It is an easy rule to misunderstand though. Our idea of “cost” is the cost of the raw materials to make the product. Over the years I have learned better.
At some urging from one of the elders where we attended, I have written, published, and sold Bible class material since I was 25. I never expected to get rich with it—that certainly wasn’t my purpose--but I discovered quickly that there was more to “cost” than simply printing the books. I needed high quality boxes for shipping because books are heavy. I needed padded envelopes and packing tape. There was the cost of gas to go to the post office to mail orders, especially after we moved thirty miles from town. There was the price of advertising. Businesses larger than mine also need a place to store inventory, salaries for employees and the benefits that attract them to the job, utilities and insurance for the store. That’s not even half of it, but you get the point. I am no longer outraged when I discover that the markup for some items is two or three hundred percent. The “cost” is a whole lot steeper than the simple cost of manufacture.
Then there was my other sideline. When I first started teaching piano lessons, I was still a student myself, so I only charged half of the amount my teacher charged. Then I graduated from college and joined several teaching organizations. When I looked around at other teachers, I suddenly understood that I needed to be paid based on my qualifications and my experience, and on the things I offered my students.
I spent over $200 a year on professional dues so I could offer the competition, scholarship, and performance opportunities those organizations afforded its members’ students. I spent more on workshops to keep myself up to date. I had a degree in music that none of the others in my county had, and that education cost money. I knew what it took to prepare for a college audition while no one else in the county did. My students needed theory and history classes and for those I needed tapes, CDs, reference books, teaching materials like flash cards and rhythm band instruments, a music library for my older students to borrow from, and computer music theory games as well. All of that cost money and my rates reflected that.
But once again, grace doesn’t follow the rules of economics. Grace cost God, the manufacturer and supplier, an unconscionable amount—it cost his son. I know there are some things in life that will always be beyond my means. I will never drive a luxury car. I will never live in a real house. I will never visit a foreign country. Knowing that, and based on the cost alone, I should never be able to afford grace. Not even the wealthiest of us is able to pay for it. But I can, and so can everyone else, because regardless the steep cost, for all of us this invaluable commodity is free.
Remember to thank God today for his rules of economics.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift, 2 Cor 9:15.