What Does Our Culture Value?

What does our culture value?

Or, for that matter, what do you value?

I heard a story about a woman who had a family wedding ring she wouldn’t have sold for a million dollars, especially after 50 years of marriage. But she died and they had to auction off her things to pay for taxes and bills. An auctioneer came in. The ring was sold for $2.

What’s valuable to one person isn’t valuable to the next.

There are a lot of people talking about values and what we consider valuable. Whether it’s a house or health or humility.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is that we followers of Jesus have often been duped into thinking that our culture’s values are our values. There’s a risk: When you blend in you get sucked in and the shining star of your heart can get sullied.

Marcus Borg is a writer who talks about 3 big cultural values out there.  They all start with A.

1. Achievement
Ladder-climbing (corporate and otherwise), award getting, etc. I recently heard about a famous football coach being interviewed about his success.  Something came up about the cost of that success.  One of the things he said was, “I don’t really know my children.” How sad.

2. Affluence
This is wealth.  Think higher salaries, expensive houses.

3. Appearance
Look good, look young, look sexy, look cool. I read an article awhile back about the new $10 bill with John A Macdonald on it. If you compare it to the more original pictures of him, they’ve given Canada’s first Prime Minister an expensive face lift! I guess he didn’t fit the bill. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

That’s the end of Borg’s list. But here’s another one:

4. Autonomy
It technically means a law unto oneself.  Individualism, the self-made man, the no-need-for-help. In today’s world, if you need help it’s almost perceived as a sign of weakness.

I simply offer this blog as a think-piece about what we value.  Other things I hear often are ‘health and happiness.’

But what we value is often what drives our decisions. Do we value God? Our family? Or our community? Hopefully the contours of our day reflect these values.

But if we aren’t thinking it through, maybe we just get sucked into the tidal-wave of values around us—things like achievement, affluence, appearance and autonomy.

When a bug is stuck in the mud and all he knows is mud, he gets used to it. Little does he know there’s a refreshing pond 10 metres away.

Many years ago on Mischief Night in Philadelphia Tony Campolo and some friends broke into the five and dime. As a prank they switched all the price tags around.  The next day people starting buying stuff and there was all this confusion as a radio was listed as 10 cents and bobby pins as $10.

One of my worries is that this is exactly what’s happened in our culture, especially with our faith.  We’ve given the 4 A’s a huge price tag and de-valued things like charity, truth, humility, kindness…

Ultimately, I think our value comes from whose we are: We are children of God. And a parent embraces a child with a beloved passion that cannot be earned.

I like how Jean Vanier says it in a little book called Becoming Human: “…a human being is more than the power or capacity to think and to perform. There is a gentle person of love hidden in the child within each adult.”


    1. Hi Matt. Yes I would agree with that too. Your comment makes me think of another one: novelty. I often feel as if people will cling to an idea if it is ‘new,’ even if it hasn’t been tried, tested or thought out. The fact that it’s new/novel almost has a nascent quality making it superior. That can, of course, be a challenge when there is incredible and enduring historic wisdom out there.


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