Counting the Cost

Tom Bast

READ : Luke 9:23-27

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (v. 25)

In the movie A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More stands trial in the courtroom of Henry VIII for refusing to acknowledge him as the supreme head of the Church of England. Unable to convict More of treason because he has remained silent on this important question, and according to English law silence means consent, the king’s ministers recruit a corrupt official named Richard Rich and promise him the Attorney-Generalship of Wales in exchange for his perjured testimony. In the most dramatic scene of the movie, More turns to Rich more in sorrow than in anger and says, “In good faith, Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury than my peril . . . Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?”

Substitute for “Wales” anything you please. Wealth, fame, happiness, power, prestige, long life—the value of our life itself exceeds them all. Yet Jesus paradoxically insists that it is this life that we must “lose” in order to save it. How do we do this? By taking up our cross daily. That is, by dying to self so that we may be raised in newness of life. More than simply giving up certain luxuries for Lent or undergoing a personal trial, self-denial is far more radical, and the only suitable image for it is death and resurrection.


“All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood” (Isaac Watts).