In Luke 9:25, Jesus asks his disciples a very pointed question. He asks: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” That’s the NIV translation. The Living Bible puts it this way: “and what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?” Jesus asks this question on the tail end of one of the many times that he talks about the cost of following him. Luke 9 specifically talks about two of those costs: taking up your cross daily to follow Jesus and losing our life for Jesus’ sake in order to find life.
By asking this question, Jesus cuts to the very heart of the issue we humans have when considering the costs of following Jesus: is it worth it? Is having Jesus interfere with our lives worth it? Is following Jesus on mission worth it? Is becoming more like Jesus worth it? Is sharing our faith journey with other followers worth the inherent risk that comes with close relationships? Is being a slave to Jesus worth the cost of our independence?
It would seem much more fulfilling, much more beneficial and much more “rewarding” to chase after the things that provide us with more immediate and earthly benefits. Good jobs, good standing with friends/family, financial comfort, a nice home, a reliable car, etc. But Jesus puts all of those things in a much different light with this question. If you were to gain the whole world, everything this life has to offer (and certainly our world now has far more on offer than the world of Jesus’ day did), for the fleeting time that we spend on this world but at the cost of your very self and your eternal soul, is that worth it? Is the stuff of this world worth the cost of your values, your ethics, your personality, your self-respect?
I would challenge our thinking in a different way in this matter as well. When we consider the cost of following Jesus (and perhaps consider the costs too high), I would propose that we are making the automatic assumption that there are no or very few rewards that come with the following. That following Jesus is nothing but a one-way street of sacrifice, slavery, sorrow and loneliness, that is all about costs flowing from us to Jesus, that there is no return from Jesus to us.
Of course there is the immediate response to that assumption, that Jesus has already put out more than we ever will in terms of cost when he lived and died for us. But if we put that assumption aside and consider it closely, Biblically, I think we will find that indeed there are rewards and benefits to us, in the here and now, when we follow Jesus.
It is those benefits that we are going to explore this week as we wrap up the sermon series Fan or Follower.
See you Sunday.