Wineskins Archive

February 6, 2014

Governmental Standards (Jan-Feb 2001)

Filed under: — @ 4:28 pm and

by Joey Cope
January – February, 2001

An odd thing happened at church last night.

In a venue where the speaker for the evening usually urges the faithful to veer away from worldly practices, our “Peak of the Week” orator made a precipitous about-face.

“I thought that if the U.S. Government could justify the expenditure of outrageous sums of money for ordinary tools and hardware items just because they have been selected for a special purpose – the Space Shuttle – we should be able to do the same here tonight,” Stormy Higgins stated.

He was, of course, referring to $500 hammers, $350 toilet seats, and $75 bolts that were all essential to our astronauts in accomplishing their mission. I don’t know about you folks outside of Texas, but people in and of the state of Texas considered such outlandish prices to be folderol, tomfoolery, and wastefulness. There are, of course, more colorful words that my fellow Texans have used in describing such – and I’ll guarantee they’re not $500, $350, or even $75 words.

So where could the good brother be headed with this stark pronouncement that we, the people of faith, should follow this example of bureaucratic nonsense?

“What I have here is a box of ordinary machine nuts. I propose that some of you here tonight purchase a single nut for exorbitant amounts of money. Twenty, fifty, and even one hundred dollars is not too much,” he continued.

Of course it’s too much, I thought. The whole box can’t be worth two dollars!

“Some of you might give far less than I’ve suggested, but that’s okay. It’s alright with me if the whole box is sold for $1.50 – that’s more than I paid for it.”

I felt good that I fared well in “The Price Is Right” portion of the program. But now what is he doing? If he’s really trying to make money selling these things, his disclosure of their actual value is destroying all the motivation for buying.

“What makes these machine nuts valuable is their very special purpose.” Pulling out his key ring, he continued. “These nuts will fit perfectly on your key ring. Their purpose is to remind you of something every time you pull your keys out.”

Yeah, remind you how gullible you are!

“When you see one of these machine nuts on your key ring, stop and say a prayer for our Maryanne.”

A collective sigh wistled through the auditorium. Suddenly, everything was becoming clear.

Maryanne was one of our own. Suffering from cancer and almost out of options, her doctors had recommended a stem cell transplant. In their opinion, there was a good chance that it would add a significant number of years to her life. Of course, that wasn’t good enough for her insurance company. “Too experimental,” it said. “Don’t care what the results have been. Won’t pay for it.”

Many people would have accepted that as the cold reality of life. But Maryanne’s husband, Darell, didn’t. He’d already lost one wife to cancer and he was not afraid of a fight to save Maryanne. So he told people at church about the problem.

And they came forward. They made donations. They organized fundraising events. They ate at taco suppers and gave items for a silent auction and a garage sale. And one good brother consented to having his head shaved for a price.

And last night, these people bought machine nuts.

Stormy Higgins chose me to be the salesperson. After the final song in the service and the announcement of dismissal, I stood with a box of nuts in hand. A little embarrassed, I looked around hesitantly to see if anyone would respond to the sales pitch.

And all I could see was people heading my direction with money and checks in hand. I let each person reach into the box and select his or her own hardware. My hands were trembling too much to grasp the tiny, previously insignificant little bits of metal.

Lowest price for one was one dollar. One lucky nut was deemed worth $200. Before the night was over, more than $1,200 worth of nuts was “sold.”

Two more buyers came by my office this morning. They wanted $50 machine nuts – and I delivered.

I’m left with a few in the bottom of that box. I’ve got them with me just in case someone needs one.

I’m touched with the generosity of those “machine-nut nuts.” I’m also struck by the way that a special purpose can affect something’s value.

“You were called to be children of God.”

What sort of price could you put on that?Wineskins Magazine

Joey Cope


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