Sermon illustrations


The Eyes and Defining Worthless Things

Psalm 101:3: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” The term here—worthless—is a compound, literally: without profit. It is “the quality of being useless, good for nothing.” Pg.112

…The resolve to turn away from worthless things is a pointed way of asking: What really brings value, meaning, and purpose to our lives? Biblical ethics is not about simply avoiding corrupting things, but learning to see and enjoy and embrace eternal things that truly bring meaning and purpose and joy into our lives.

My conscience must be calibrated to Scripture so that I will firmly resolve not to set my eyes on worthless things. But I must also resolve to know that worthless things will allure me in those moments when I need God to act on my behalf. A V-chip embedded in TVs once blacked out lewd media.

Perhaps we now need a W-chip, to blank-screen worthless things. But such technology does not exist. It may never exist. We need God to turn our heads. Like a father gently holding his overstimulated son’s face until he can regain his gaze, God must divert our eyes in another direction away from empty things. And we have such a Father, whom we can ask to fill our hearts with what is eternally valuable.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p.114. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.


Lowering His Price Based on Appearances

Honoré de Balzac would eventually become a celebrated writer in post-Napoleanic France. He was renowned for his complex characters and realistic writing style. But like many young and aspiring writers, he lived a rather bohemian and frugal lifestyle. Nevertheless, when word got out in Paris that he was a writer of significant promise, a Parisian bookseller decided to offer him 3,000 francs for his next novel.

Upon arriving at Balzac’s address, clearly in a rough part of town, he decided to drop his price to 2,000 francs. Once entering the house, he again dropped his price to 1,500 francs. When he finally entered Balzac’s cramped attic apartment, the price dropped again to 300 francs. This was ultimately how the manuscript for The Last Fay, a genre-breaking book would be published, a book that would help catapult his career.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Old Rug

Well, several years ago at the University of Cambridge in the chaplain’s house, there was an old rug and it was a very big rug. And it had been there so long. C. S. Lewis stayed in that chaplain house when he was at Cambridge and the rug had been there way before he got there. And several years ago the people said, ”Hey, we want to get rid of this rug. It is old, it is gross, it is out of date, and we want to just scrap it.”

And they were getting ready to do that until they did some research on the rug. And they found out that the rug was an Old Persian rug. It was a very rare rug. It was worth $4,000 a square meter. They had a rug that was worth $250,000 dollars, a great treasure, something so very valuable, but they didn’t know what they had. And because they didn’t know what they had, they misused it, and they abused it, and they took it for granted. They wiped their feet on it. They spilled food on it. They didn’t realize that they had such a treasure in that Persian rug.

Jeff Schreve, Rich Man Poor Man.

Playing for Pennies

How much does a world-class violinist make? Well, that depends on how he markets himself. Have you ever heard of Joshua Bell? He’s one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He plays to packed audiences all around the world, making upwards of $1,000 per minute. The violin that he plays is a Stradivarius violin built in 1713, currently valued at $3.5 million. This particular Stradivarius violin, being close to 300 years old, is renowned to be the most beautiful sounding violin ever crafted. 

So, here we have the finest violinist in the world playing the most beautiful violin ever. It’s safe to say that Bell, as an musician, is the best at what he does. At the height of his career he was approached by the Washington Post to participate in a social experiment.They wanted him to play at a local subway for an hour, during which thousands of people would walk by and hear him playing. 

So on the morning of January 12, 2007, Bell played through a set list of classical masterpieces with his violin case open. Can you guess how much the finest violinist in the world, playing a beautiful $3.5 million violin made in hour? A grand total of $32. The finest violinist, playing the most beautiful instrument made a meager $32 from his “customers”.The same violinist played in a Boston concert hall a few nights earlier. It was a performance where audience members paid $100 or more per ticket. During that event, he earned over $60,000 per hour. The same talented musician, playing the same music on the same violin, yet in one instance he earns $32 an hour and in another, he earns $60,000 per hour.

Allan Dib: The One Page Marketing Plan

The Sly Farmer

A canny Maine farmer was approached by a stranger one day and asked how much he thought his prize Jersey cow was worth. The farmer thought for a moment, looked the stranger over, then said: “Are you the tax assessor, or has she been killed by your car?”

Source Unknown

The Value Comes from the Image

The value of a US hundred-dollar bill is not based on where it has been or how it has been used. Its value is not determined by its shape, size, or color. A one-dollar bill in American currency has the same shape, size, and color as a hundred-dollar bill. If you want to know what the bill is worth, what matters is whose image is on it. George Washington’s image tells us that it is a one-dollar bill we are holding. If we have a bill with the image of Benjamin Franklin, then we know we are holding a hundred-dollar bill. How do you determine what you are worth? You need to know whose image you bear.

…How much is a crisp, clean hundred-dollar bill worth? A hundred dollars. How much is a dirty, crumpled, hidden hundred-dollar bill worth? A hundred dollars. Why? The image might be in need of restoration and cleansing, but it is still there.

Tom Hughes, Down to Earth: How Jesus’ Stories Can Change Your Everyday Life, NavPress, 2019, p.5, 10.


See also Illustrations on Ownership, PrioritiesStewardship, Treasure