For Everything Else...
he emergence of eBay®
in the Internet world appears to have crossed the final “t” and dotted the final “i” in the adage that anything is for sale. Anything!
This would include, it now seems, the idea that you can even purchase things in the spiritual realm. OK, so “things”—which are material—can’t truly be spiritual. But for the sake of reflection, witness these two recent items:
A Hobart, Indiana, woman offered her father’s ghost to the highest bidder. That brought in seventy-eight dollars. The transfer of ownership, by the way, was made by sending a favorite metal cane that had belonged to the deceased, presumably because the ghost would need it?
A Chicago atheist, offering an opportunity for the highest bidder to save his soul, brought in $504. As it happens, a Christian accepted this challenge, and this has developed into a rather interesting story that is being further developed on a very thought provoking Christian Web site.1
We may think that buying and selling things from the realm of the spiritual is a clear indication that the human condition is sinking to new lows, but as Solomon sagely observed, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles. 1:9, NKJV). And, in point of fact, the apostles Peter and John experienced something eerily similar to the idea that you can purchase anything.2
A sorcerer by the name of Simon had been dazzling crowds of people in Samaria with his magic, creating a sizable and enthusiastic following. When the apostle Philip came to the city, however, his preaching converted a great many people, apparently Simon included.
Then the apostles Peter and John arrived. Though Philip’s efforts had produced many new converts there, their conversion was not quite complete. So the apostles placed their hands on many of the new converts, causing them to receive the Holy Spirit.
Now it was Simon’s turn to be amazed. This was big magic! So he offered Peter and John cold, hard cash for the ability to lay hands on people and bring the Holy Spirit into their lives. He thought that this Holy Spirit thing was little more than sleight of hand, a mere matter of technique.
But Peter pointed out to Simon that you can’t possibly buy something that is being offered to you as a gift from God. In fact, the most important things in life don’t carry a price tag at all. Peter told Simon that his soul was in jeopardy because his heart was wrong. Realizing that he was out of his league, Simon begged Peter to pray for his soul.
So the Christian who paid for the opportunity to save the soul of the Chicago atheist isn’t so different from the case of Simon the sorcerer. Fortunately, even at a time when the Internet is offering all kinds of things for sale that aren’t truly material things, there still seems to be at least a vestige of the idea that not everything is for sale.
In a collection of brilliant vignette TV commercials, for example, one credit card company seems to be reminding us in their advertising campaign that some things in life—some experiences, some memories, some achievements—are beyond price.
But as in the case of all advertising, these commercials should not be absorbed without analysis. In each commercial, truly a full-blown, beautifully nuanced 30-second feature film, two or three things are depicted along with their everyday value. The idea is that these mundane components, each available for a given price for which you pay with your credit card, make up in their total some kind of transcendent experience. In the words of this series of commercials, this inspiring experience is priceless, but “for everything else, there’s MasterCard®.”
For example, in the segment entitled “Professional Fan” (a personal favorite), NFL quarterback Peyton Manning reverses his role as a sports icon and assumes that of a fan of everyday people in his life. He eagerly asks a grocery clerk to autograph a melon and cheers the auto mechanic changing the oil in his car and the waitress serving his food in a coffee shop. Then, as he waits expectantly outside the employee’s entrance to a restaurant, hoping for a glimpse of one of his heroes, one of the waiters leaving work for the day throws him a used apron. A gift from his hero—how cool is that!3
Then the voiceover: “Groceries $41; Oil Change $25; Lunch $12; Your favorite players Priceless.”
Cleverly and winningly this brings us back to the same basic theme as what eBay® has been saying: Everything is for sale. It’s as if Simon the magician offered Peter and John his credit card and asked for the two or three components that would culminate in something of inestimable value. But the ultimate answer is still the same: “Priceless is not for sale.”
3This commercial and many others in this series, “Priceless,” may be viewed online at http://www.priceless.com/pricelesstv/index.html
Gary Swanson is associate director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department.