May 21, 2008


2008 1515 page27 capometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake when society coins a new word for an old product or service. Though I saw it emblazoned on dozens of store signs, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that BOGO means “buy one, get one free.” Besides, shouldn’t that be BOGOF?

And I rolled my eyes when used cars morphed into the euphemistic pre-owned. When, back in the day, people started referring to anything they typed out on a word processor as a “document.”

I chortled at the pomposity. “Document? It’s your grocery list, for goodness sake!”
And just this month I sat in a meeting where people kept referring to their white papers. As far as I could see, all our papers were white, so what was so special about theirs? Turns out, according to a Web search, the term refers to a paper that argues a specific position or solution to a problem. We used to call them position papers. Who knew?
2008 1515 page27Here’s another newly coined term: value-added. I see the words included in copy for everything from education to water. Yes, water. A southern California company bottles spring water, and then before shipment, employees “charge the water in the storage facility with sound and music with intent,” supposedly infusing a sacred vibration into the water. Value-added water. Now how have I lived so long without that?
It shouldn’t surprise me, all this talk about adding a little something extra. When it’s legitimate, extra is always nice. But sometimes, extra isn’t really extra at all. It’s just plain old instead.
I once had a staff member who seldom wrote up her weekly report and was often late to or even skipped staff meetings. But she always found time to do things she thought were important and enjoyable, such as baking everyone lasagna, or supplementing the social budget out of her own pocket. Nothing wrong with those extras, except that of course, she wasn’t doing extra. She was doing instead. Which is another way of saying “I know better than you what’s needed, and will handle the terms of my own employment, thank you very much.” The irony of this approach 
is that the perpetrator is likely to feel that they are giving extraordinary service, far beyond the call of duty, going the extra mile, when in fact they’ve not heeded even the minimum call and not stepped up to even the first mile. You just can’t do extra till you’ve fulfilled the minimum requirement.
We stand in danger of approaching God the same way. I knew an interesting woman who went to church all day Saturday and then attended a Sunday church as well. She said that after all the Lord had done for her, didn’t He deserve two Sabbaths? But you see, God had not asked her to set aside two days of rest. He had, in fact, sanctified only one, and that one at great eternal cost. Yes, you can give the Lord that which He has not requested, but only He can determine if that is added value.
Jesus had the very same challenges with the Pharisees of His day (Luke 11:42). He said they tithed on every leaf in their herb garden, but disregarded justice and love. Tithing one tenth of their herbs cost them very little. Surrendering their pride, rendering God their obedience, and trusting Him for their salvation—now that would have cost a pretty penny.
Start with the basics and then add on your good works, but never do so in place of the weightier matters of the law.
Only that, my friend, is added value. 
Valerie N. Phillips is associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.