Dr. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed a group of Oxford students in 1941 (in the midst of WWII) and said this: “The world, as we live in it, is like a shop window in which some mischievous person has got in overnight and shifted all the price labels around, so that the cheap things have the high-price labels on them and the really precious things are priced low.” Then he added: “We let ourselves be taken in.”
Have we let ourselves be taken in with regard to our values? What do we mean by our sense of values? We mean those things that we consider of greatest worth. I love words, and am fascinated by how they have formed. The origin of the word “value” comes from the word “valor,” which is derived from the Latin “valent,” meaning strength, or worth. Our sense of values, then, is our appreciation of those things which are really valorous things, the strong things, the things of worth. Every human being has his or her own sense of values, a sense of what is important and of worth, for themselves, their family, their community and their world.
The big question is whether “We let ourselves be taken in” when we look in the shop window without realizing that the price labels have been shifted around, making the cheap “high-priced” and the really worthwhile things marked “low.” When a person says, “It’s worth it,” he or she reveals their sense of values.
Leslie Weatherhead tells the story of a young soldier in WWI who went out into no-man’s-land where shells were falling to save his wounded friend. His commander gave him permission, but added, “It isn’t worth it. Your friend is probably dead, and if you go out there you might end up dead too.” The young soldier went, hoisted his friend on his shoulder, and carried him back behind the line after being severely wounded himself. “I told you it wasn’t worth it,” said his commander. “Your friend is dead and you are about to join him.” “But it was worth it, sir,” said the dying young man. “Worth it? How could it be worth it?” the officer snapped. “It was worth it, sir,” said the boy, “because when I got to him he was still alive, and he said, ‘Jim, I knew you’d come.’” The value of friendship made the sacrifice worth it. Our life and the life of our world depends on, and is governed by, our sense of values—our understanding as to which things are worth while and which are not!