Scripture: Luke 9:18-27
Reflection: One of the things I appreciate most about Kate Bowler’s book, Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved), is the way that she models how studying a religious tradition that is not your own can sometimes help you reflect on your own convictions with honesty. Bowler studies the prosperity movement, which is the strain of Christianity that claims that God rewards human faithfulness with health and wealth. When our faith is strong, so the logic goes, our bodies and our finances will be, too. God blesses devotion with this-worldly well-being.
The temptation might be to mock that sort of thinking. After all, it seems foreign to the God revealed in Jesus Christ, who calls followers to “deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But when Bowler finds herself reeling after a horrible diagnosis, she says, “I would love to report that what I found in the prosperity gospel was something so foreign and terrible to me that I was warned away. But what I discovered was both familiar and painfully sweet: the promise that I could curate my life, minimize my losses, and stand on my successes. And no matter how many times I rolled my eyes at the creed’s outrageous certainties, I craved them just the same” (Everything Happens, xiii-xiv).
The life of discipleship requires that kind of honesty. We can read verses like the ones assigned for today and think to ourselves, “Of course the life of faith is not about certainty. Of course it is about denying self and taking up our cross,” but it might be worthwhile to linger a little longer and ask ourselves some follow-up questions. How much security do we place in our own performance? How much of our self-worth is wrapped up in our ability to garner admiration, accolade, distinction? When was the last time our faith called us to give something up – really give something up – for the sake of the kingdom? What – or who – has helped you to grow deeper in your trust of the living God?
Prayer: Be with me daily, O God, as I seek to follow you. Make me humble and honest in my pursuit of righteousness, trusting always in your grace. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].