I just spent a week in Mexico with 43 students, leading them to share their faith. We took them to prisons, orphanages and street markets where they stood and presented the Gospel through a process called chronological Bible storying. We acted out the Scriptures from creation through the crucifixion, and after the presentation, those who wanted to dialogue more would be invited to have a deeper conversation with our students.
It is amazing how the Holy Spirit shows up in these situations, and grown men begin to weep and repent over their lives. This proved especially true when the gospel was shared by one of our students who was born with disabilities. That is one of the great teachings of the scriptures: in reaching others, God uses the heart much more than the body.
During all of our missionary journeys, we keep the students focused on spiritual things. When we finish a day’s ministry out in the highways and byways, we move into Bible study and discipleship until it is time to go to bed. But near the end of the trip, we do give the students a couple of hours off to go shopping so they can buy something that will remind them of their journey. In reality, what God has done in their lives will outlast any trinkets they buy.
I have to laugh at some of our students as they try to barter for their gifts. I have spent more than 40 years learning this art and (although I don’t want to brag) few people can do it as well as I. A student will come up, show me a Mexican blanket and proclaim, “I got them down to $14!”
I just smile, because I don’t want to tell them I could have bought the same blanket for $10. But sometimes this gives me an opportunity to teach a truth. “What was the price of this blanket?” I ask.
“$14,” they answer.
“And what did the blanket cost?”
They look at me quizzically, thinking I didn’t hear the answer. “$14,” they repeat.
“The price of the blanket was $14, but that isn’t the cost,” I respond. “How much did it cost you to get to Mexico? Let’s say it cost you $700 for your travel plus the cost of your hotel for a week, somewhere around $280. So far, you’ve spent about $980 to buy a $14 blanket.”
I pause to allow them to take in this information before adding, “And food. How much did you spend on food on this trip? Let just say $100. Now, your cost is more than $1,000 for a $14 blanket. The blanket’s price was $14, but its cost was well over $1,000.
There is a difference between price and cost. Not long ago, I was listening to a young man who got a great deal on a truck, and he told me the amount he paid for it. That amount was its price, but the young man didn’t figure in the cost. A $15,000 loan at four percent over 72 months will add an extra $1896.80 to the cost. Instead of paying $15,000, the buyer ends up paying $16,896.80, so that is the cost of the truck. After adding insurance, gas, oil and more, the cost of that truck has gone much higher than its initial price.
One month later, that young man had to take the truck back to the dealer. He could afford its price, but not its cost.
As you work to teach your children financial responsibility, it would be good to dialogue with them about price versus cost. Just remember, a free puppy isn’t free. Everything carries a cost. Help your children to think about the different expenses that go along with various purchases. A pair of jeans might only cost $30, but how much does it cost to buy a washing machine, electricity and soap to wash them? And how much did it cost to buy the house that contains the washing machine and a room with a closet to store those jeans?
Maybe that’s the reason that when Jesus calls us to follow Him, He doesn’t talk about the price but the cost. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
I pray that this past week, our students that have come to understand not the price of the trip but the cost of following Jesus. What are you teaching your children?