Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11
Yesterday, when I read this gospel passage, I saw it in a way that I never had before.
But first, let me start by saying that I don't subscribe to the prosperity gospel—the belief that if you are really one of God's children, he will shower blessings on you and make you comfortable, safe, successful, and prosperous. However, I do think that God sometimes chooses to grant unexpected blessings to us.
For example, I quit my corporate job and became a freelance writer without building up a savings cushion first. In spire of our lack of money, one of the first things I absolutely had to do was to buy a new computer. I was using a 12-year-old desktop model that was too slow to sustain a modern Internet connection. A few months before I left my job, the managers instituted a new reward program. At the Christmas party, one person in each department who had performed exceptionally that year would receive a bonus of several thousand dollars. I thought it sounded like an interesting program to motivate people, but I was sure that I wouldn't qualify because I was leaving. Why would my managers want to motivate someone who wasn't going to be there? Well, I was wrong. I received the bonus, which paid for my laptop.
When I read the story about Simon Peter yesterday morning, I suddenly saw it for the first time through the eyes of an independent contractor, whose income is no more secure than the income of the fishermen in the gospel. Yet, as insecure as the life of a fisherman must have been, it was an oasis of security compared to the life of an itinerant preacher, which is what Jesus called Simon to become.
Remember that Simon Peter was a married man. His mother-in-law is mentioned in the gospel of Mark. How would you feel if you were his wife, and suddenly he came home and said, "I'm not going fishing anymore. I'm becoming a disciple of this new teacher instead."
I'm sure she must have wondered how she was going to feed her family with her husband away from home, wandering all over Palestine and earning no money. And I think God must have known all that. Certainly, the enormous, net-tearing catch of fish convinced Simon that in Jesus, he had encountered a remarkable person, but I think it was a practical expression of God's love too. The catch was so enormous that Simon must have been able to sell those fish for more money than he had ever had in his life. I think it's just possible that the sudden windfall of money made the difference between destitution and comfort for the family Simon left behind.
It's a nice story to think about at a time when the economy is in such turmoil, don't you think?