Another Pearl

I hate reconciliation, but I love it when it works out.

My history with reconciliation has to do with a checkbook and budget. I like numbers conceptually, but grinding them until they reconcile is an art that makes me appreciate accountants. 

Many years ago--when I first started running a small organization--I carried forward for several months an irreconcilable dime. That's right. I don't recall what the budget was in those days, but since I couldn't reconcile the dime, I carried it forward--in frustration and hours of sunk time--resolved to find the dime next month. 

A man who would become one of my business mentors asked if he could sublet some space. I agreed, we hatched a deal, and Carroll B Ray moved in next to me. As he helped me computerize our accounting, I asked him about the mysterious dime. 

"Oh, that's an ESP entry. Let me show you how to do that in the accounting software." Carroll had me open our accounting software, and then guided me through the process of adding a dime of revenue and labeling it, ESP. 

I asked him the obvious, "What does ESP mean?"

"It means there's an error some place." Thus was born my "executive level" understanding of double-entry bookkeeping. 

In my last note to you, we examined the idea of a sunk cost. That is, a cost that has been expended and cannot be recovered--because the funds are already spent. In fact, we likened the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, and the willingness of God the Father to expend His Son, as a sunk cost. 

Of course, the greater the value of the sunk cost, the greater the difficulty in wrapping your understanding around the expenditure. I suspect we will spend the balance of this life and the next grasping the sunk cost of Jesus Christ. 

And, Jesus grasped this fundamental point Himself and spent a fair bit of His storytelling trying to provide metaphors so we could comprehend. The parable I mentioned in my last letter to you--it's actually two parables I blended together--was His story about a valuable pearl and an investor who sunk his life savings to purchase the field where the pearl was buried in order to obtain the pearl. 

The top-level take-away from Jesus' story is that He was attempting to tell his listeners--and us, His readers--that He is the pearl. As He outlines divine salvation in Scripture, while He doesn't use these words, He promises that if we will sink the independent value of our lives that are separate from Him in the gamble of His pledge to grant us eternal life, He will make good on our investment. 

It's an intriguing proposition: The sunk cost of His divine life in exchange for the sunk cost of our earthly lives with His promise of eternal life. It's quite a deal actually--for us, anyway. 

But there is another, more challenging, second-tier take-away from Jesus' story about the pearl: The reason this other interpretation of Jesus' story is more challenging is that it increases the amount of God and Jesus' sunk cost. In other words, it is harder to reconcile why God-the-investor and Jesus-the-payment would go forward with an obviously bad deal. 

The other way to think about Jesus' story regarding the pearl is to realize that you are the pearl. And of course, anyone in his right mind recoils. "You're crazy. I'm not a pearl of any worth, certainly not a pearl that is worth the sacrifice of a divine life."

Years ago I was traveling through Zurich and stayed with a friend who was a pearl broker. I asked all sorts of questions over dinner, and I learned a lot about pearls and who buys them. It's a complicated business. But one aspect of pearl brokering is properly valuing the flaws. 

It's not hard to ponder Jesus' story and conclude He was the perfect pearl. But thinking about the other interpretation of the story, any honest person has to conclude, there is no value in a pearl so fatally flawed as me...and the rest of mankind too. 

And this is what makes Jesus' story so compelling, what makes divine salvation so captivating, and what makes the sunk cost of Jesus' life worthy of contemplation for all of eternity. God-the-investor, paid Jesus-the-price, in order to And, me too. 

Even though God got you and me both--and everyone else potentially--in His purchase price, it's not like He offset His cost by buying in bulk. On the contrary. The more He got, the greater the discrepancy between what He paid and what He receives. Talk about throwing good "money" after bad!

Herein is a different look, not only at the depth of the sunk cost of salvation, but at reconciliation. From what I can discern, double-entry bookkeeping works in accounting and it works in heaven's economy too. Who knows? Maybe God gave the whole concept to whoever invented double-entry bookkeeping. 

God paid one to get one. That seems reasonable--at least, the math is reasonable. In terms of value...? Well, not only is the value proposition irreconcilable, so is the worth equation. 

No question about it: God made a bad deal. Such a bad deal, in fact, that is hard to believe. 

That faith and belief are hard is a given. They should be challenging. In fact, if you approach faith and belief with your understanding, the sunk cost of Jesus in order for God to make relational provision for you will never reconcile and you'll eventually die trying. 

It is not unreasonable at all for one person to give their life for another person. It happens all the time--and we are rightfully astounded. Parents do this for children, soldiers for each other, mentors for mentees, and so forth. While profound, we still can grasp it, honor it, and live inspired to follow suit. 

It's not the concept but the math that makes what God did in Jesus on our behalf hard to reconcile. That He gave one to get one is the salvation story. Why? How does He reconcile this? It's not equal. This is the hard part. 

If I could humanize heaven's administration, I suspect God went into His books and made an ESP entry. Of course, the error some place is a known event, i.e. the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. The reconciliation entry God made is otherwise known as Jesus Christ. 

Like any sunk cost, the cost of Christ will never be recovered or repaid. He has been spent. 

Simply though, He was enough. Yes, the death of Christ is a sunk cost of divine proportion that we will grapple with forever. But in addition, the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient to reconcile the books of heaven.

You are a pearl--the other pearl. I can't fully explain it, but the numbers don't lie. God's books are reconciled and so are you if you adopt His math and jettison yours.