Risk and reward

Walking through the casino, I am thinking about gambling.

And that is as close to clickbait as I will ever get. (Let’s hope!) For I’m not in any way interested in participating. I accept assignments in Las Vegas reluctantly, since it’s probably my least favorite city to work in. But the gambling phenomenon – not the high-glitz party that preys upon people’s innate desire to win big, but the underlying human desire -- is percolating in my brain.

In essence, that desire is a willingness to give up something for the hope of gaining something much better. It’s the fabled bird in the hand for two in the bush. The reward has to be big enough to eclipse the risk.

Which gets me ruminating on the disciples’ risk-reward evaluation in their seaside encounter with Jesus.

If we didn’t have Luke’s gospel, the motivation of James, John and Peter to go with Jesus would be something of a mystery. Matthew and Mark, in their accounts, describe it tersely. In both, Jesus approaches, says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mt. 4:20, Mk. 1:18)

That decision seems like a black box. Why did they follow? To leave one’s livelihood, community and family is not a small thing. How did they know of the reward for such a risk?

Luke tells us. In his account, in Luke 5, he gives us the longer account of Jesus encounter with the fishermen, involving an amazing display of his power. Peter, in particular, realizes that Jesus is no ordinary man. He falls to his knees in confession before Jesus, calling him “Lord.”

Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (v.10) They left their nets and followed.

From the outside, the Christian life can seem like a gamble. We put all into the hands of an unseen God. We believe promises written thousands of years ago. We seek to give up our life in order to gain it.

But it isn’t a blind bet. It isn’t pulling a lever hoping that we’ll hit it big. Like the Luke 5 account, our discipleship is a response to an encounter with the living God. We follow not because it’s the calculated thing to do, but because it’s the only thing to do in response to the greatness of the One who we have met -- the One who now calls us to follow.

The merchant in the parable who sells everything to purchase the “pearl of great value” (Mt. 13:45-46) is not gambling. Once he sees the beauty of the pearl, he knows the value of what he’s getting far outweighs what he’s giving up. There is no risk for so great a reward!

It’s a good reminder for me today. I get to wake up every day in close friendship with this same Jesus, who loves me and changes me.

Giving up my self-centered, self-governed life for this? I’ve hit the jackpot!

Jesus, you have called us and we follow. We may not have responded “immediately,” but you have showed us so clearly that life with you is the pearl of great price. We gladly give our all for you.  Speak to us and guide us today as we walk with you.


I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

Today's ReVision

It's All Grace. Right?

Yes, but we need to make sure we know what we mean.

Join the Ailbe Community

The Fellowship of Ailbe Newsletters