Second Reading (A): 1 Peter 1:3-9

Cost-Benefit Ratio of Faith

Do you use an instrument like a “cost-benefit ratio” to make personal decisions? Why or why not?

Popular Translation

3 Thank our God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy, God gave us a fresh, new start when Jesus rose from the dead. This is a hope that lives in us.

4 God also gave us an inheritance that will never die. It is pure and will never fade away. It is being kept safe for you in heaven. 5 Faith tells you the power of God watches over you. It also tells you God is preparing a place for you in heaven. This will be shown at the end of time.

6 That thought should make you happy, even a little bit. You might need to suffer in various ways, 7 but this will prove your faith is much more valuable than gold that is molded in fire and formed. In this way, your faith will be worthy to praise, glorify, and honor God when Jesus comes again.

8 You love and trust Jesus even though you have not seen him. This is an indescribable and glorious joy! 9 Just think of it. You have already received what you desire in the end, the salvation of souls.

Literal Translation

3 Give thanks to God and Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the (One), according to his great mercy, having given us rebirth into a living hope through the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead, 4 (and) into an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance, having been kept in heaven for you, 5 the (ones) being safeguarded by the power of God through faith for a prepared salvation to be revealed in the last (event of) time. 6 In that (salvation) you rejoice, a little now, if it is being necessary (for you), having suffered through various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, much more valuable than gold being destroyed by fire as being tested, might be found (worthy) for praise, glory, and honor at the revealing of JESUS CHRIST. 8 (JESUS CHRIST) whom having not seen you love, in whom not seeing, trusting, you rejoice with an unspeakable joy, (a joy) having been gloried, 9 (you) obtaining the (complete) end of [your] faith, the salvation of souls.

1:3-6 The key to understanding this long sentence is the agent: God. The author told his audience to thank God for his activity. He gave us a “rebirth into a living hope...and an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance.” The clause in 1:5 referred to “you” at the end of 1:4b. This inheritance was kept safe for “you” (1:4b), the people of faith God protected until the moment of salvation at the end time (1:5).

1:3 “resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead” is literally “the standing up of JESUS CHRIST from the dead.” The term “anastasis” (“standing up”) was a Greek term used for resurrection.

One of the fads in business several years ago was “cost-benefit ratio.” This line of reasoning asked: What did it cost? What benefits were realized if the price for the item/service was paid? This “balance sheet” approach removed passion from the decision making process and judged choices on a more rational basis.

Can we use such thinking for a religious commitment? In other words, what is the “cost-benefit ratio” for being Christian? The benefits are easy to list: intimacy with God, support of other Christians, purpose in life, a life after death. The costs? The misunderstanding (even loss) of family and friends, oppression by those in authority, maintaining hope amidst the grind of daily living. Many more benefits and costs could be listed, but these communicate the kernel of the reasoning.

The author of 1 Peter did not specifically use this decision-making instrument, but he did point out THE benefits of faith and acknowledged the cost his audience faced. The benefits were a living hope that sprang from the resurrection of Christ and salvation that would be fully realized at the end of time. God gave these to the believer in a rebirth (a reference to Baptism).

The costs were great to his readers. Early Christians were ostracized by family and friends, misunderstood in general society, and even persecuted for refusing to burn incense at an altar with the bust of the emperor on it (this was considered more of a patriotic act than an act of worship by the officials). The decision to become and remain a Christian was not to be taken lightly!

The author deviated from “cost-benefit” reasoning in one significant way. He turned the cost into a benefit. The loneliness, the risk to one’s physical well being and place in society were actually ways to strengthen one’s faith. He argued for perseverance. Like gold that was melted in the furnace to be shaped for jewelry, faith was to be tested in the “furnace” of life so it would be worthy for worship in the Kingdom. In other words, what the Christian suffered in this life would prepare him/her for life in the next.

Americans do not like this line of reasoning. We admire sacrifice, as long as it is someone else’s sacrifice. We like gratification now! But, we should take these words from 1 Peter to heart. Life is not always comfortable. If fact, it can be challenging, even oppressive. But, the measure of a life well spent is not the line: “the one with the most toys at the end wins.” The measure is really the strength of character derived from the journey. The core of this strength is faith. Do we still reach out to God and others, even when the cost was high? The kind of faith that can answer “yes” despite the hardships in life is the faith worthy for the Kingdom.

The benefit of the Christian life: a faith tested in fire that still looks forward to glory of heaven.

How is faith worth the risk? How is the Christian life worth the journey? How have both prepared you for the afterlife?