The Price of Coffee and Morals

I have just ordered a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappucino (say that five times fast) in a local bookstore for a little under 5 dollars. A little price to pay for the immeasurable pleasure it will bring me. From where I sit I can see the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, and numerous books fill the shelves. Each of those books have a price, some small, some large, and not necessarily based upon the size of the book. Thinking about money and prices reminded me of an unfortunate conversation I had some time ago.

I was asked by someone I was working with what I thought of a certain lady, namely, “Is she hot?” To which I responded, “It hadn’t occurred to me to think of it.” He continued on, growing a good deal more crude, eventually asking me, “Would you sleep with her for a million dollars and all the whiskey and tobacco you could desire?” (I have just had my thought stream interrupted with the arrival of my coffee – it is indeed exquisite; I may write a poem praising its virtues). I responded to his question by saying, “Well, none of those things attract me, so, no, I would not.”

He then proceeded to draw up an elaborate scenario, in which, if I did not sleep with this woman, an entire school bus of orphans would be killed. I had no clue what to say, and instead of coming back with a witty response, I simply said something like, “I don’t care to think about that” and walked away.

However, it brought some interesting thoughts to my mind. Was there any sort of price on my morals, or on my beliefs? I have heard people say in a jocular manner, “I would never do that; unless someone offered me a million dollars.” This is, of course, a ridiculous statement; who would offer anyone a million dollars to drive over a hundred on the interstate? I do understand that; but if a million dollars were truly presented, would I compromise on what I believe was right? Would you?

Or take the extreme example that my coworker gave me. Would I sin, that I might save the lives of those orphans? Thus my morality price tag would not read “$1,000,000”, but “100 Orphans”. It’s an interesting dilemma, isn’t it?

Yet often, the price tag for us is not so large. The average person is not tempted to assassinate some political giant for profit; not, often the temptations that come to us are much smaller. In a moment of passion, a young couple, who had every intention of keeping themselves chaste for their marriage, will find themselves in a compromising situation. Or a man, who had every intention of keeping his cool, will find himself in the aftermath of an outrage. Is it wrong to say that they had conditions on their morals? Subtle, but perhaps they thought, “I will keep myself chaste, unless I just feel like I can’t control myself any longer” or “I’ll keep my cool, unless this little bolt on the lawnmower won’t come off like I want it to.”

Of course, keeping yourself chaste, especially if you are young and romantically entangled with someone, consists of keeping yourself out of potentially compromising situations. These are simply the thoughts that come into my mind as I think about this issue of prices. In a sense, it goes back to what I mentioned last week, about how we are all criminals. We would never steal something in our current state; but driven to desperation, and knowing the depravity of our hearts, what crimes might we commit?

I think also of the saints and martyrs of old. There are many who have not yielded in their beliefs one inch, even to the cost of their lives. But there are also many who had a price on their beliefs. Their price tag simply read, “Threat of Death and Torture”, or something similar. They were faithful up to that moment; but like Demas, they loved the present world more. It is somewhat like Peter’s declaration in the Garden of Gethsemane: I will follow you, even to death; but when the moment came, he fled. Most of us will not be threatened with death in our lifetime (though I think we would be better people for it). Yet perhaps we should live in such a way as to expect it by dying to ourselves daily.

I think of Christ’s words to his disciples: Count the cost. Count the cost of what? Of following Jesus; of Christianity; of living a set-apart life from the world. Though we do not work for it,there is, in the truest sense, a price tag on Christianity. It reads, “Your Life”. God doesn’t just want our devotion; He wants us. All of us. In the end, it’s the only one I’ve mentioned worth paying for.


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