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The Economic Principles of Heaven: Bargaining Smartly for Salvation

(Mark 10:35-45)
By Arinze Onwuzulike, cssp
James and John, the two disciples we hear their story in this Sundays Gospel, depict
themselves in a picture much akin to the activities of our modern day economists.
These sons of Zebedee understand the logic that controls the law of demand and
supply. Since making heaven typically involves racing alongside countless
competitors, one must rush and grab his/er copy while the limited offer lasts. In
approaching Him with their earnest request, James and John gave Jesus the tight
conditions under which their demand must be met. We want you to do for us
whatever we ask of you. Curiously enough, they did not even stop there. These
fiery sons of Zebedee went further too to boldly corner Jesus with a neat framework
within which He must supply their request. Grant us to sit, one at your right hand
and one at your left, in your glory. Like true economists of heaven, their terms and
conditions must necessarily apply! The staging of their request was masterfully
crafted.
Jesus being an astute analyst responds with a crucial point our heaven economists
seem to have omitted in their request package. He quickly reminds them that
having interest in the glory they seek comes with a cost. The cost is suffering. It is
to be a servant while leading. It is being a slave to doing good deeds. It is
recognizing the supreme value of sacrifice. To remove or smartly omit the cost is an
indication that James and John do not really know what they were requesting for.
You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or
be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? Though their immediate
response was We are able, we all know well that when the actual time came for
them to make good their claim at the Gethsemane Garden, at the Trial before Pilate
and at the Crucifixion on Mount Calvary, they were either among those who took to
their heels or stood and watched with complete indifference (apathy)!
Perhaps, in their (James and John) minds, saying We are able finds ready
justification in their being instrumental to the feeding of the five thousand, in their
experiencing the Transfiguration, and in their supping with Jesus at the dinner table
of the Last Supper. But as we understand from the scriptures, these events are still
merely among the signs of the glory, not the cost. It is the sacrificial dimension
which the cost presents as an intrinsic requirement that makes the glory worth it.
And this perhaps, is the least thing in the minds of James and John as they applied
their knowledge of calculus for a good deal in bargaining for their afterlife. Even if
they were aware of this cost dimension to it, they apparently do not mind finding a
way around it.
Evading sacrifices makes things much easier and convenient. However, it is one
thing to be concerned about how we invest in our future, it is yet another to get
right, our plotting of the existential graph of cost-benefit analysis. In racing for
heaven, in our daily bargain with our Creator, the elements of cost and benefit must
be properly taken on board, and not just proportionally balanced out. This is the
only trick to it. And James and John both missed it out entirely.
We too face daily this question of figuring out how to secure our place in the lasting
future. Jesus is very much aware of this. Hence, he chooses not to respond only to
these crafty sons of Zebedee. Rather he gives an answer that extends to all His
hearers. He opts to make His answer universal. Thus, His answer applies to us.
Two things unmistakably stand out in Jesus answer. The first is: the road to
greatness is simply service. Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your
servant. The second is: To occupy first position before God is to be a slave to good
deeds. Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave to all. In a word, no
glory comes at no cost. Our rightful seats in heaven are there for us to safely secure
as long as these eternal principles from our Redeeming Master impels us. Enjoy your
Sunday!
Arinze, CSSp.