The Rev. Andrew K. Barnett
Today’s Gospel: Luke 9:18–25
Jesus said, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
I remember it like yesterday. We sat under the glare of fluorescent lights, a polished green chalkboard waited for graphs and equations, students chatted nervously, and then the professor walked in. He wore horn-rimmed glasses with a vest under his suit-jacket; he knotted his bow tie crisply. Economics 101 was now in session.
Over time we learned powerful insights into markets and human behavior. We discussed tradeoffs and free lunches, taxes, and incentives, governments and markets. But something was missing. We talked of rational economic actors, maximizers, and corporate gains. But we never spoke of ethics, of love, of compassion. I started to wonder how God’s economy differs from ours. I wondered how Jesus would navigate the complexities of 21st century life.
Please don’t hear this as a broadside against economists! Their insight is keen, their profession noble. Indeed, all of us are trying to care for our own in a world that seems wracked by scarcity. Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that in an effort to care for ourselves and our families there is a risk that we might lose ourselves, saying that ends justify means, or that we’ll do better next time. There is the potential to advance our own interests slightly more than the interests of our neighbors. But then Jesus asks the searing question, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
We are all beloved children of God, yet we do turn from God’s will in our lives, and self-gain is a powerful motive. In our own ways, we forfeit parts of ourselves in an effort to gain the world. How might God call us to return to wholeness? In this season of Lent, confession, forgiveness, and amendment of life become central to our journey. Way we be richly blessed by God’s grace, and may we ever more fully live into the way of Jesus who taught us how to love.
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever. Amen. (Lesser Feasts and Fasts p. 29).