If you look up the term “economics” you’re likely to find a meaning such as this one: “Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” We come to church every week and in between Sunday’s we spend our week reading things like the Wall Street Journal and listening to the news regarding the economic outlook of our country and of the world.
In today’s gospel passage we see the lord Jesus engaging in a simple conversation on the subject of economics. When I read the passage again this week I found the Lord speaking about taking, saving, profiting, gaining and forfeiting. In short, He is giving a lesson in economics.
Now when we think of economics, we think of the things that really matter in life. Our ability to buy and to sell and to produce and distribute everything from lumber to ipods to vegetables to automobiles. Understanding economics helps us to budget our finances and in a way, helps us to budget our lives. For the Lord this lesson in economics deals less in what we are doing with our resources and more in how we are using His resources. The lord Jesus spends this portion of chapter 8 talking about something very important to Him, our lives. Think about it. God is the giver of life. Human beings are the greatest invention in history and we are a direct result of the design and care of God who created us in His image and likeness.
This God who created us, understands us and understands the reality of the world in which we live. His Son Jesus Christ has this to say
“If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?”
All the language of saving and losing and profiting is there. Only our lives and our souls are the commodity. The Lord tells us that what happens to our souls is closely tied up to how we choose to use our lives. What happens to us eternally is partly determined by what we are doing with the time we are given now. If our lives are spent denying ourselves and following Christ and His teaching, our souls can be saved. If our life is spent denying God and following our own desires, our souls will be lost. It is economics according to God. If I subtract my ego and my selfish desires from my equation for life and add God into that equation, He multiplies that original bit of life! Again I would look at St. Anthony the great or even Mother Theresa as examples of just what is possible when you seek to live only for God’s glory.
We are reminded that God is honored through the way that we conduct our lives. Just as I am honored when someone compliments my children or a member of this parish. God is honored when we make it clear that we are living to follow His Son. When God is honored with the gift that He has given us, God blesses this gift, He multiplies it and makes it grow in unbelievable ways. This is what He does especially when we give our lives and deny ourselves.
When we obey the teaching of Jesus Christ and when we deny ourselves, we appear different. God begins to see less of me and more of His own Son whom He loves. He begins to see our lives as real, true reflections of the gift He gave us when He allowed His Son to be sacrificed for our sakes. That’s why St. Paul can say in today’s epistle “it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me” (Gal 2). Life was no longer about what Paul wanted. It was no longer about what he could get or how he could live a great life. He was smarter than that. He knew that God had raised Jesus from the dead and if that was true that meant that everything he thought he knew about life was simply wrong. It was all turned upside down by the author of life!
So St. Paul decided that it was no good to pretend that he had power over his own life. The only logical thing left to do is to follow the One who actually has power over our lives because He has power over life itself. The One who never exerts power over our lives but wants us to choose to give it freely because we understand that it really belongs to Him anyway. We deny ourselves and our own will because we trust Him and know that He wants good things for us and our families. He wants us to carry the cross so that we can have greater fellowship with His Son. The more we commune with His Son, the more we receive His light, peace, joy and love which we can also pass on to others. May the Lord truly give us the ability to boldly say
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me!”
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark 8:34-9:1