“Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it. What benefit is it to anyone to win the whole world and forfeit or lose his very self?” – Luke 9: 24-25.
The Gospels are full of messages that contradict what the world at large tells us to do. These words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke are no exception. We live in a society that values fame above everything else. Everyone needs to market themselves. We need to create a brand and have a platform. One’s talents must constantly be put on display. One must have as many contacts as possible through as many venues as possible. It is necessary for career and life success. There are always new opportunities for self-promotion to pursue.
It may be necessary in today’s world, but in light of this Gospel reading, it gives me pause. At what cost do we seek to “gain the whole world?” Do we lose ourselves, our true selves, in the process? At what point do we lose sight of what really matters? It is a difficult question.
Jesus’ whole message focused on love — love of God and love of others. It is all about what we can do for the other people in our lives, not what the world can do for us. It is about giving rather than taking, shedding light on others rather than seeking the spotlight for ourselves. For many of us, careers are important. The work we do matters. Being successful in them enables us to provide for our families and contribute to society. Therefore, self-promotion becomes part of the package.
Perhaps the key to whether we are losing ourselves in the process lies in the intent. Do we seek fame and attention for its own sake or as a means to achieve something of more lasting value? Is it a way to stroke our own ego and say “aren’t I wonderful?” or is it a way to get out a message and serve others in the process. That line can be a fine one. We are all human and our egos speak loudly. Most of us want to be noticed and appreciated for our gifts. Perhaps our motives aren’t always pure, but we can work on them. We can strive to put the attention on, and give the credit to, God who gave us our gifts. We can make an effort to always put others first.
The praise and attention we get on this earth is transitory. Think of those who gain the highest levels of fame in our society. Do we remember the majority of these people even five years after they have had their names plastered on television and on the cover of magazines? That type of notoriety is short-lived. Even lasting recognition matters little once one leaves this world. When we die, God will not ask us how many headlines featured our names, or how many contacts we had on social networking sites. He will ask us how well we loved and served the human beings we walked through life with. That is the ultimate task and the one we must focus on. It is only in giving up our own life for God and for others that our own lives will matter.