By David Brandt Berg
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The cheapest thing is not always the best thing. Bargains frequently aren’t worth it, and may turn out to be a bigger gyp than the higher-priced real thing. You may have paid less for the bargain but gotten very much less than if you had paid a little more and gotten quality.
It’s like my mother used to say about eating places: Why go to the greasy spoon and the stinky kitchen and get cheap, junky food that you’re not even sure is clean to save a dollar or two? Why go there and eat cheap, tasteless, greasy, junky food to save a few pennies when your life is worth more than that? Whereas by paying a little more, at least you get your money’s worth. At the cheap place you weren’t even getting your money’s worth!
That’s true of almost any kind of buying: the cheapest stuff is not necessarily the best buy. You may not get your money’s worth. We bought those sets of cheap tools, and nearly every screwdriver now is broken; we couldn’t even open the pliers. It was just junk stuff made for looks. We found out it wasn’t steel at all. The minute you nicked it, this cheap tin coating scraped or chipped off, and underneath it looked like it was made out of lead. That’s no bargain.
Whereas if you’d paid a little bit more, you’d have gotten good tools, well-made, hardened steel and functioning and useful. The same goes for just about anything—clothing, jewelry, food, trailers, cars, whatever. The lowest price is not necessarily the cheapest.
You may go to a secondhand car lot and buy a cheap car, but it turns out to be a pile of junk. It needs all kinds of immediate repairs or it won’t even hold itself together or run any further, and pretty soon you’re paying more for this junker you bought at half price in repairs and maintenance than if you’d bought a better car, a little newer, less worn and in better shape, a later model at a higher price. At least you got your money’s worth!
When you buy the cheap junk at half price, you may not even get your money’s worth. That’s true of almost everything in life: The lowest-priced thing is not necessarily the cheapest. It can cost you more in the long run.
It reminds me of what my mother used to say about bargain-counter religion: It doesn’t cost you much. But David said, “I will not give unto the Lord of that which hath cost me nothing.”1 His religion had to cost him something; it had to be worth something of value, a sacrifice.
It’s cheap religion if it doesn’t cost anything, so to speak, easy believism or something where you can just go to church a few minutes on Sunday and you think you’ve paid your debt to God and not have to live the life and not have to live for God, not have to witness.
A lot of churches that I know of are claiming to sell the people valuable goods, when actually it’s a gyp! But people are willing to buy it because it doesn’t cost them much; it doesn’t require much sacrifice. They can live for themselves selfishly and never witness, never help others, never help the missionaries, never give, never really do anything for the Lord, while giving little of their time to the Lord.
They figure, “That’s pretty cheap religion. It doesn’t cost me very much. Doesn’t cost much of my time, I don’t have to pay much money for it, and yet it looks great.” There are lots of people who put money into their religion and their church because they figure they’re getting a bargain and it’s cheap and they’re not really having to sacrifice or serve God or give up anything, or it’s not really costing them very much compared to how much they’ve got.
Like all those rich people who were tossing their great treasures into the coffer of the temple. God was not judging them by how much they gave but by how much they had left. And compared to what they had left, they thought they were getting by cheap. Whereas the widow who just had a mite, but it was all she had, gave much more than all of them put together. They were trying to buy bargain religion, and Jesus didn’t buy it!2
Of course, the worst gyp is bargain salvation that doesn’t save you, and you wind up in hell when you thought you’d paid your way to heaven, with money or penance or churchgoing or whatever.
Take the case of the Pharisee and the publican.3 The Lord said, “Which one do you think is justified? Which one is forgiven?” The publican, the sinner, the bad guy was saved, but the Pharisee was condemned because he was trusting in his own self-righteousness. He had bargain-counter religion. He thought he was saved by his own goodness, but your own goodness isn’t enough!
It costs a priceless gift to get saved, and that was Jesus and His blood, and receiving Him for your salvation is the only thing that’s going to save you. That’s the highest-priced gift anybody could ever receive, or the highest cost anybody could pay for your salvation, and only Jesus could do it. Anything less is bargain-counter religion that’s not worth it and won’t save you, and not even worth what you pay for it, because it doesn’t deliver the goods. It doesn’t give you real salvation.
Only Jesus could pay for it, because the price was too high for you; you could never afford it. That’s why He had to pay for it and then give it to you, because you couldn’t afford it. Your works couldn’t pay for it. You didn’t have what it takes. You didn’t pay enough.
Salvation is so costly that none of us could afford to pay for it. Jesus alone could buy it for us with the price of His own life. Any other kind of religion is no bargain. It might look like a bargain and it may seem cheap, but it’s not. Even if you got it at a bargain, you paid more than it was worth, because it’s not worth anything. It won’t save you!
You see, it applies to everything, no matter what field of life. Don’t trust “bargains.” They may not even be worth what you pay for them, especially if they’re worth nothing, like bargain-counter salvation, which isn’t salvation at all. You get it home and it doesn’t last; it definitely doesn’t last you all your life and it certainly doesn’t get you into heaven. That’s no bargain; that’s pretty costly, if it doesn’t do the trick!
Only Jesus was enough. Only God’s love was big enough to pay for it. So even if you give everything you’ve got, including your life, it’s not enough; you can’t pay for it. The price is too high; you can’t afford it. You just have to accept it from the Lord as a gift.
If you serve the Lord, sacrifice for Him, give His life to others, His Word says that you are going to wind up with crowns of eternal life better than gold, with diamonds and jewels shining like stars for the eternal everlasting souls won for the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and eternal life in a heavenly city that’s beyond anything we can possibly imagine.4 When we give everything to God, we will find out that that was really a pretty cheap price to pay for the reward we’re going to get. And the salvation we’ve got is an absolute gift. We didn’t have to pay anything for it because it is priceless! But the reward we’re going to get is so valuable, what we gave up cannot even be compared to what we’re going to receive in return.
Actually, we’re the ones that are getting the bargain. We’re the ones that are getting it cheap!
This reminds me of what Dr. Moody, who was a very busy man, said that time when they wanted him to come speak at some meeting. They said, “It’ll only be ten minutes; it won’t take much of your time. It won’t take anything out of you, Dr. Moody. It won’t cost you anything, just a few minutes.” He said, “If it doesn’t cost me anything, I don’t want to come. If it’s not going to take enough of my valuable time to make it worth it, I’m not coming.”
Time wasted is gone forever, and though it was easy to waste, it can be pretty expensive. Time well spent may have cost a lot in effort and strength and sacrifice and love, but when we see what our reward is going to be even here and now as well as hereafter, it’s a bargain! That’s what I call a bargain; even if it costs you everything, it’s a bargain. You’re going to find your reward is a bargain, because you didn’t pay half of what it was worth.
A lot of the stuff we did and the time we wasted, we may find out that it was no bargain. We paid several times what it was actually worth for that pleasure or that time wasted, because it was pretty expensive. Isn’t that a fact? And this religion some have, they’re going to find out is pretty expensive! They figure it’s not costing them much, but when they find out how much they’re losing by this easy religion, easy believism, they’re going to find out it was pretty expensive religion.
Whereas the people who it’s cost everything, when they see what they get in return, are going to figure, “Wow, what a bargain! We gave everything, but what we’re getting in return is worth so much more than everything we could possibly give.” This is what I call a bargain, when you get back a whole lot more than you paid and you get a lot more value than what you paid for it. If you paid everything for it but you get back more than everything—not if you paid little or nothing for it and you get back even less.
God bless and keep you living for Jesus. Souls are priceless bargains. And great is your reward in heaven.5 To be in heaven forever with Jesus is the biggest bargain of all. It’s free for us, but He paid a lot for it! Are you thankful enough to serve Him and others in return?
Originally published December 1980. Adapted and republished August 2013.
Read by Jon Marc.