Christ’s Promise: If You Give God Everything, He Will Give It Back 100 Times Over

“Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have gladly given you everything.”

Francesco Botticini, “The Assumption of the Virgin,” ca. 1475-76
Francesco Botticini, “The Assumption of the Virgin,” ca. 1475-76 (photo: Francesco Botticini / Public Domain)

The other day I came across a text, brief but deeply moving, which may be found in the Offertory Prayer of the ancient Ambrosian liturgy for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It struck me at once as lovely and as lapidary as anything to be found in the treasury of Catholic devotion:

Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have
gladly given you everything. 

Where does it come from? Not having a single skill set in the archaeology of the liturgy, I cannot say. But the inspiration for it, I suspect, will be found in the gospel of St. Mark, where Peter has just reminded the Lord that he and the others had left everything behind in order to go and follow him. And so, in the circumstance, what might they expect for all that they’ve so freely and gladly given? 

The answer Jesus provides is quite stunning: 

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (10:29-30).

Scrubbed down, what exactly is on offer here? It can’t be too complicated, can it? Jesus is basically saying that if you give God everything, you get it all back — “a hundredfold,” he assures them, “now in this time.” Oh, yes, and a bit of persecution thrown in at no extra charge. But then, as a sort of recompense for your troubles, God will give you paradise.

Does he really mean it? An eternity of bliss, no less? And, if so, why would anyone want to refuse a deal like that? It is totally over the top. Besides, the whole of humanity is already wired for God. “Thee, God I come from,” writes Gerard Manley Hopkins, “to thee go, / All day long I like fountain flow / From thy hand out, swayed about / Mote-like in thy mighty glow.” 

We were made by God for God, in other words, evincing such endless capacity for him that it could only have been the result of God choosing to create us in his own image. It is a connection entirely constitutive of who and what we are. Who wouldn’t, then, in feeling this native tug of transcendence, not be tempted to give back to God everything

Most especially the gift of oneself, knowing that the very seat of that self, its source of ultimate identity, derives wholly from God. It can hardly have any other trajectory for its fulfillment than God himself. If God is more intimately present to me than I am to myself, how else am I to find my happiness unless I harness my entire life to his? Hitching my wagon, as it were, to his star. A star so beautiful and bright as to outshine all the others.

How beautifully the bishop and martyr Ignatius put it in his Letter to the Ephesians on his way to Rome to die! What, he asks, were the secrets of Mary’s virginity, her giving birth to the God-Man, his death upon the cross, which God had so cleverly concealed from the fallen prince of this world? How were they revealed to the ages?   

A star shone in heaven brighter than all the stars. Its light was indescribable and its novelty caused amazement. The rest of the stars, along with the sun and moon, formed a ring
around it; yet it outshone them all, and there was bewilderment whence this unique novelty had arisen. As a result all magic lost its power and all witchcraft ceased. Ignorance was done away with, and the ancient kingdom [of evil] was utterly destroyed. Hence everything was in confusion as the destruction of death was being taken in hand.

Such a stirring summary of God’s work, wrought on behalf of a fallen world. A world, however, which can only exist in relation to him and, in fact, is already by the sheer gravitational force of its being drawn to him. From the beginning, this has been the common and universal teaching of the Catholic Church. So long as we bear the mystery of imago Dei right to the very bottom of our socks, it will never change. 

Whose most obvious application, let us not forget, are sinners; that is, people like you and me. That way, you see, no one gets left behind. Unless, of course, like Our Blessed Lady, you too have been immaculately conceived. 

As a practical matter, therefore, what it all means is that metanoia awaits us all. A complete upheaval of your life, realizable only to the extent one agrees to a work of continual conversion, of dying to self. “A condition of complete simplicity,” the poet Eliot calls it, “Costing not less than everything.” And once undertaken, held and sustained by constant infusions of grace, it then becomes not only possible to pull off, but more and more an almost effortless exercise of saying over and over: 

Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have
gladly given you everything.

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