Not a Zero-Sum Game

In their 1969 Abbey Road album, the Beatles artistically stated what mathematicians call a “zero sum game.”  “And in the end, the love you take Is equal to the love you make.”  That sentiment is the total opposite of the gospel.

In today’s gospel of Mark 4:24, Jesus says, “the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.”  How do we believe or live out this teaching without falling prey to the “prosperity gospel” heresy found in so many mega-churches?

It gets even worse.  While the parable of the mustard seed is found in regular Sunday readings, verses 30-34, the larger gospel text, verses 21-34 is found in today’s morning prayer.  The next line just throws more gasoline on the heresy fire that proof-text, verse snippet, out-of-context prosperity gospel preachers love to preach.  “to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”  Obviously, these two verses mean that if you are a believer, then God will bless you with even more riches.  And if you are poor, then you deserve what you get, and God will take away even more from you.  This preaching would lead directly to the conclusion questioning why there should be any program by churches or the government to help the poor?

Taken out of context, those two verses promote dangerous ideas that are completely opposite what Jesus and first century Judaism were about.  The last part of this gospel is the real message.  It is the parable of the mustard seed – a plant that had some useful medicinal properties but was often regarded with contempt as the lowly mustard weed grew in abundance anywhere and everywhere.  God’s kingdom is like a mustard seed and the kind of prolific growth it generates.  It could not be controlled or contained and that is the point of this parable.  We cannot control or contain God’s kingdom in our church or in any human efforts. 

There are atheists out in the world doing more of God’s work in the kingdom and sharing more of God’s love than many bishops.  That is what it means when the mustard seed of the kingdom cannot be controlled or contained.  The mustard plant grows on its own without any human help.  Our job in the kingdom is just to find the mustard plants (God’s love) and share it.  God will do the rest.

If you believe that, when shared, the power of love will grow like the mustard plants, then you will prove the Beatles wrong.