In the congregation where I pastor, we are working through Luke’s gospel on Sunday mornings and walking with Jesus to Jerusalem. This week we are looking at Peter’s confession and Jesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 9.

Last night the question which Jesus asks in Luke 9.25 “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” struck me as a wisdom question, and mirrors the question of the teacher in Ecclesiastes who asked, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3).

Both the question of profit and and gain ask what is worth spending your life on. In this roundel I imagine one wrestling with the diminishing returns which always accompany idolatry and the question of whether the secondary goods which we pursue can become the primary means of our satisfaction and fulfillment.

If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the roundel via the player below.

By all the toil with which I pour
Myself into work tending this soil,
Spending life weeding, doing these chores,
What does man gain by all his toil?

Make the most, I promised, let nothing spoil.
“Over my dead body, I’ll not fail,” I swore,
Yet what I seek, my work seems to foil.

I’ll not let it stand. I’ll settle the score;
This irony of work makes my blood boil.
Why do I get less, even though giving more?
What does man gain by all his toil?

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

artwork: Gustave Dore

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