What do you think of yourself? Who and whose are you? It has been said that we think of ourselves as we think others see us. That is, our self-image has a lot to do with the value we believe other place on us. This past week as I prepared for the sermon I was preaching I delved into Jewish betrothal and marriage customs at the time of Jesus. One of the aspects for that process was for the prospective groom to negotiate an appropriate price to be paid to the girl’s family to marry her—the dowry. It reminded me of a story I heard several years ago about a ‘ten-cow wife.’
Essentially, it is a story of a man, Johnny Lingo who lived on an island where the dowry for young brides was one, two or three cows. Very occasionally one might pay four, but that would be a highly unusual case. The price was a very public figure. The men and women of the island and the neighboring islands would all know what a wife had cost and at least to a certain degree, has a pecking order that developed socially based in part on the price that had been paid for the woman. Johnny Lingo had known a certain man and his two daughters since childhood. He made contact with this man about bargaining for the hand of one of his daughters. The man assumed it would be his younger daughter who was considered more attractive—maybe even a three-cow wife. His older daughter, Sarita, was painfully shy and considered by many to be rather plain or homely. The truth was he hoped he could negotiate one cow, but would be willing for the burden of her support and clothing to be taken for free. Johnny Lingo, on the other hand, was known to be a shrewd bargainer and the richest man in the islands, never paying too much for anything he purchased. The story goes that Johnny Lingo came to Sarita’s island and offered ten cows (or eight cows depending on the version of the story one adheres to) for the older daughter, Sarita, whom he had known since childhood. The father quickly accepted and had the village chief perform the wedding before Johnny could change his mind. The word spread through the island and neighboring islands that Johnny Lingo has been bested. When the wedding was completed and Johnny took his bride Sarita to a neighboring island where he lived there was a transformation in her. She was no longer a homely painfully shy girl, but a beautiful, self-confident woman. She had a ready and beautiful smile and looked her guests in the eye. She moved about with confidence and grace. Johnny explains to visitors who behold the transformation that it was she was more highly valued than any other woman on the islands and that value was inconvertibly communicated to all her peers, that the real, the beautiful Sarita emerged. Her value came from the esteem with which her husband held her.
In the analogy with Jewish betrothal customs, the thought struck me of the similar cultural fabric in which Jesus lived. The groom would go to the home of the prospective bride and determine a dowry that would be appropriate for securing the bride’s hand in marriage. There are many who have noted the parallel to the gospel’s description of what Jesus did. He left His Father’s home and came to earth to purchase our salvation. The price was the life of the very Son of God. That is what establishes our worth—the price that the Father was willing to pay for our forgiveness. Do you think about that often? Are you fully aware of the love the Father has for you? We are the beloved children of the most high God. Sarita struggled by with the image projected on her by those around her—until Johnny Lingo declared a higher value. As the price paid for Sarita’s hand changed her, so we too will be changed when we fully understand our worth in God’s eyes. Live in such a way that those around you see, that God in heaven has highly valued you!