Monday, November 05, 2007
I Am a Cheap Plastic Doraemon Bookbag
I love an aspect of Taiwan that many other foreigners can't seem to get past. There is a pop-culture mindset here that plasters cute cartoon figures on everything. You can see a big muscular Taiwan guy with a $50 haircut and $100 sunglasses step out of a store in his new muscle shirt and leather jacket only to sit upon a pink motorcycle with the "Hello Kitty" logo on the side... and he looks cool doing it.
This aspect of Taiwan culture is nowhere more evident than it is in bags, purses, backpacks and briefcases. I have seen teachers come to class with all of their tests, lecture notes and text books in a cheap, falling apart, Pokemon vinyl bag. I see business men and women going to work and their briefcase is nothing more than a Snoopy & Woodstock bookbag from a 7-11 give-away years ago. I have seen guys carry valuable art work to exhibitions held in nothing more than a plastic bag printed with Doraemon's face all over it. I have even seen people carrying their precious laptops in old, cheap plastic and vinyl bags with nothing more than a weak strap and an open top... but they like it because it has Gundam or Doraemon or Pokemon all over it.
My buddy Jack goes mountain hiking with me... and he carries a valuable ceramic tea set in his old army surplus back pack with no padding and with straps broken off. He ties them down with old shoe strings. It works.
You would be wrong to judge the value of the contents of a bag in Taiwan by only noting the outward appearance.
Great treasures are being housed in those cheesy bags. It is a matter of practicalities. These bags are given away for free in many places, they are very cheaply had in stores, and by golly, they are just so cute.
We Westerners would never transport our laptop computer in such a bag! We need the executive, double-platinum, mega bag with wheels and doohickies that cost almost as much as the laptop itself. Then we feel we have come into the world, we are of means!
The Taiwanese just want to carry their stuff from one place to the other. The look of the bag has nothing to do with the value of what is inside.
Jesus told a story about a man in Matthew 13. This man found a treasure that was buried in a field. The man wanted that treasure but it was not his field... he could not claim that treasure. So he went and bought the whole field to obtain that treasure. The field was nothing to him, and clearly not so big a deal to the original owner. But what the field held inside was of value.
You would be wrong to judge the worth of a treasure by looking at the dirt it was buried in.
Jesus wanted those people who would love and trust him... but in order to do that, he had to buy the entire human population with his own blood. He got them all... but frankly, he is after only those who would love and trust him. Oddly, we can never judge just how much of that field is dirt and how much is treasure. We don't have the eyes to see past the dirt.
So much of the world today rejects the message of Jesus because it is delivered to them by slimy, offensive, failure-in-life, nerdy, pushy (the list goes on) Bible Thumpers. They look at the Church and rightfully judge that the Church is full of hypocrites who can't live up to the standard of perfection that the law of a just God would give. So they won't look at the message of Jesus because they see his messengers and find them to be cheap plastic copies of something that is valuable.
They are wrong to judge the value of the message based upon their opinion of the worth of the messenger.
2nd Corinthians 4:7 tells us that Jesus hides his treasure, or rather trusts his message to be delivered by, nasty clay jugs. This is to show that the excellency of the message is independent from the vessel that delivers it. He puts his message in fallen, sinful, imperfect people who will break your trust and hurt your feelings... to show that his message is better than the ones who carry it and receive it.
Because his very message is that the vessel is only made valuable BY the value of what is put into it by the owner. We broken, fallen humans are not made valuable by covering our clay jar exteriors with bling-bling and paint and color. We are made valuable to God by what HE PUTS IN US. It is the grace of God, his gift to us, so that no one can boast of their own works of perfection.
That cheap plastic Doraemon bag at the lady's feet at on the bus... is not a cheap plastic bag to her... it is a store house for her valuables. It is worthy to her because what is inside is worthy. She judges the cheap bag as worthy because it at least is able to carry the things she does find worthy. In that act, the bag gains value-added worth. To her, the collective "IT" that is the bag and its contents is precious to her. She would never leave the bag behind as long as it holds her precious things... and by that the bag itself becomes valuable.
I am a fallen man, a cheap plastic copy of the Maker who made me. I have lost all objective worth because by image is cheap, my seams are weak, by handles are falling off and my material is thin. But into me, God places the Spirit of himself. When I trust and obey him for the first time, he judges me as useful to carry his valuables. He puts himself into me. In so doing, I become his valuable vessel no matter what I look like on the outside.
You would be a fool to judge the value of Jesus and his message based upon me.
Though you could see some wonderful things about God by watching me, it is only because of how he holds me close and how that affects my life! It is not because I am special or perfect. I can tell the cheap vinyl Hello Kitty bag is valuable to the man at the 7-11 check out desk because of the way he holds it, the way he keeps an eye on it, and the way he protects it from others. Its look alone is of no second glance, but the man's claim on it marks it as valuable. I am not worthy of your second glance. But watch how the Lord claims me, holds me, protects me, and lifts me up. You will see that the cheap plastic Doraemon bag holds something dear inside it.
Don't judge the message by the worth of the messenger... you will miss the most important thing of value in your life if you do.