Giving Up In Order To Gain
More often than not, when I am reading through my various devotional books and daily Bible readings, I find connections between them, recurring themes, if you will, that speak to me in the moment.
Today was one of those days. For some reason four out of the five readings I had today all centered around what it means to pursue things that matter, the things in life that will last.
I read from the book of Ecclesiastes, where the Teacher wrote, "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
I had a reading about the ancient Hebrew king of Solomon, who had everything, but became nothing. He was given wisdom, power, wealth, fame--whatever his heart desired, but threw it all away through selfish pursuits, and self-indulgent behavior
Then there was this passage from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus tells his followers what it takes to truly follow him and embrace eternal life, here and now:
"If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be wiling to give up their lives daily to follow me. Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me will have true life. It is worth nothing for them to have the whole world if they themselves are destroyed and lost." (Luke 9:23-25)
I read this quote from Oscar Wilde recently, that kind of stuck with me. He wrote, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
Jesus' teaching to his followers was counter-intuitive. Give up what you value most, in order to attain what you need the most. Be willing to sacrifice your dreams, in order to discover God's dream for you. Be willing to lose your life, in order to find it.
In the abstract, none of these things make sense, do they?
But when you place Jesus' teachings in juxtaposition with the words of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, or the life of Solomon, things get just a little clearer. The path to success, according to our culture, is not to give up, lose, sacrifice... Jesus basically taught his followers that if they wanted to be "first," they needed to race each other to the bottom.
Because, in the words of Jesus, "It is worth nothing," to gain the "whole world" if it simply destroys you. Another translation of that verse is, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul?"
May you discover a new way to define success today and every day. May you find your worth in God's economy, and not the economy of so-called success in our current cultural climate. May you find everything you need by giving up all that you think you want.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.