February 17, 2018

Beware of Cost-benefit Spirituality!

Luke 14:1-14

When you give a luncheon or dinner . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. . . . You will be repaid at the resurrection. . . .

—  Luke 14:12-14

Maybe you know what cost-benefit analysis is. It is a process by which people calculate the costs versus the benefits of doing something. If the costs are too high, they will not waste their time and effort.

Cost-benefit analysis was at work with the host of the dinner party for Jesus. The Pharisee who invited him hoped to use the dinner as an opportunity to impress his guests. But the party did not turn out the way he had planned. Jesus used the opportunity to heal a man—on the Sabbath! Instead of this dinner being a setting where his smart religious pals could test Jesus and put him in his place, it became an opportunity for a miraculous healing. While learned men watched Jesus free a man from disease on the Sabbath, he gave them a doctoral seminar on the purpose of the Sabbath.

Jesus also noticed that the people attending the party chose places of honor for themselves. He saw a display of powerful people who were not doing things God’s way.

When we serve only for personal gain, we are acting more like that host who was counting on a return from his investment. Cost-benefit dynamics may make us better accountants, but it will not make us effective disciples of Jesus.

Lord, when I am guilty of assessing my service to gain an advantage or to look good before others, change my heart. Like, you, may I serve others even if they can do nothing for me. Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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