Graduates: Jesus Is Worth More
Bigger or Better
Have you ever played the game Bigger or Better? You start with something small and insignificant, like a paper clip or a tooth pick, and then go knocking on doors asking if they have something bigger or better to trade. You might go from toothpick to eraser to candy bar to football to inflatable dolphin; and the team with the biggest and best item when the time ends wins.
Back in 2006, 26-year-old Kyle Macdonald from Canada, started with a red paperclip and through 13 trades, over the course of about a year, he ended up with a house. Its an incredible story that you can read about here, or watch his TED Talk here. Kyle played the Bigger or Better game and he did it well.
How are you doing at your game? You see, life is a lot like playing Bigger or Better; you are always trading something for something else. You trade kindergarten for elementary school, elementary school for middle, middle for high school, so you can trade it in for college. Hopefully you can cash that education in for a job, and if you’re making money, then maybe you can trade in single you for family you, which many then trade back in for career advancement and a new spouse, all the while seeking after the thing that will be the best, most satisfying, happiest, greatest value, bigger or better thing… whatever that may be.
There’s a man in the Bible named Solomon who was one of the best, but also the worst player of Bigger or Better. The book of Ecclesiastes shares with us his life in the game: searching after something bigger, something better, something that might possibly satisfy.
He starts looking for satisfaction in wisdom, something that seems like such a noble aspiration, but discovers it’s meaningless, and (his favorite picture) a chasing after the wind. So what’s bigger or better? He looks for satisfaction in pleasures: wine and laughter, houses and vineyards, possessions, entertainment and lots of sex – he says “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them" (Ecc 2:10) – but again it was meaningless. So he looks for satisfaction in work and progress, achievements and wealth. But then trades that up for strength, position and good works, but no matter what he tries, no matter what he gains, everything that would be admired and praised in the eyes of the world, it is vanity; a chasing after the wind.
Solomon was the supreme champion of Bigger or Better because he got everything that anyone would ever want, but he was also the biggest loser, since he discovered that nothing, nothing the world had to offer was actually of value; nothing he found could satisfy.
I tell you this, because right now, you stand at an edge, heading into a season where there might be new experiences, new opportunities, new ideas of what will satisfy you, what will seem to make your life meaningful. If life is a game of playing Bigger or Better, and even Solomon couldn’t win, how do you know that you will do any, well, better?
Jesus himself gave a warning to the players of this game, he said: "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" - Mark 8:36
But there is something worth it!
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. - Matthew 13:44
Jesus tells this story of a man who played the game and got it right. He found what was ultimately valuable, the greatest worth, the biggest and the best and then he traded up for it. What did he trade? Everything! Not begrudgingly, but out of his great joy because he sees just how valuable it really is. For him, it wasn’t a cost, it was a steal.
You see, we are drawn to the game and to the lifestyle of Bigger or Better, because I think that we know in our hearts that something bigger is out there; there is something better than what we have right now.
CS Lewis says, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
In this story Jesus beckons us, beckons you, to trade everything for the ultimate treasure, and the secret is, that the treasure is Jesus.
Jesus, himself as the King of this kingdom, as the one who gives it value, is himself the invaluable treasure. If you have Jesus, you have the kingdom. If you have Jesus, you have reconciliation with God, if you have Jesus you have life eternal. If you have Jesus, you have all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realm. If you have Jesus, you have a sure hope and foundation, if you have Jesus you will be satisfied.
So, here is the phrase I want to send you graduates off with, into summer, into high school, into college, and into your life with: JESUS IS WORTH MORE.
Because you see, over and over and over again, the world will tell you, people will tell you, magazines and social media, and tv and movies and music, and YouTubers, even your own soul will tell you that something else is bigger, something else is better, but you must fight those lies and believe that Jesus is worth more.
3 Ways to Fight the Lies
- JESUS IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR PLEASURE
When I went to college I mostly stayed a moral kid out of fear of punishment. I avoided drinking, smoking, messing around with girls, because I was worried about what my parents would think, or what God would do to me. But the truth is, punishment is only so good a motivator. You can convince yourself that you can get away with things, or that God doesn’t really care, but what you are left with are lesser things, the cheaper pleasures, and you’re back in a place where life is not as full as God intended it to be.
It’s not about avoiding punishment, but about chasing after the greater thing, the more satisfying, richer reward that is Jesus.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a [vacation] at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Tempted to get drunk or high? Jesus is worth more.
Tempted to push your sexual boundaries? Jesus is worth more.
When confronted with the lesser pleasures: Jesus is worth more.
- JESUS IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR PAIN
But it’s not just a moral guide, the reality of Jesus’ inestimable value will also help get you through the tough times. You will go through painful moments like heartache, death of a friend, or parents splitting up; you may even feel the need to end it all, but Jesus is worth more.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I might gain Christ. - Philippians 3:8
Not only is Christ with you through those painful moments, but as we focus on Christ, we discover the truth, that whatever we suffer, it is all worthwhile if we might gain Christ. He is worth the pain, the loss, the difficulty, the trials.
Jesus is worth more than your pain.
- JESUS IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR POTENTIAL
Jesus is worth more than perfect grades. He’s worth more than financial and career success. More than notoriety or even impressing your parents.
"Jesus is worth more than your potential" means you might have the opportunity to choose between being all that you can be, making the most of every opportunity for what you were given in brains, talents and privilege, but if those things will take you farther from God, Jesus frees you to choose what the world will call “lesser” because Jesus, and what he wants for your life, is worth more.
He’s worth more than the pleasures the world offers. He worth more than the pain you’ll have to endure. And he’s worth more than your potential of what others say you can do if only you’d just leave Jesus behind.
Jesus Is Worth More
You see, if life can be compared to Bigger or Better and the ultimate Best is Jesus himself, well, then what’s the point of your schooling? What’s the point of continuing on?
- Win the game.
Jesus is the ultimate trade-in, and once you have given yourself over in order to receive him, then you have won.
- Help others win too.
Now that you have won the game, you are free to not live it for yourself, but instead you can aim to help others win too. You can present Jesus as the winning solution to all the people who are trapped trading paper-clips for fish pens, or trading money for success, trading time for a rusty, broken legacy. You can show others that Jesus is worth more.
Which means that you can look at education for more than prestige, and you can look at jobs for more than just money. You can look for whatever you do next, this summer, this year, the next five, not as a means to something bigger or better, but for the purpose of making Jesus more valuable to you, enjoying Him for all that he is, and making Him known wherever he takes you.
Don’t spend your life always trying to trade up. Jesus is bigger. Jesus is better. You can chase after everything in this world that you think is valuable, but Jesus is worth more.
Derick Zeulner is an associate pastor at South Shores Church. He has a M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA and he loves the wacky adventures of doing life with his wife, Rebecca, and 4 kids.