A friend of mine recently found himself with a $1,200.00 car repair bill. He was unhappy for the obvious reason that nobody likes an unexpected and budget busting car repair. "How can that part cost $1,200.00?", he asked me in frustration. To answer that question simply, it doesn't. To go into a deeper understanding of how things get value, we need to talk about all of the people who through the creation, delivery and installation of that part, worked and had a hand in the fact that that part is now on his vehicle and his vehicle is now completely functional to him as he goes about on essential errands. Just to name a few of the folks who brought that part into being we would have to consider the miner who dug up the ore from which the metal came, the team of workers at the foundry where the metal was refined, the factory in which the metal was turned into the important automotive part. Consider that even those front line occupations in this chain of production were dependent on a million other occupations that created the machines they used and factories where they worked. Each little bit of human labor, of which it would be impossible to completely list, which includes the mechanic at the shop who installed it and is the last worker in this long chain, is where that part derived it's value. I am amazed that it only cost $1,200.00.
Our common problem is that we consider each trade we make in the context of a gain or a loss to ourselves. Formerly, my car was running fine; now it isn't and I must pay a lot of money to get back what I once had, a functional car. To me, this is a loss and I am unhappy. In truth, it is neither a gain or a loss. It is a physical fact that the parts on our cars wear out with much use. While I was enjoying the benefits of driving that car for over 100,000 miles I was "spending" the human value of the original part. Once it inevitably broke, after doing me much service, I should have no complaint in buying more usefulness in a second part, which was brought to me by more human labor. Thus, everything comes out even. If I fret and fume at my bad luck then I am truly an ingrate and our Lord will not be happy with me. This is the amazing reality of the world God has created. What we do when we work and spend is to live out the second greatest commandment; To love each other as ourselves. We must understand that we are a part of a much bigger human world than just ourselves.
Every transaction comes out even, exactly even. There is a spiritual aspect of a trade as well as the physical one. Our good God is the God of perfect justice. He insures that in every human action fairness is accomplished. If we are unknowingly cheated, God gives us spiritual "credit". This is why Paul wrote that charity covers a multitude of sins. If we knowingly come out ahead of another on a trade, we have just done ourselves spiritual damage because God knows exactly whom you cheated, all of them and loves them all. Remember the beatitudes, with Christ advising us to carry the load an extra mile, or to give away our shirt as well when our coat is demanded? This is what He is talking about. When we trade with another, we should strive to give exactly as much value as we receive and if there is any error, we should error in the other's favor. To do that would be to love. If we learn that we have been cheated, do not demand correction but rather pray for the soul of the offender. This accords with our petition in the Lord's prayer to forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us. If you receive lousy service in a restaurant, do not complain but simply pay what you owe and find another restaurant next time. You would certainly do well to politely let the manager know your complaints, but do not demand recompense.
When you work, work hard, work well and produce something good. While it is true that defrauding a laborer of his just wages is one of the sins crying to heaven for vengeance, the reciprocal relationship is equally serious. We must be diligent in not cheating our employers, for if we do, we also cheat everyone down the line who buys the products of our company. Always do for your employer what you would have them do for you. Do not abuse the equipment you use or use excessive resources. Never call in sick when you are not sick. If you believe yourself to be underpaid, work harder, for God will reward your honor. Warning, if you are under-employed, that is, you truly have little or nothing to do, resign immediately. The money you take for under-employment will be spiritual poison. This is the saddest part of our welfare system and why those who become accustomed to receiving welfare find it so hard to get off. It kills their sense of duty to others and encourages self-pity.
Once you contemplate the element of human labor in everything of human value and strive to fairness in your trades then suddenly "things" don't cost as much as you once thought. If you always offer to God any material loss, then you are storing your treasures in heaven where thief cannot steal, moth eat or rust ruin. What you will receive in the end will be much more than simply a fair trade.