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Price Tag

By Fiona Mearns | 14 June 2013

Price Tag


This blog is part 9 in The Art of Giving email series. Want to sign up to receive all ten emails for free? Enter your email address here.


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45

What makes something valuable?

There was a series of adverts a few years ago which promoted the use of a certain credit card. The tagline said “There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's . . . .” Ironically, it acknowledged that much of what is important to us is in fact beyond price. The ad agency that came up with the successful campaign realised they needed to promote the product but also address the public concern that materialism was taking over. They knew that the things people valued were beyond price.

Despite this, much of what we encounter on a daily basis tells us that price is important. Getting the lowest price seems to be one shopper’s obsession, while for some, it’s about how much you splashed out on that designer piece. If the value of things seems to be firstly dictated by price, it can make it difficult to identify their true value. Does a big price tag make something inherently more valuable or does it just affect our perception of it?

I wonder whether our perception of giving is also affected by this distortion? Does handing over a sum of money rank above giving our time, showing care and kindness or nurturing a relationship over many years?

Example one: each year I listen on the radio to one-off experiences being auctioned for charity. The sums of money being pledged are way beyond what most of us earn in a year, never mind able to give. The donors are treated to a fabulous day out doing something unique, usually in the company of some celebrity, and are feted for their generosity. The ‘price tag’ says, ‘I’m generous’, it’s widely acknowledged as such and they get ‘double bubble’ – a pat on the back and a great day out.

Example two: A lady I know faithfully gives her time and energy to work with a group of primary school children week in, week out. She’s one of a myriad of volunteers who do this all across the country in many different contexts – affecting the lives of others in a quiet but consistent way. No big fanfare and sometimes not much of a pat on the back. When I recently commented on her dedication, she brushed it off with “oh, it’s nothing”. But of course it isn’t; it’s a big thing; a thing of value. 

So do we place a higher value on the one-off big cheque or the consistent, sustained act of generosity? The price tag, or the non-monetary costly gift? It’s very easy to be impressed by big numbers because money is able to do so much in our society, but there are also things it can’t do. It can’t hold someone’s hand when they’re grieving or lonely; it can’t forgive or show compassion and it certainly can’t smile and say ‘I care’.

I dare say some of us even sometimes make a monetary gift because it’s easier and demands less of our time or energy…

I’m reminded of Dorcas in Acts 9:36-42 who was “always doing good and helping the poor”.  Much of her contribution was by making clothing; in those days an extremely long-winded and laborious task all done by hand. When she died, her friends sent for Peter and when he arrived in the room where her body was laid out “all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.” They clearly valued her – even to the point of looking for a miracle to bring her back to life.  Her giving was so personal that they were able to quite literally show Peter what she’d given them.

Maybe we need to celebrate the Dorcases of our time – the people who spend long hours working away at something because it’s important and they have a gift to share. Maybe we need to celebrate the giving that doesn’t have a price tag.

the challenge:

Take time to consider the quiet acts of generosity that go on around you.  Think about acknowledging and encouraging them. Then maybe consider your own giving patterns.  Are there any other ways you could give that might cost you more (in time, skill, or effort) which would bless the receiver and meet their need more personally?

Posted by Fiona Mearns

Fiona Mearns is the Resourcing Christian Workers Coordinator at Stewardship and part of a team committed to helping individuals build and maintain strong, sustainable support networks.  She loves to write whenever there’s an opportunity and is a fan of a well-used apostrophe.

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