Centuries ago, ancient merchants originated a phrase which came to serve as the universal rule for trade and commerce: “The value of anything is determined by how much it can be traded for.” Ironic as it may seem, one of the greatest illustrations of this principle comes from the tragic story of Christ’s betrayal by one of his own disciples. Judas, who was also the treasurer for the twelve, traded his loyalty to Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas simply traded Christ for something which was of higher value to himself. What a shame, that after being with Jesus daily, witnessing the miracles and the wonders, to Judas the Lord of the universe was only worth a mere 30 pieces of silver! The infamous downfall of Judas, is really a story of warped values — he simply didn’t recognize the true worth, the vast preciousness of Jesus Christ. “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced” (Matt. 27:9).
Twisted values are not uncommon in other Biblical accounts, such as in the story of the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25). A special blessing and inheritance from their father Isaac belonged to the first-born son, Esau. But Esau lacked a full appreciation for his inherited birthright. In contrast, Jacob realized its astronomical value and coveted his birthright. He eventually found a scheme to transfer its rights to himself. At a time that Esau was famished, Jacob offered him a bowl of lentils in exchange for the birthright. Although this offer was in no way equitable, yet amazingly, Esau agreed to trade his birthright for a single meal. What stupid, distorted values Esau had! But is this any different than the petty, inferior things that many people trade for spiritual things?
Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What if Jesus sent you a letter and promised to personally meet with you and His other followers at a restaurant on Sabbath morning. But let’s say Sabbath comes, and you feel like sleeping in instead. Or maybe it’s such a beautiful day, you prefer to go on a picnic, or perhaps there’s a football game on TV you don’t want to miss. Wouldn’t you say that whatever you selected to do, instead of meeting with Jesus, would say something about the insignificance of your relationship with Him? Wouldn’t it mean that, like Judas, you have established your value upon Christ? Wouldn’t it mean that a TV show has higher worth, that a picnic is more important, or a little extra sleep means more to you than meeting with Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe?
But you may say, “Jesus hasn’t sent me such a letter. He’s in Heaven and won’t be at a restaurant!” However dear friend, Jesus promised that whenever believers gather in His name, He will always honor that gathering with His presence. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). In other words, He gave His word to be present whenever two or more believers come together in His name.
So do Christians really believe His Word? Many must figure that Jesus doesn’t tell the truth, because week after week, many professing Christians snub the Lord Jesus by not showing up where He promised to be. Either they must figure He lied and won’t be at church, or else they have simply established a low estimate of Jesus’ worth. Yes, that’s right! The things that keep you away from church is the value you have placed on the presence of Jesus — they declare what spiritual things are worth to you.
Thank God there are believers who have such a high value on their meeting with Jesus that it takes something urgent or awfully important to pull them away. Some have no choice but to work at their jobs during the times that some church meetings occur. Some might not come meet with Jesus because of an emergency, sickness, road conditions or car trouble, etc. Although nothing in this world can assume a higher priority than our relationship with Jesus, at least the Lord understands our situations and knows our heart — that we rather would meet with Him and our brethren if it weren’t for similar urgencies.
However, how could we expect the Lord to be pleased if we stay away from His meetings for less serious excuses? What does it say about our spiritual values if we’re absent due to the special sale at Sears, the football game, watching the late show, or are simply too lazy to get up on time? Remember, the reasons which keep people away reflect the value that they take place upon the Lord, spiritual things, their brethren and the church.
Why does the scripture connect the neglect of church attendance to sin? Mere absence from a church meeting is not in itself a sin, however a pattern of absence from church always leads to, or has a relationship to sin and displeasing God. “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:25-26).
Why Unfaithfulness to Church Displeases God
(1) It keeps us away from a spiritual influence that would encourage us and keep us from falling away from the Lord (Heb. 3:12-13).
(2) It keeps us away from encouragement toward repentance and reconciliation should we fall into sin (1 John 1:9, Gal. 6:1).
(3) Prevents our faith from being built up by hearing the Word preached (Rom. 10:17).
(4) It keeps us from obeying the Lord’s command to demonstrate love for our brethren, which keeps us from falling (1 John 2:10, John 15:12).
(5) It prevents us from receiving correction or submission to spiritual authority (Heb. 13:17).
(6) It expresses unbelief and disobedience to God’s Word which tells us to fellowship and assemble together (1 John 1:7, Heb. 10:25).
(7) It shows disregard toward the call to worship the Lord collectively as His body (Psa. 22:22, 35:18, 107:32).
(8) It shows our lack of discernment of the Lord’s body (Matt. 25:14, 1 Cor. 11:29).
(9) It demonstrates a lack of self-sacrifice and discipline (Luke 9:23).
(10) It shows a disregard for the Lord’s presence (Matt. 18:20).
(11) It is a sin of “omission,” in that we know it’s “good” to be faithful to church (James 4:17).
As for Esau, the value he placed on the things of God was only worth the price of a bowl of lentils which he traded in exchange for his birthright to his brother Jacob. For Judas, the things of God were worth only a slightly higher price — thirty pieces of silver which he exchanged for the betrayal of Jesus.
How about you? What is your worth you have placed upon the things of God? What price will it take to keep you away from your church or spiritual things? A favorite TV show? A sale at the shopping mall? A mosquito bite? A boo-boo on your little toe? What do you suppose that God thinks about the value you have placed upon His church and His fellowship?
If you ever thought that being a Christian was something that you could do out of “convenience” you were greatly mistaken. God isn’t interested in your “leftovers.” He must be the highest priority in your life, or else He becomes worthless. In order to serve Christ it will require sacrifice on your part — sacrifice of your time, money, convenience, popularity… and even your life. “…nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing…” (2 Sam. 24:24).