In business we often talk about "the bottom line" - a reference to the final monetary result of something. People often want to know whether or not in the end they will make or lose money. Unless a profit is earned in the long term, the project should be scrapped. Will a course of action result in a positive benefit? If it does, we will then say that it was a profitable venture.
But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. (Jeremiah 2:11).
The word profit in this context is referring to whether or not a certain course of action will result in positive benefits to the people doing them, not so much to monetary or material gain. Would anyone pursue a course of action that would not profit him in any way? Yet this was exactly what the people in this context were doing. They had turned from that which would have resulted in a profitable life and gave it up in exchange for that which was not profitable.
It is one thing when a business is on a profitable course and due to unforeseen circumstances experiences a downturn. It's another when everything is going well and the business owners make intentional choices to undermine their business. But this was exactly what Jeremiah's people were doing with regard to life. And this is what so many of us are doing with our lives today. Bewildering, but true.
Cultures like Jamaica's with a biblical heritage need to hear Jeremiah's words. Through the Bible we have been given access to a profitable way of life. God, through his written word, has revealed how we can live lives of great benefit, not only for ourselves but also for all those around us. Far greater than business profit, we have the opportunity to benefit our generation in every way and yet we instead undermine others and ourselves by giving up on God's ways for lifestyle choices that don't profit.
All around us are voices telling us how to live: how to spend our time, how to present ourselves to others physically and emotionally, what to fill our minds with, who our friends should be, what our standards should be, how to spend our money, what constitutes a legitimate education and career, the value of marriage and children, and so on and so on.
But then there's God's voice, heard primarily through the Scriptures. Through his revelation he has given us all we need to live a profitable life. Why trade the lasting benefits of godly living for the cheap, destructive, wasteful deceit of what the world has to offer - what the world calls living?
I understand how difficult it can be to embrace wholeheartedly biblical living when the pressure to conform to the ways of the world is so strong. But we need to see this for what it is: When a society embraces the notion that our purpose on earth is to satisfy our personal pleasures with no eternal consequence, then we are headed in the wrong direction. Little do we know how much we are undermining our very existence through our self-focused choices.
Trading the biblical call to serve God for our personal pleasure is currently the order of the day. Selfish individualism may be the highest value in much of the world today. The carrot of self-gratification is leading our generation, supposed God-followers included, down a most destructive path.
Jeremiah reminds us that it doesn't have to be that way. The reason he confronted the people of his day as he did was not to mock them, but to help them. We don't need to allow the destructive forces and deceptive promises of the world to control our lives any longer. As we turn back to God and his ways, we can live the profitable lives he designed us to live.
Jamaica 50 is a great opportunity for us to turn back to God's ways. Let us heed the call and shift the direction that we are taking and shift the fortunes of this nation. What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose our souls?