Just how much has changed in the past six weeks became apparent to me once again, this time in a doctor’s office.
I was seeing my infectious disease specialist, Dr. Parker, about the infection from my recent Achilles tendon surgery. However, I was just as intent on quizzing him about what he recommended I do in light of my very compromised immune system for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.
I was somewhat surprised at how extreme his answer was. Knowing that he is also a born-again believer, I asked how that was going to work for me as I sought to continue to pastor and teach other believers.
At that point, he revealed what might have been a bit of a secret. His office possessed a few of those extremely sought-after and highly-valued N95 masks—the kind of mask that when properly worn is impervious to the Covid-19 virus. He suggested he might be willing to part with one since I was “a teacher.” (It’s notable that as far as I could tell, these masks were so scarce even in his office that neither he nor any of his nurses were wearing them the day I was there, having opted for the more common, and less effective, surgical masks.)
A few moments later, he knocked at the door and handed in one of the medical profession’s most prized possessions—a genuine N95 mask! Wow!
To emphasize the gravity of that moment, let’s remember that thousands of medical workers caring for the sick have been infected with the deadly virus, and hundreds have died—some for the lack of an N95 mask. Many workers in wards full of Covid-19 patients, especially in nursing homes, have had to improvise some kind of protective masks themselves, and have used raincoats when other protective gear was not available. An N95 mask, or the lack thereof, has no doubt been the difference between life and death for more people than we will ever know. At one time these masks could be purchased for as little as $1.88 apiece. The L.A. Times reported this past week that the state of California was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy these masks for between three and seven times as much per mask. Long-haul trucks carrying this kind of equipment have even been subject to robberies in our nation.
When I shared with Jeanie about the gift that I received, she suggested I be careful. She joked that if someone knew of my precious treasure, they might steal it!
And to think, just six weeks ago, most of us didn’t even know what an N95 mask was!
How quickly our values can change, especially in a crisis.
Have you noticed the recent price of a barrel of oil? Yes, it actually fell to a negative $40 this week! That means that producers were willing to pay distributors $40 to take a barrel of oil off their hands! That’s because the producers were now running out of places to store it.
It probably wasn’t much longer than a decade ago that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had the U.S. and the world by the throat because of the demand for oil! OPEC was demanding and getting more than $100 a barrel, at the expense of the world’s consumers!
How quickly a crisis can change our sense of values.
It reminds me of what Jesus once said in the presence of the religious leaders of His day who loved money. “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God’” (Luke 16:15).
When God’s day of judgment came upon Israel, a far more intense crisis than what we now experience resulted in huge changes in what the men of that time valued. Ezekiel said this about it: “They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD” (7:19).
It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out what happened. As armies laid siege to Jerusalem, huge stores of silver and gold could not buy food, much less deliverance from foreign invaders. What many had pursued at the expense of their relationship to God suddenly became useless, even abhorrent, to the very people who had previously hoarded it.
Often, it takes a crisis for us to realize what really matters.
The wise man will ask at this point, “What is it that maintains its value, regardless of the times—even for eternity?”
Jesus answered that for us in Matthew 22:37-39: “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’”
Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation, tells us that worldwide wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences and all kinds of disasters will one day be a regular occurrence. Then there will be an absolutely cataclysmic change. The things that this world values—”the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (I John 2:16b)—will suddenly not matter at all anymore.
For the Kingdom of Christ and God will have come.
And what will deliver from calamity or be cherished on that day? It will be that intangible quality, the love of Christ, which will have been tangibly demonstrated, that will really matter on that day. It alone will rescue and deliver.
For as King Jesus sits on His glorious throne with all the nations before Him, the judgment of each individual will be based on this one criterion: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
Dr. Parker’s generous gift of an N95 mask last week was a reminder to me of what life really ought to be all about.