is it something you use everyday, like an old chair that will hold your weight without breaking day in and day out, like an old Lionel that gives people joy?  The real value of your faith is what you put into it, your life, your time, your devotion, your resources, your loyalties and commitments, your words and your deeds.