Defying Our Self-Loving Nature

And the Lord called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “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 life? For what can a man give in return for his life?   (Mark 8:34ff)

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky comments:

“Suffering is repulsive to a natural person. Almost all his life consists in applying solicitude to solicitude in order to avoid suffering. But then the Apostle tells him that he rejoices in sorrows, that he glories in them. The Gospel blesses those who are banished, dishonored, or beaten, calling everyone to follow a narrow path which few travel. It demands that one renounce oneself, that one despise one’s life. The Gospel foretells woe to the wealthy, the satiated, those who laugh and are spoken well of by all men. In order to follow such teaching, we must defy our self-loving nature. What will rouse is up to this?” (The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith, pp 90-91)

As Metropolitan Anthony says we must “defy our self-loving nature” not deify it!


Deny Your Self

On the Sunday after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, we read the Gospel Lesson from Mark 8:34-9:1.

And the Lord called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “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 life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Some historians of the Orthodox liturgical tradition say that in the older tradition of the Church, this Gospel lesson was read as the beginning of the Church’s new year (see for example THE DIVINE LITURGY OF THE GREAT CHURCH by Fr. Paul Harrilchak).  This was because in the early centuries of Christianity in the Roman Empire, September 23, Augustus Caesar’s birthday was treated as the first day of the new year.  He was heralded in the pagan Roman Empires as heralding in a new world.   Over the centuries, the Gospel lesson remained on the Sunday after the Elevation of the Cross, but it got separated from association with the church’s new year day as that day migrated away from September 23 to September 1.  This was somewhat a move to Christianize new year’s day.  Interestingly, August Caesar’s birthday also eventually became eclipsed in the Christian Roman Empire, being replaced on September 23 with the conception of St. John the Forerunner, who for Christians was the true herald of the coming new age of God.  Augustus represented nothing but the old age which was passing/had passed away.

Matthew Gallatin writes a personal reflection on what it means to deny the self to follow Christ:

“It wasn’t until I began studying the Orthodox faith, however, that I realized how subtly and completely self-love permeates my life. Sometimes it cleverly disguises itself in forms that are not quite so stark and ugly as self-love. When I am self-concerned, when I practice self-justification, when I act on self-desire, when I follow paths that are self-created and self-directed – in fact, any time the word ‘self’ can be used in the description of what I am doing – I am dancing to a dangerous drummer called self-love. Even things that are lauded in our society – like self-motivation, self-assertiveness, and self-development – can present deceptive stumbling blocks to one who in truth longs to ‘deny himself (Matt. 16:24) and allow himself to be caught up within the Life of his God and King.” (Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells, pp 95-96)

Humans as Relational and Communal Beings (III)

This is the 24th blog in this series which began with the blog Being and Becoming Human. The previous blog is Humans as Relational and Communal Beings (II).  As previously mentioned these quotes were not gathered as research to answer one question or to take one point of view.  These quotes are brought together because when I read them over the past couple decades they informed my understanding of what it is to be human.  The meaning of being human is a complex and many layered topic, rich in depth because it extends from the dirt of the earth into the eternal life of the Holy Trinity.

“I am a man – and the grace, the truth and the righteousness of God are continually working within me.  . . .  But the earth is full of men like me. Therefore, in them also God manifest His mercy, truth and righteousness, as in myself.”  (St. John of Kronstadt, MY LIFE IN CHRIST Part 1, p 35)

Orthodoxy continues to affirm that all humans share a common nature, a common history and even a common end when all will find themselves in the presence of our  Creator.  This truth is supposed to help us love one another, to feel empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings.  It is supposed to help us understand all our fellow humans on the planet are loved by God and are offered eternal life by our Savior – even those who openly deny God or refuse His love.

“’Person’ implies divine-human communion and human brotherhood in the Spirit.  Man is to be defined also by his relationship with his neighbor.  The fall, sin, atomizes, separates, splits, divides: the redemption and the act of the Spirit personify, unify and only thus regenerate.  … Man is what he is when he shares in the ecclesial communion, because there he becomes more than the sinful man he was before.   Therefore one should never forget his life as a member of the Church, as a charismatic being in the Spirit.”  (A.J. Philippou, THE ORTHODOX ETHOS, pp 57-58)

God’s love for all is not diminished by the fact that some reject God’s love and continue to pursue a life even in opposition to God’s love.  In the Church, we experience God’s regenerative love and our opportunity to become fully human through love, forgiveness and repentance.  Even we who are members of the Body of Christ wrestle with how to live as witnessed to God’s love, specifically because we continue to reside in the world of the Fall.

“God did not create man for hatred and self-love, and the consciousness of the sharp separateness from each other, which exists in each of us, is an abnormal consciousness, born of sin.  People free themselves from it according to the measure that they free themselves from self-love, and then the self-loving, self-assertive ‘I’ pales in their consciousness, and is replaced by another, being filled with love and compassion – the consciousness of ‘we’.  . . .  Nevertheless, for all our human separateness, we cannot but notice in ourselves the manifestations of the collective common human will; a will which is not of me, but in me, which I renounce only partially, and even then only with difficulty and struggle.  This will is given to me from without and yet, at the same time, it is mine.  This is, above all, what the common human nature is.  In this we must place, first of all, our conscience, which was given to us, and which almost no one can resist completely; then, our direct involvement and compassion with our neighbors, our parental and filial affections, and much else.  Among these attributes are also found evil ones, desires seemingly imposed upon us from without:  self-love, vindictiveness, lusts, and so on.  This is a manifestation of our fallen nature, against which it is possible and necessary to struggle.  And so the nature of all people is one: it is an impersonal but powerful will which every human person is compelled to take it into account, no matter in what direction the personal free will is turned; toward good or toward evil.”  (Antony KhrapovitskyTHE MORAL IDEA OF THE MAIN DOGMAS OF THE FAITH, pp 169-170)

Our struggle is a spiritual struggle which is waged in our hearts and souls and minds.  Thus our technological advances cannot resolve all of the issues and problems confronting humanity.  We need to engage in the spiritual life.

“Everyone now realizes that human beings need not only bread but friendship and beauty, not only abundance but restraint, not only the power of machines but a renewed respect for God’s creation, not only education of the mind but a greater capacity for celebration.   The rampant technological revolution will be mastered only if we can incorporate in it the non-technical values and dimensions of humanity.  . . .  So Christian witness today must be directed towards the divine-humanism that urban society needs.  A religion that set God against humanity and failed to recognize that ‘royal’ character of creativity (since it comes from the Holy Spirit) fell victim to the purifying zeal of the great reductionists and the huge advances in our understanding of human nature.”   (Olivier Clement, ON HUMAN BEING,  p 106)

However, the challenges facing Christians is not just to learn how to navigate in a technological world which relies on human ingenuity to “save” humankind.  We are confronted by philosophies opposed to Christianity.   The Gospel is discredited by some human philosophies which not only deny that humans have a spiritual component, but actively oppose spirituality of any kind claiming that nothing exists beyond the material universe.

“Curiously, Richard Dawkins strongly emphasizes that the practice of bringing up children to have religious beliefs is iniquitous and best labeled ‘indoctrination.’ Characteristic is this lament: ‘I think we should all wince when we hear a small child being labeled as belonging to some particular religion or another. Small children are too young to decide their views on the origins of the cosmos, of life and of morals. The very sound of the phrase “Christian child” or “Muslim child” should grate like fingernails on a blackboard.’  Dawkins appears to combine an excessively intellectualized conception of religious faith with a distinctly underdeveloped sense of the social nature of religious knowledge, identity, and practice. In any case, it is hardly unreasonable for adults to seek to form children in patterns of thinking and living that they believe to be good—as Dawkins himself has no doubt done.”    (R. W. L. Moberly , Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture , Kindle Loc. 845-53)

Humans are social creatures, designed to live in relationship with one another and with God.  When we declare that humanity is the highest power in the universe, we also justify our choices, whatever they may be, including our modern tendency for extreme individualism, alienation and separation.  If there is no God, everything becomes permissible.    Each human sees his/her self as the power he/she must worship and serve.  This egotistical thinking leads to human sin because one concludes one has no obligation to care about any others.   Contrary to this thinking, Christianity teaches love for one another, the ability to seek out something more and greater than the self, and to create a social network on earth based not on narcissism and self-love, but based in God, who is love, who teaches us to love others.  We deny our self-centeredness; we deny sin in order to become fully human loving our fellow human beings and loving our Creator as well.   The Lord Jesus taught: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

“Put simply, the day we die to sin is the day we rejoin the human race.  Then, I no longer care if I die for the people; on the contrary, I am vowed to their fate, and so their life and death is my life and death.  It might be added that this is the meaning of becoming an adult: thus it is also pointing to the child who must die if that adult is ever to live.  The preoccupation with our childhood difficulties causes us to think adult life should be the fixing of these, to permit our individual flowering.  This causes us to forget our vow to the people.  An adult, especially spiritually, is someone upon whom others can rely.”  (Stephen Muse, RAISING LAZARUS, p 183)

Ultimately this perfect love we exhibit toward one another does not result in the disappearance of our self.  Denying self-love and embracing love for others makes us more fully human, a value that last in God in eternity.

“But what is it to be human?  What is the business of life?  Our primary business in life is not business, or construction work, or sales, or teaching, or even motherhood, but becoming a complete human being. . . . individuals are infinitely more important than civilizations because they are immortal.  When all civilizations are dead, when even the stars blink our billions of years from now, every one of us will still exist, in eternal joy or eternal misery.  And that is the only issue that matters infinitely: Quo vadis?”  (Peter Kreeft, BACK TO VIRTUE, pp 15-16)

Next: The Human: A Being with Conscience

Bearing the Cross: Putting our Hand to the Plough

The Gospel lesson for the Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is  Mark 8:34-9:1.  We respond to the death of the Son of God on the Cross for us and for our salvation by being willing ourselves to take up our crosses to follow Christ.

And the Lord called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “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 life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

We are to take up the cross, and yet, as Anglican Archbishop  Rowan Williams reminds us, that burden is light.

“To see – to feel – the cross as a light load is the impossible possibility of faith: letting our best-loved pictures of ourselves and our achievements die, trying to live without the protections we are used to, feels like hell, most of the time. But the real hell is never to be able to rest from the labors of self-defense. It is only very slowly indeed that we come to see why the bearing of the cross is a deliverance, not a sentence; why the desert fathers and mothers could combine relentless penance with confidence and compassion. […] ‘It is not sincerity, it is truth which frees us…To seek sincerity above all things is perhaps, at bottom, not to want to be transformed.’ ”Silence and Honey Cakes, pp 48-49)

Archimandrite Zacharias teaches us that cross we take up also serves as a plough to help prepare the garden of heart so that the seed which Christ sows in the garden of our hearts can propagate and bear spiritual fruit.

“If we are to cultivate the soil of our hearts we will first need a plough, and our plough must be the Cross of Christ. This will lead us into obedience to His word and we will take up our own cross. No one can carry the Cross of Christ. […] We bear our small personal cross in obedience to Christ’s commandment. This cross is the pain and sacrifice involved in freeing the heart from dispassionate attachments and secret deceits, that it may run freely after its beloved God and call upon Him. It will have room for nothing but a yearning for God by which to invoke His Name. The one desire of the heart is to be one with Him Who joined Himself to our nature, bringing into it all His divine virtues so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ Thus, by taking up our small cross, we inherit the life hidden in His great Cross.”Remember Thy First Love, p 243)

Denying the Self AND Taking Up the Cross

Mark 8:34-9:1

And the Lord called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “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 life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom commented on the need of each Christian to take up their own cross as Jesus taught:

Martyrs Boris & Gleb

 “He is not going to be crucified for you every day. There is a moment when you must take up your own cross. We must each take up our own cross, and when we ask something in our prayers, we undertake by implication to do it with all our strength, all our intelligence and all the enthusiasm we can put into our actions, and with all the courage and energy we have. In addition, we do it with all the power which God will give us. If we do not do this, we are wasting our time praying.” (Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray, pg. 36)

Denying oneself can also be manifested in “dying to self”:

“‘Dying to self’ is spiritual shorthand for rooting out all manner of exaggerated self-interest, characteristics of ourselves that constrict us in narcissism and blind self-centeredness. This is the self within us, while all too real, is what nonetheless must die, the ‘false self,’ which must give way to the new life we are called to attain. The false self embodies the very characteristics we loathe in our better moments. Were we to look at ourselves honestly, we would see how petty, thoughtless, and loveless we can be at any given moment. We might have an occasional, fleeting insight that we will never attain any real happiness unless we come to terms with what really counts in life. One doesn’t have to search far to find pathetic example of individuals who struck it rich by the standards of ‘the world,’ yet whose personal lives were utterly miserable. Wealth, fame, and talent alone are not good enough to make us happy. When they occur independently of genuine spiritual values, they only throw into greater relief the true poverty and slavery of our lives.” (The Monks of New Skete, In the Spirit of Happiness, pgs. 86-87)

The Victory of the Cross

“Evil flies in the face of God, like the scourging of the blindfolded Jesus. The cries of Job can still be heard and Rachel weeps for her children. But the answer to Job has been given and remains given: it is the cross. It is God crucified upon all the evil of the world but causing an immense power of resurrection to burst forth in the darkness. Pascha is the Transfiguration taking place in the abyss. ‘Deliver us from evil’ means: Come, Lord Jesus;come, you who have come already to conquer hell and death; you who said that you ‘saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Lk 10:18). This victory is present within the depths of the Church. We receive its strength and its joy whenever we receive communion. If Christ keeps it secret it is in order to bind us to it. ‘Deliver us from evil’ is an active prayer intended to challenge us.” (Olivier Clément, Three Prayers, pg.39)


What does it mean, “let him take up his own cross”? It means he must endure many things that are painful; that is the way he must follow Me. When he begins to follow Me in my life and My teachings, many will contradict him, try to stop him, or dissuade him, even those who call themselves Christ’s disciples. It was they who walked with Christ that tried to stop the blind men from calling out to Him. So if you wish to follow Christ, you will take these threats or flattery of any kind of obstacle and fashion them into the Cross; you must endure it, carry it, and not give way under it. And so in this world that is the Church, a world of the good, the reconciled, and the saved-or rather, those destined for salvation, but already saved by hope, as it is written, “by hope we are saved”- in this world of the Church, which completely follows Christ, He has said to everyone, “If anyone wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself.”

This is not a command for virgins to obey and brides to ignore, for widows and not for married women, for monks and not for married men, or for the clergy and not for the laity. No, the whole Church, the entire body, all the members in their distinct and varied functions, must follow Christ. She who is totally unique, the dove, the spouse who was redeemed and dowered by the blood of her Bridegroom, is to follow Him. There is a place in the Church for the chastity of the virgin, for the countenance of the widow, and for the modesty of the married. Indeed, all her members have their place, and this is where they are to follow Christ, in their function and in their way of life. They must deny themselves, that is, they must not presume on their own strength. They must take up their cross by enduring in the world for Christ’s sake whatever pain the world brings. (The Blessed Augustine of Hippo, Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion, pgs.105-106)

Deny Yourself and Take up Your Cross

Mark 8:34-9:1

At that time, the Lord called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

 “You say that you have no success. Indeed, there will be no success so long as you are full of self-indulgence and self-pity. These two things show at once that what is uppermost in your heart is ‘I’ and not the Lord. It is the sin of self-love, living within us, that gives birth to all our sinfulness, making the whole man a sinner from head to foot, so long as we allow it to swell in the soul. And when the whole man is a sinner, how can grace come to him?  It will not come, just as a bee will not come where there is smoke. There are two elements in the decision to work for the Lord: first a man must deny himself , and secondly he must follow Christ (Mark 8:34). The first demands a complete stamping out of egoism or self-love, and consequently a refusal to allow any self-indulgence or self-pity—whether in great matters or small.” (Theophan the Recluse, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, pg. 260)

The Cross as a Gift

If the price was not an issue, what would you name as a small gift item that you could give to most anybody that they could easily carry on themselves at all times and would be useful almost anywhere they went?

I’m guessing today people would name a cell phone of some kind, or an I-pod or I-phone or BlackBerry.  Not too many years ago people would have listed a watch, or maybe a wallet.

crossChristians might consider giving the cross as a gift.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself

and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Mark 8:34)

Interesting in that passage from Mark’s Gospel Jesus was speaking to the crowd, not just to His disciples.

The cross certainly is something worth carrying for Christians, and it can be easily carried, at least the jewelry we give and receive as gifts.   No matter how tiny, it is useful to the Christian in reminding him or her of Christ and of discipleship and to what people he or she belongs.  The cross reminds us of the importance of love of neighbor and of God, of self denial, of overcoming death, of repentance, of forgiveness, of the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that this world is passing away. 

Many use this simple prayer when putting on their cross:

You have said Lord, ‘Whoever would come after Me,

let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

My cross, O Lord, do I take up. Have mercy on me.”

I have received the cross as a gift several times in my life.  The first was the day  I was baptized as an infant and a small cross was given to me.  Later in my life when in college I consciously embraced Christianity, my mom gave me that cross to wear daily, and I’ve worn it ever since.   I was also given a cross to wear at my ordination to the priesthood and then again when I was made an archpriest.  And that small cross given to me at baptism was given to me one more time after it became lost in a field, but was amazingly found some weeks later and given to me by the parishioners who found it. 

cross2The cross as a gift has been very meaningful to me.  It has felt very heavy at times and then at other times given me strength.

The cross is a gift given to us by Christian parents, godparents, and friends.  It is a gift of love and it reminds us of God’s gift of His Son to the world.   When we put on the gift of the cross, it is reminiscent of Proverbs 6:20-22  

My son, keep your father’s commandment,
   and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
   tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
   when you lie down, they will watch over you;
   and when you awake, they will talk with you.

Following Christ, What Comes Next?

lazarussat1Sermon Notes Sunday of the Cross    Great Lent 2005     Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus said, “If any one wants to follow (come after, get behind) me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow (accompany, go my way) me.” (Mark 8:34)

(In the English translation the word “follow” occurs twice, while in the Greek original 2 different words are used. The 1st Greek word is opiso mou while the 2nd is akoloutheito). Jesus seems not so interested in having disciples simply follow behind Him, rather He wants disciples who will accompany Him, even on the cross which is where He both defeats death and is glorified.

Why would anyone want to become a disciple of Chris or to follow Christ?
Mark 8:29 gives us the clue – because we have come to believe, know and confess that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah. We recognize the way to God is through Him, the way to God’s Kingdom is through Him.

The question we need to ask is:  if we choose to follow Him, what then do we need to do?  How do we live? What actually demonstrates that we are His disciples, followers, those who accompany Him?
We deny ourselves and take up our crosses to follow Him.

We come to Church to find our Cross, not to have it taken away. The Great Lenten discipline helps us to find our cross.

How does this help me to be human?

How does it help me to go back into the world and face life?

Great Lent teaches us to forgive, to repent, to pray, to hope, to be charitable, to be expectant – oriented to the future, to be focused on and moving toward the Kingdom of God.

Think about the ways in which Great Lent calls you to

Being a child of God
Destroy Evil
The Kingdom of God
Defeat Death
The Judgment of God
Being a disciple of Christ
Sexual purity
Considering the needs of others
Being a servant
Being a brother/sister

Think about how Great Lent calls you to overcome

Judging others
Self centeredness
Desire to control others

Sunday after the Elevation of the Cross 2008

The context for my comments on this the Sunday after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, 2008:   The remnant of Hurricane Ike ripped through the Dayton area causing massive damage and power outages.  One week after the storm passed through numerous people are still without power.  This past week another type of hurricane swept across America – a banking/financial crisis whose long term impact is probably going to be greater than that of Hurricane Ike.

(Galatians 2:16-20)    We know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Though this text is usually used in the Protestant-Catholic debate about works vs. faith, Americans should think about this text in terms of how they understand themselves.  Americans often feel we are a righteous country and our deeds prove our righteousness.   St. Paul says it is not our works that will save us.   We are not made righteous by the works we do, nor do we earn God’s favor in this way – not even as Americans.  God sends sunshine and rain to the good and to the evil, and all benefit from His generous goodness.  We don’t earn His favor.  God so loved the world, not just the United States, that His sent His Son to save the world.  Americans are often tempted to think that because we are righteous God sends His grace on us – but God’s grace, His favor, is unearned.  It is a free gift.   The question is not how good and righteous we are, but whether our faith in God is such that He justifies us.  We are not justified by our logic, we are justified by God’s saving action which He has offered to the world.    If God has shed His grace on us – this is a cause for humble thanksgiving, not for arrogant self congratulations!

(Mark 8:34-9:1)    [34] He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. [35] For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

The very teaching of Christ which distinguishes Christians from others is the willingness to practice self denial in order to follow Christ.  We do not need electricity to be Christian.  We do not need economic prosperity to be a Christian.    We can do everything we need to do as Christians and to be Christians without electric power and without a strong economy.  With St. Paul we know how to live in times of great abundance and in times of need.  We are to be people of gracious thanksgiving, faith and prayer, not just when things are going well, but at all times.  No storm of any kind – whether natural or manmade – should be able to drive away our faith in God.  For if we value prosperity and electricity more than we value God, if we cannot practice self denial, then we cannot be Christian.

 [36] For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? [37] Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

This verse really speaks to our current banking/financial crisis in America.  People have thought they can gain the world, greed abounds everywhere, but they lose their souls and do not realize they have lost something infinitely more valuable than the millions they pocketed.  Insatiable greed gets euphemized as “profit” which we see as always a good.  But it is not what Christ who spoke about denying one’s self would have emphasized.   The rich young man went away from Christ saddened when Christ told him to give away his prized positions to the poor.

[38] Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus spoke against unbridled greed, and some are embarrassed by his words to love our enemies and to give expecting nothing in return.  Some are embarrassed to take up the cross and follow Him.   We are embarrassed that it is not wealth and prosperity which make us Christians, and that we can give thanks to God even in times of need.   Embarrassed because we love our prosperity, and think it is what is truly important and what we should be defending at all costs.  But it is not prosperity which makes us godly, god protected, or loved by God.   It is our faithfulness to God in any and every condition which reveals our hearts.