Garage Sales, Self Image, and Jesus

What can a garage sale teach us about the gospel? I am not exactly sure, but I thought of something that they illustrate. Over the years I have enjoyed going to garage sales with my wife. There are a couple of different kinds of garage sales. One kind, that is usually more fun for the buyer, happens when someone realizes that they have way too much stuff and they want to get rid of it. They realize that even though they may have paid $100 bucks for that wheel barrel 10 years ago, that it is not worth that much now. And these folks are really trying to get rid of their stuff; they are fun to bargain with. “Will you take $5 for both of these?” These people are often getting ready to sell their house and move. They are motivated movers. And they know that whatever they don’t sell they are going to have to haul in a moving van across the country. Lots of times you get a good deal from these folks because they are selling stuff for less than it is worth.

The other kind of garage sale isn’t quite so pleasant. The people who have these kinds of garage sales are often sentimental pack rats (I speak from experience!). I will call them sentimental sellers. They value their stuff so much that they never get rid of anything. They don’t understand that a piece of junk is only worth $15 if someone is willing to pay that much for it. These people take personal offense when you offer them $3 dollars for that unopened white elephant Christmas gift that they have had in a box since Y2K. And at the end of the day they have almost as much stuff as they started off with. Then they have to pack it all back up, or spend the rest of the day, and the few dollars they earned at the sale to haul it to the dump. The problem with these folks is that they think their stuff is worth a lot more than it really is.

Well what does this have to do with anything? I was thinking recently about the kind of Christian message that is designed exclusively to boost your self-esteem. It seems to me a lot like going to a garage sale. The thrust of the message seems to be to try to convince us that our biggest problem is that our stuff is worth a lot more than we (or anyone else) recognize. We are motivated movers and don’t realize it. Our big problem is that we have under-valued ourselves, and Jesus can come along like an appraiser to help us see our real worth. If we could just see how wonderful we really were, and get other people to see it too, then life would be much better. Jesus is really useful in this arrangement because he helps us to fall in deeper love with ourselves.

The sad truth of the matter is otherwise. All of us are really like sentimental sellers. We all have an over-inflated view of ourselves, our accomplishments, our perspectives, our virtues, etc. We are upset with other people because they can’t manage to see our grandeur. This is not to say that we are junk. No, we are not garbage, we are the special creation of God, made to reflect his wonder. We are mirrors, meant to reflect the image of something greater. But we are broken mirrors, and the image we depict looks more like the distortion of a carnival fun house than reality.

As I understand the gospel, the message of Jesus is not so much meant to help us prop up our self-image with so much religious silicone, as it is to show us how things really are. Our problem is not that we think too little of ourselves, but too much. And Christ helps us to see the truth, and that often hurts. When he arrives we get our self-image in line with reality. He helps us to see that we are vandals. Then through his love we come to see that our greatest value comes not from ourselves but from our relationship to Him. You should think about this next time you pass a garage sale.

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