The other night, I listened to a Francis Chan message on YouTube. He was talking about the abounding, backward joy we experience when we suffer for Jesus’ sake. One of his comments has been running circles in my mind:
“In the Beatitudes, it’s like Jesus walked into the store of happiness and changed all the price tags.”
That comment has inspired this post.
You walk in, and you are met by a salesman. Inscribed on his name tag are the letters D-E-C-E-I-T.
“Hello sir! Welcome! My name is Deceit, and I’m here to guide your experience through The Store of Happiness today. Is there anything in particular you are looking for?”
You’re puzzled. Perplexed. Deceit’s smile looks so gentle, and his voice rings so sweet. But his eyes look peculiar. Shifty. You’re not sure if you can trust him.
“Well, I don’t suppose so. I was told that this store has every means to happiness available. I’d like to take a look everywhere, I suppose.”
“Absolutely sir,” he replies. “I’d be glad to guide you throughout the store. I will warn you, though, we have a very large inventory. Seeing everything would take a very long time. So let’s start with our first room.”
You follow him. There’s a briskness—a light hop—in his step.
“Our first room—The Room of Worldly Success! Isn’t it marvelous? Take a look, sir. It’s everything you could desire!”
Your eyes scan the room. The walls are slate, the floor limestone. Everything is trimmed with gold.
“Well sir, do you like what you see, sir? We have The-Promotion-You’ve-Been-Wanting over here, The-PhD-That-Will-Make-You-Feel-Important here, and oh, we mustn’t miss The-Plump-Retirement-Account-That-Will-Keep-You-Safe over here. It’s all so wonderful, isn’t it?”
You grab hold of one of the items and notice its price tag.
“This is outrageous!” you shout, “People actually spend this much here?”
With a conniving smirk, Deceit mutters, “Oh for these items, sir, people will spend everything.”
You’re not sure what to say. You feel uneasy.
“Could we perhaps see another room, Deceit? I don’t think I’ll be buying anything in here.”
“Nothing suits your taste here, sir?” His chin drops about half an inch, and he reaches to scratch the top of his head.
“That’s quite alright, sir! I have another room you should love!” You follow Deceit’s steps, make one turn, and enter a new room.
“Look here, sir—this will be a room most fitting for you! The Room of Worldly Pleasure!”
This room is different from the first. There are multicolored lights and flashing neon signs. Loud music. Slot machines. As you look around, you notice a man walking swiftly out of the room. He seemed to be holding something with both hands.
You ask, “What all is in here?”
“Sir, I’m so glad you asked! A most terrific room this is. If your tastes were not suited in The Room of Worldly Success, you shall certainly find happiness here!”
He walks you down the aisle.
“Look, we have The-High-That-Will-Remove-All-Stresses here, The-Erotic-Fantasy-That-You-Can-Only-Dream-Of here, and if we go just around this corner . . . The-Vacation-That-Will-Finally-Help-You-Relax here!”
The lights keep flashing. The music keeps blaring. You’re feeling very uneasy. And for some strange reason you keep thinking about that man. What was he doing in here? And why was he in such a hurry?
“Sir? Well, what do you think?” You say nothing.
“If neither The Room of Worldly Success nor The Room of Worldly Pleasure suit your tastes, we have some other rooms available! Why yes! The Room of Perfect Reputation, The Room of Perfect Match Marriages, The Room of Dream Homes, The Room of Fortune Jackpots . . . We can certainly find something that will suit your tastes.”
You are standing beside The-High-That-Will-Remove-All-Stresses, and you notice the price tag. It is surprisingly low.
“Deceit? Is this price correct? It’s pennies compared to what we saw in the other room.”
Deceit reaches for the tag and holds it up in front of his nose.
“Why, I’m sorry sir… This must be a mistake. We keep very busy here in The Store of Happiness, of course!”
He grabs for another tag, then another, then another. His hands shake furiously. “Umm… One moment please.”
He rushes into The Room of Worldly Success and inspects all the price tags—one by one. Frantic, he begins searching for his manager.
Just between The Room of Worldly Pleasure and The Room of Dream Homes, you notice a small, dimly lit stairway leading down. You’re not sure what to make of it, but by now you’re tired of following Deceit. Curious, hopeful, you follow their lead.
It smells musty. It’s dark—there’s an oil lantern on the wall, a few candles flickering. The floor is hard cement. Each of your steps echo.
You notice the first set of items in front of you. They hang on old, forgotten racks. Glad-Suffering, Gentle-Meekness, and Inner-Purity. Across from them, Righteous-Hunger, Heavy-Heartedness, and Thorough-Mercy.
You lay your hands on Gentle-Meekness. A mass of dust rises up. You cough. Cough. Sifting through the dust, you find the price tag.
“What!? How can this be?” you mutter to yourself . . . “This is more than The-PhD-That-Will-Make-You-Feel-Important had on its price tag.”
Confused, you look for the next set of items. After a few steps and a slight turn to the right, you stop. You see a figure, rustling about.
“It’s him! The man from upstairs!”
He’s holding Harsh-Persecution, and he’s tying something to the top of it. He doesn’t look up. You’re not sure what to do.
“Um, hi sir. I followed you down the stairs over there. I wasn’t sure what exactly…”
“You don’t need certainty to find your way down here,” the man interjects. “Only some discontentment and childlike curiosity.”
His voice is soft. Warm. He’s smiling gently, mostly with his eyes. “What are these items? And why are they down here?”
“These are hidden treasures, and they have been tucked away for far too long. The items upstairs won’t make you happy. And yet, people keep thinking they will. They make one purchase—which costs them a fortune—and, after a while, feel unsatisfied. So they make another, then another, then another. Eventually, they’re left with nothing.
“The Store of Happiness has been flipped upside down, you see. These items—the ones down here—are the valuable ones. They’re worth everything. So I’ve come here today to reverse this mess. I’m changing all the price tags. Fake, short-lived happiness must be undone. It’s time for people to experience the real thing.”
“But sir, if the items down here are the best ones, why are you pricing them the highest? Won’t people be glad that the items upstairs have dropped in price, and won’t they go on buying more of them?”
“Some will remain above, certainly, but the discontent and curious will find their way down the stairs. An item’s price reflects its value—they’ll know to keep looking.”
You’re not really sure what to say. Every time he opens his mouth, you’re captivated. You’ve never heard anyone speak with such wisdom and, concurrently, such meekness.
“Well sir, I’m glad I found my way down the stairs. I was beginning to feel uneasy about Deceit, and I—I trust you. If you say these are the items worth everything, then these are the items I’ll purchase.”
You reach for your wallet. You pull it out of your pocket and unfold it in front of you.
“Sir, I’d like to be able to buy more, but I’m not a man of great means. With what I have, though, I would much like to buy—”
“Oh, no. You won’t be needing that down here.” He reaches for your wallet, folds it, and lays it back in your hand.
“These items are dearly expensive, yes, but they have been paid for. All of them—by me. They are my gifts for those who find their way down the stairs. You won’t be walking out of here today with only one, sir. Each of them is yours!”
“Do you . . . You mean that . . . These are mine? Sir, I can’t receive that. I would have to win the lottery five times to afford all of these.”
“They are my gifts to give, and today, they are yours. Freely yours. They won’t cost you anything—as I’ve said, they’ve been paid for. But I must warn you, they will require of you everything. . .
“You see, these gifts are free to receive and costly to keep. They will demand much of you. But no item upstairs satisfies the way these do. Now that you have them, you won’t want to depart from them. Your happiness will grow deeper, wider, higher, and longer.”
He pauses. You tremble. Then he opens his mouth for one last time: “Enjoy these gifts, for blessed are those who do.”
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.