We live in a bottom line society.
If something isn’t efficient enough, if it doesn’t get the job done, or, most importantly, if it doesn’t make money, we get rid of it or ignore altogether in the first place.
Whether in business, church, or just day to day life, many of the decisions we make are based on what’s best for the bottom line, what makes the most sense in light of our resources, or what will be the most beneficial to us in the end.
Which means the things and even people we cherish the most are often those that are the most efficient, the most productive, and the most profitable.
In turn, this means there is no greater secular sin than being good for nothing.
This is why if something is good for nothing, we toss it aside, trash it, vilify it, and go out of our way to make sure no one else bothers wasting their time, money, or energy on something or someone that is good for nothing.
Which is what makes God so particularly confusing and frustrating, if not altogether off-putting.
God doesn’t always make sense. God doesn’t always do what is most efficient. And God certainly doesn’t do what would be most beneficial to God.
Perhaps “worst” of all, God is good for no reason. That is say, God is good regardless of profitability.
God loves in the face of rejection. God gives grace even though it’s exploited. God forgives even as God is being trampled on. God gives when it isn’t deserved.
God is good for nothing.
For no practical reason.
For no profit.
For no reward.
God is good simply because God chooses to be good, not because of what God may get out of it. After all, God is not in need of anything.
This is what makes God so particularly confusing and frustrating, if not altogether off-putting for those of us who live in a society consumed by the bottom line, where everything must have a purpose, a reason, a potential for profit.
God’s love has no motive.
God simply loves.
Sure, God wants us to return that love, but God doesn’t force it and God certainly doesn’t stop loving when that love doesn’t see a return on its investment.
This is why Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell everything and give the money to the poor. It’s not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with money or wealth. It’s because the man had a motive in wanting to follow Jesus. He wasn’t in love in Jesus. He just wanted what Jesus could do for him.
He was focused on the bottom line.
But that’s not the sort of life Jesus calls his follower to. Jesus calls his people to simply love like God loves.
To love regardless of whether that love is returned.
To serve whether or not it is deserved.
To give without expecting anything in return.
To be good for nothing.
This is why we hear so many people talk about the Christian life, but see few who actually live it out. Because being good for nothing is a scary and difficult thing to do. It requires us to abandon our need for profit, efficiency, and the sense of security that comes with those things.
It means taking care of the poor even though they didn’t do anything to earn it. It means forgiving even when forgiveness isn’t asked for. It means extending grace to those who actively seek our demise. It means pouring out one’s life not out of expectation of gain, but simply out of love for God and neighbor.
This is the sort of life we see embodied by Jesus in the Gospels, the sort of God we encounter throughout Scripture.
But this sort of God doesn’t fit very well into our modern bottom line society. In fact, this sort of God stands in stark opposition to it because this sort of God is good for nothing.
And yet this is the God we worship, the Jesus we claim to follow.
Which means despite our love for the bottom line, if we are going to claim to be the people of God, if we are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus in and for the world, if we are going to call ourselves Christians, then like the God we worship we must become a good for nothing people.
FROM THE VAULT: As I’m always welcoming new people to the blog I sometimes like to revisit an old post or two that sparked a good conversation, but may have been missed by those who weren’t around when it was originally posted. A slightly different version of this post originally appeared a little over a year ago.