The $800,000 Record
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought the most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.'” – C.S. Lewis
Meet Steve. Steve is just a regular guy with one distinct quirk: he loves Beatles records. Not just their music, but their records. You know, those old vinyl things, from back when music used to spin instead of stream. Steve just can’t get enough of the Fab Four, and the record player in his wall-papered living room is cranking out the British Invasion pretty much non-stop.
He’s been collected Beatles vinyl since he was a kid, and by the time he was 24 he owned every album and single they’d ever released: from “Love Me Do” to Let It Be. But he didn’t stop once he’d finished his collection. No, once he had all that vinyl, he started looking for better and better copies – albums still wrapped in plastic, no folded corners, no scratches on the records. Steve would spend hours on the weekend coming through thrift stores and yard sales, just trying to find that slightly nicer copy of Magical Mystery Tour or Revolver.
Through the years, he scored some real gems, too. A Yellow Submarine with Lennon’s autograph scrawled on the back, an absolutely pristine Abbey Road, and a 1967 first pressing of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But Steve, being the collector he is, knows that there’s one specific record that would top them all, if only he could get his hands on it. The title-less “White Album”. And not just any copy, either, but copy No. 0000001, the personal copy of Ringo Starr himself.
Steve had read about it before, and he knew what a rare treasure it was. But he never thought he’d get the chance to buy it. Whoever had it wasn’t going to let go of such a jewel.
One day while Steve was at work, he heard on the radio that the famous copy was up for sale. As soon as he got home, he Googled the seller. Sure enough, there was the listing: White Album – No. 0000001 – Ringo Copy – $800,000.
Most of us would balk at spending over three-quarters of a million dollars on a vinyl record. Even if we were collectors, we’d probably say “Eh, that’s a nice thought, but it’s just not possible.”
Steve didn’t have $800k. By most accounts, Steve probably wasn’t even worth that much money. But he didn’t even stop to think about that. Steve knew he couldn’t let that album slip through his fingers, and he wasn’t about to let some minor thing like money get in the way.
He started selling his stuff. He started with his couch, his leather recliner, and his TV. Then went his bed, his dresser, and his kitchen table. He sold his refrigerator, his stove, and his dishwasher. Next went his lawn mower, the tools from his tool shed, and his fishing poles. He sold all his clothes, all his books, and even his truck. When he’d sold everything in his house, he sold the house, too.
He emptied his savings account, cashed in his meager retirement investments early, and scraped together every nickel and dime he could find. But it still wasn’t enough to cover the $800,000. All he had left was his record player and his Beatles collection.
Steve didn’t even hesitate. Out went the record player, out went the autographed Yellow Submarine, out went Abbey Road and Sgt Pepper’s. He had to have that White Album, he didn’t care what it cost him to get it.
When Steve sold his very last record – a near-mint, plastic-wrapped Please, Please Me – he finally cracked over the $800k mark, just barely enough to buy the record of his dreams.
At this point, Steve had literally nothing but his money, an old undershirt and pair of boxers he was wearing, and a pair of dollar-store flip-flops. But he didn’t even notice how destitute he looked. All he could think about was holding that beautiful album in his hands. Sure enough, about a week later, he was doing exactly that. Steve had never been so happy. He had nothing, but he had White Album No. 0000001, and he could hardly contain his joy. He had found his greatest treasure, what more could he possibly want?
Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re thinking, “This can’t be right. Steve is clearly a lunatic…nobody sells everything they have just for one vinyl record.”
Well, yes and no. Steve is fiction. While White Album No. 0000001 really did sell for almost $800,000 in 2015, I’m sure the story behind its purchase was far less dramatic than this one. But while the Tale of Steve isn’t historically true, there is still truth within his story.
You and I are like pre-White Album Steve. We think we’ve got an okay thing going on. Life isn’t always great, but hey, it could be worse, right? We’ve got our little collection of good things – a decent job, a place to live, maybe a family, the bills get paid. We know there’s something better, and we want it, but sometimes it’s easier just to make do with what we’ve got.
So there we are, just getting by from day-to-day. Enter Christ. He says, “What you’ve got isn’t it. I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We think, “Hey, life abundantly sounds great! Better than what I have now! What do I have to do to get in on this deal?”
Christ says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Believe in Me, and you will live, even though you die.” (John 11:25)
Okay, so we just follow You, and for that we get an abundant life? That sounds pretty easy…
“If you want to be my disciple you must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24)
Um, okay, I mean, a cross sounds a little extreme. And denying ourselves? That doesn’t sound very healthy, we don’t really have to go that far do we?
“If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
Okay, but we can do that without going overboard, right? Let’s say we keep all those commandments; we’re good after that?
“One thing you’re missing. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.” (Matt. 19:21)
You’re being figurative now, right? You don’t really expect us to sell everything, do you? People would think we’re…lunatics. We can be still Christ-followers without that part, right?
“Anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
Well, isn’t the whole “disciple” time over? I mean, can’t we just be regular Christians nowadays?
“Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
Y’know, Steve fully understood how valuable that record was. In light of this knowledge, his own possessions became the barriers keeping his treasure beyond his reach. He couldn’t live without that precious vinyl, so it was a no-brainer to get rid of everything he had just to get it. We might look at him – joyously clutching his $800,000 album in his flip-flops and boxers – and think, “This dude is nuts.” But Steve knows that he’s the sane one, and it’s really the rest of us that are nuts.
We think the value of what we possess somehow measures up to eternal life, like it’s a tough competition. Or worse, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we can have both. But Christ clearly indicates that is not the case, and in truth our dangerous error will leave us with neither.
The pressing question, as I examine my own life, is this: “How much do I think His gift is worth?” It’s easy to give it lip service, to say how amazing and wonderful it is. But if my actions are clinging to what is mine instead of flinging it away to grasp at Him, then do I really believe in the value of what I’m talking about? If I have faith and do nothing, then my faith is dead (James 2:20). Scripture repeatedly shows that that “doing” is pretty strongly tied to “giving, out of love.” There’s more to it, but that seems to be the main idea. It’s the biggest testament we can have as disciples, that’s how we stand out as not-of-this-world: while everybody else is trying to get and hold onto, we give and give ridiculously.
The only way we can do that is if we come to terms with the reality of the true value of the Gift we’re being given. That is hardly easy or simple, but Jesus makes it decidedly uncomplicated when He says, “If you love Me, you will obey my commandments.”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46