Over 150 years ago, the great Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a parable about two robbers who entered a jewelry store and did something very strange: they switched all the price tags. They didn’t steal anything: they just took the high-priced tags off the expensive pieces of jewelry and put them on the cheaper items. And they took the discount price tags off the costume jewelry and put them on the really expensive rings and bracelets. The next day, the jewelry store opened for business as usual. And for the next several days, no one even noticed that folks were buying $10,000 rings for just a few dollars while other were buying cheap necklaces for thousands of dollars.
Kierkegaard used this story as a way of describing the world. He said we live in a world where the price tags have been switched. You see, God (the true King) has determined what is right and what is wrong. It is His prerogative to name good and evil — to determine the “price tags,” if you will. But our enemy has come along and switched some of the price tags. Behaviors labeled by God as evil and sinful were determined to be “no big deal” in Isaiah’s day, while the things that were truly good and important in God’s eyes were minimized and treated as if they were of no importance. Like Uzziah, the people decided to switch the price tags. Instead of living according to God’s precepts of right and wrong, the people had arrogantly determined this for themselves. So God says, Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. Woe to those who switch my price tags! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes!
And this makes Isaiah such a relevant word for us today, because we often do the same thing. We have elevated individualism to a dangerous level in our culture, to the point that we’ve switched the price tags. And freedom of expression and freedom of determination have become just a few of the idols of our day, which leads to sin becoming an accepted way of life. We have become wise in our own eyes by falsely believing we have the authority to call evil good and good evil.
You see this everywhere in our culture.
- Our culture calls good evil every time murder is rebranded as “a woman’s right to choose.” I guess that logic holds until you realize the way countless young women never had agency over their own bodies because they were murdered in utero by a culture that has accepted abortion as the status quo.
- Our culture calls evil good every time homosexuality is normalized as an acceptable lifestyle. When we say “love is love,” we play the part of Uzziah — we take morality into our own hands and override the instruction of God. We are rearranging the price tags. Woe to us when we do this.
- Our culture calls good evil every time faith is privatized and prayer is pushed out of the public sector. And the recent antics out of Washington show how spiritually bereft we are when public prayer is co-opted to push an agenda by those who think the word “amen” is a statement about gender. We are so wise in our own eyes.
- Racism and sexism and nationalism are all variations of God’s moral code being usurped and replaced with a manmade code that ascribes value to a people group on the basis of something other than being made in the image of God.
- What would have been considered pornography a generation ago has been rebranded as “PG-13” today. But we should remember that this metric is based on Hollywood’s values, not God’s values. This is just another act of normalizing evil, another act of switching the price tags.
The enemy seeks to reverse the moral code of God by normalizing sin as an accepted way of life and we are party to this whenever we shop according to the switched price tags. And make no mistake: we’re all guilty of doing this. But we forget our place. Like Uzziah before us, we do not have the authority to rebrand evil as good and vice versa. So Isaiah speaks for all of us when he says he is unclean.