In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner), hears a voice telling him to plow down his corn crop and build a baseball field, because, “If you build he will come.” Crazy! But, he does it!
Why does he do it? It’s not exactly clear. He’s compelled, it seems to “ease his pain.” Whose pain? It’s unclear. However, circumstances align, crazy dreams abound, old time baseball players show up to play baseball, and Ray even travels back in time at one point. Near the end of the movie, one of the other characters is invited to come with the baseball players into the great beyond in the corn field. Ray is not invited, and he’s upset.
He tells Shoeless Joe Jackson, “I have done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it. And I haven’t once asked, ‘What’s in it for me?’”
Shoeless Joe replies, “What are you saying, Ray?”
Ray stutters, “I’m saying … what’s in it for me?”
“Is that why you did this?” asks Shoeless Joe. “For you?”
Ask a Christian why he or she does good works and what would that they say? Well, even if they don’t say it, it’s hard to resist the thought, “What’s in it for me?” However, as Christians, we don’t do good works to benefit ourselves. Instead, we work to serve our neighbors out of Christian love with all glory belonging to God alone.
This is the focus of our theme for the 2021-22 school year: “Living the Gospel … with Christ at the Center” based upon 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.”
While I will always struggle with my sinful nature and seek to do things that benefit me, the Gospel actually sets us free from worrying about ourselves. A little later in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians he tells them why? “For our sake (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In this sense, good works are not necessary. We couldn’t earn our salvation through good works anyway. If we had to serve our neighbor for our own benefit (to earn righteousness), would we really be living the Gospel? We’d only be living for ourselves, constantly asking, “What’s in it for me?” without any genuine care or concern for our neighbor at all.
But Christ has freed us to serve our neighbor through the Gospel. Christ has taken our sin upon Himself and in exchange He has given us the fullness of salvation. Now that we’ve been set free from the burden of our sin and have been made righteous by Christ, what do we do? We serve others for the sake of Christ — not because we have to but because we want to. As Christians, we are called to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) with ourselves as servants for Christ’s sake.
It’s our lifelong calling, but this year at Concordia Lutheran High School we get to explore “Living the Gospel … with Christ at the Center.” It’s going to be a great year!
Pastor Chad Hoover,