Who said education was free? It certainly wasn’t somebody who had kids in school. Take last week, for instance. Our seventh grader came home with a hundred $1 candy bars to sell. What they use the proceeds for is anybody’s guess -- condoms to distribute from the nurse’s office, probably. And just where, exactly, are we supposed to sell this huge box of delectable, make that deplorable, brown-colored, fat-laden, no-name candy bars? There are eleven other kids selling them on our street and our nearest living relatives are 500 miles away. I quickly nixed the idea of doing what we usually do which is call Grandma long distance, talk her into buying five candy bars to further clog her narrowed arteries, and then pay four dollars in postage to mail them to her. Thankfully, this child is past the age where he really cares if he sells any or not. I hate it when they run in from the school bus and breathlessly announce, “If I only sell 270 packages of this glow-in-the-dark gift wrap, I can get a real boom box, and they’ll say my name on the announcements, and I think we’ll get to go to Disney World.” Out the door he’d bound, only to trudge in, two hours and forty houses later, with eight big sales to his name, if you count the four I bought before he left. Anyway, back to last week. I was standing in the kitchen, staring at the mountain of chocolate bars, wondering if the fish would eat them, when our kindergarten daughter ran in from the school bus and breathlessly announced, “If you just fill in seven of these post cards for our magazine sale, I’ll get a free smiley face yo-yo, a pair of giant sunglasses, and we’ll get to go to Disney World, I think.” I was on about post card number five when our high school stud muffin walked in the front door, threw a paper down on the kitchen table, and said, “I have to sell at least two, thirty-dollar season tickets and eight, twenty-dollar sweatshirts if I want to stay on the high school baseball team.” I was thinking how cute all of us would look in the matching shirts when he walked back in and said, “I really want to take a girl to the Spring Formal. The tickets are only $15 a piece, but I will need money for a new suit, and money for both of us to go out and eat before it starts, and money for her flowers, and money for pictures, and some of the guys are renting limos.” I was about to tell him I thought he exhibited some gay tendencies, and he’d be lucky if we washed the Honda, when the seventh grader strolled back into the room. He casually announced that he needed a few things for the science fair and proceeded to hand me an itemized materials list as long as Charlie Sheen’s list of illicit liaisons. I was reaching for the calculator when he started waving another paper. “Look, Mom, for only $34 I can go to Memphis to see the Versailles exhibit. I need the money tomorrow.” I was in another room getting a new book of checks when the big guy showed up again and mumbled something about needing a new baseball helmet and a male device to protect the family jewels, preferably by tomorrow. Would it be too much for somebody to need something the day after tomorrow? On his way out, he said he’d be getting $2 our of my purse for the school assembly on hypnosis and $5 gas money for the kid who drives him to school every morning and $7 for the lunch he bought after Saturday’s baseball practice. I was leafing through the newspaper looking for low interest loans when the kindergartner reappeared with a glossy brochure stating that it was time for spring photos at school. “For the low, low price of just $22, you can get professional, studio-quality photos of your child seated in front of beautiful fake props which will make them look like they are on a bad LSD trip. Perfect for Easter!” I yelled back to the boys’ room and asked them if they were having Spring pictures taken, too, and, just my luck, they both produced the same flyer with the same low, low price. While I was writing the three checks and figuring out how much I could get for my engagement ring, my daughter excitedly handed me her Jump-Rope-for-Heart campaign envelope. Since I felt like I was about to have a heart attack after spending all that money on “free education,” I decided I’d pledge my last few dollars to that worthwhile cause. Anybody who needs new notebooks, pencils or legitimate learning materials this week is gonna be flat out of luck.
While few things in life are free, believers are offered one grand freebie: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) We mustn’t forget it is a “free gift with purchase,” the purchase being Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. He suffered and died that we might live!