The Parable of the Dollar Bill

I was walking along one day, when I thought I heard a voice. It was just a tiny voice. I looked around, and looked some more, but couldn’t see anyone, or where the voice might be coming from. Then I heard it again. As I listened closely, I discovered that the voice was coming from my wallet.

“Ooh, don’t touch me, you’re old and faded and wrinkled,” and “Stay away from me—you smell like garlic.”

Well, you won’t believe this, but inside my wallet were three one dollar bills. One was old and wrinkled, one seemed just ordinary (although I had bought pizza for lunch, so it’s possible that it smelled of garlic), and the third one was fresh and crisp, straight from the bank vault. The new one was the one making noise. It was evident that the new dollar bill did not approve of its company.

But I had to laugh! It was so silly.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. It doesn’t matter if it’s old or new, wrinkled and torn, clean or garlic scented. A dollar is still a dollar. And what is a dollar anyway? It’s just a piece of paper. And as a piece of paper, it’s not worth much. It has writing all over it, so you can’t use it for a letter. And you can’t burn it, either—too many chemicals. Plus, if you’re at the beach and you spill your root beer, a dollar bill won’t help because it’s not absorbent.

Nonetheless, we all love to have lots of dollar bills in our pockets. Because a dollar is more than just bad paper. It says on it “Good for all debts, public and private,” and it is signed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The words and the signature constitute a promise by the United States government, that when a dollar bill is presented at a store or bank or pizza parlor, it will be worth a dollar’s worth of stuff.

In order to make sure that they can keep that promise, the government has such places as Fort Knox, full of gold, ready to back up their word. Everybody knows that and so you can take a dollar bill anywhere in the world and the people there will know what it is worth and trust its value.

But aren’t we like the foolish dollar bill? Don’t we tend to rank and rate ourselves and others by external qualities? But really, a child of God is a child of God—isn’t it just silly to think otherwise?

Like the dollar bill, in and of ourselves, we are not good for much. Merely a handful of dust.

Moses knew. He had grown up as a prince in the royal court of Pharaoh. The Egyptian civilization had flourished for thousands of years and had obtained the pinnacle of power, wealth, and learning. If anyone wanted to compare personal quality and worth, certainly Moses had the advantage. Nonetheless, after beholding the power and glory of God, Moses realized that “Man is nothing.” The things he had known before that seemed so worthwhile and amazing were nothing, “which thing [he] had never supposed” (Moses 1:10).

King Benjamin, likewise, admonishes us:

“I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness.”

Satan loves to remind us that we are nothing, but he forgets the other half—remembering the greatness of God, and that we must not do.

For, just as the dollar bill has its guarantee and Fort Knox to back it up, we have God’s promise that He will share everything that He has with us. Worlds without end, power and glory—that kind of adds up. Moreover, Heavenly Father swore an oath to seal that promise and gave His Son to make that promise possible.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him (D&C 18:10).

Our worth is great in the eyes of God. The miracle that makes life worth living, that makes life sweet and gives us hope for all eternity, is that God loves us. Each of us! We were created in His image; we bear His name. Doesn’t every other measure of worth pale in significance to that?

Nonetheless, times come when we feel inadequate and heaven seems distant. At those times it is so tempting to find a landmark—some tangible reference point to prove to ourselves that we are still in the running. Our human instinct drives us to look around and define ourselves as a function of those around us, either lesser or greater.

Such valuations are counterfeit and doomed to fail, for they are based upon changeable metrics. I believe they may also constitute a sin, for every time we compare ourselves to others, we are devaluing at least two children of God; we are rejecting the real worth that God has given us and them, for something small and inglorious.

Trying to secure some portion of worth on our own is futile; for we have nothing real and lasting to back up a self-imagined worth. On the other hand, realizing our true worth is very liberating and enabling.

So often we think that the question life asks us is, “What are you worth?” The fact of the matter is, our worth is absolutely guaranteed by our Heavenly Father. We cannot increase or diminish our value in His eyes, any more than a dollar bill can somehow become worth more or less than 100 cents. The real question that life demands of each of us is:

What will you do with that tremendous worth that God has placed in you?

Well, you can take a dollar bill and buy a chocolate bar and eat it and it’s gone. (Except for the permanent reminder on your hips.) Or you can buy a book—with only a dollar, you’ll have to check the last-gasp sale rack at Barnes & Noble—and learn something that you will own forever.

Or you can buy enough rice to feed a hungry child in Africa for a day and gain “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20).

In the same way, we must take the gift of time, talent, and abundance that the Lord has given us in this life, and figure out how to spend it.

Will we choose to live our lives in a self-serving way?

Will we seek pleasure? Our own comfort? Our own glory?

Or will we live the life that God asks, serving, developing our talents, perfecting our weaknesses?

It is hard to give up the habit of seeking a sense of worth by comparing ourselves with others.  But we must, for there are really only two people that we may righteously compare ourselves to. 1) The Savior—He is our exemplar, and comparing ourselves with Him shows us what we need to work on. 2) The person I or you used to be—this is how we see how far we have come.

In the end, these comparisons are all that will matter, and they will matter forever.