Would you buy a love letter for more than $32,000? What about a letter about love?
In 1958, John Steinbeck wrote a letter offering fatherly advice to his teenage son. Thomas, then 14 years old, had told his father that he was in love for the first time.
An anonymous buyer paid $32,426 for the handwritten letter in October. Why so much? One reason is that a famous author wrote it. The Nobel Literature Prize-winning author’s works include The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley. The buyer may be a big fan of Steinbeck. Auctioneer Chris Albury tells the Mahn Miller Collective that, “A first edition [of a book]—even if it is beautiful—is a machine made thing. Handwritten letters are so much closer to the creator.”
And the letter includes some good advice. “There are several kinds of love,” Steinbeck writes. “One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self importance. . . . The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect . . . respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.”
Of course, that first type isn’t real love at all. Sinful humans twist love into what Steinbeck writes about. But Steinbeck’s description of the second type of love tracks with Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, doesn’t insist on its own way, and endures all things.
While Steinbeck was likely thinking mostly of romantic love, Jesus calls us to reflect God’s love to everyone.
Sadly, Steinbeck’s family didn’t always show such love to each other. The author died in 1968. Legal wrangling over his estate dragged on for decades. Steinbeck’s stepdaughter fought with Thomas and his wife over rights to the author’s works. The family even tried to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020.
The letter isn’t the only valuable document out there. Think you might want to be a collector? Other items sold in the auction included Benjamin Franklin’s letter deciding the fate of the mutinous crew of John Paul Jones’ flagship for $62,500. A Benedict Arnold-signed document certifying an oath of allegiance for a fellow officer sold for more than $31,000.
Why? This Valentine’s Day (and every day), remember how God expressed His love to us—by sacrificing His Son for our salvation.
Pray that God enables you to love others well.