Summary: We damage ourselves as well as the others when we write off whole peoples through racism. When we see them as persons, with human faces, we discover that to write them off is to damage ourselves. Fellowship in Christ leads us to value difference.
A widow, shortly after her husband’s death, was going through his papers. She found a couple of old certificates, yellowed with age and crumbling into dust. They had been made out to her husband more than fifty years ago, and seemed to be some kind of promissory notes. Some sort of company had written out these certificates and they seemed to indicate that her husband had invested five thousand dollars with these people, way back before they married.
Well, she read them over a couple of times, didn’t really understand all the legal gobbledygook, took another look at their age, thought about the fact that they were buried at the bottom of his desk drawer and that he had never said anything about them. She decided that they were worthless. Just worthless paper, and she threw them into the garbage.
A couple of weeks later she had a call from her lawyer, asking her if there were any other assets to be dealt with in the estate. The lawyer asked, "Did your husband have any investments? Did he lend any money to anyone?" She told the lawyer about the papers. Guess what?! With accumulated interest over fifty years, she had pitched into the trash well over$30,000! Finders keepers, losers weepers, because when you don’t know the value of something and you destroy it, sooner or later you are going to discover how valuable it was. You are going to regret having destroyed it, because it is your loss.
When you destroy something whose value you don’t understand, and you come to learn that it was indeed quite valuable: finders keepers, losers weepers.
That’s especially true if what you throw away is a human being. If there is a person you don’t care for, or you don’t understand, you feel you just don’t need to be around him and you’d like for that person just to get out of your life, you may discover, once he is gone, that he brought great value to you, and you regret having discarded him. Even with human beings, it may be finders keepers, losers weepers.
You’re a supervisor in an office. There is this secretary who just bugs the life out of you. Much of the time you don’t understand what she is doing; most of the time you cannot fathom her work style. And absolutely all of the time you feel she is at a distance from you, she has no respect for you, she is just too much trouble to deal with. So you let her go. Walking papers, pink slip, riffed, fired.
The next week the janitors are up in arms; the grounds keepers don’t even show up for work; the clients are on your case constantly about their services. Your life is in chaos! She really was getting the work done, but you just never saw it. You didn’t understand it. She was not like you are, she was different, and you thought she was worthless. You threw her away. But now you know you damaged yourself. Now you know that, as much as she was hurt by being fired, you also hurt yourself when you threw her away. Finders keepers, losers weepers!
There is a story in the Bible that is just like that. And that story goes one step farther. It suggests that if you get involved in destroying not just a person, but a whole people, you are going to be a major loser. If you, even blindly, allow yourself to think of a whole group of people as worthless, you will end up being profoundly impoverished yourself.
The story is the story of Esther. Esther, you may remember, was a young Jewish girl who had caught the eye of the Persian emperor during that time in the history of the Jews when they were second-class citizens, far away from their homeland. They had been taken into slavery by the Babylonians; then the Babylonians had been conquered by the Persians, and the Persians had more or less inherited this large ethnic minority, the Jews.
But one Jewish girl, Esther, had become queen, the wife of the great emperor Ahasuerus. In this empire an officer named Haman decided so to manipulate the law of the land that he could gain the power to destroy the Jewish people. By carefully shading the truth and concealing his real intent, Haman got the king to decree death for all of the Jews, an entire race of people.
When Queen Esther learned what was about to happen to her people, she planned a great banquet and invited her husband. When the moment was right, this is what happened:
"We have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed … but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the King."