Not a Zero-Sum Proposition

(A poetic reflection on John 3:22-30)

by Maria Evans

Daily Office Readings for Friday, June 24, 2022, feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist: AM Psalm 82, 98; Malachi 3:1-5; John 3:22-30; PM Psalm 80; Malachi 4:1-6; Matthew 11:2-19

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Oh, John…

There you go being counter-cultural again.

“Everyone knows that everything around us is finite,”

his followers must have thought.

Perhaps one or two of them even pulled him aside.

“Shouldn’t you be worried that this Jesus fellow

is getting all the attention?  

Isn’t this going to detract from our ministry?

What if they all flock to him and pay no attention to us?

There’s only so much attention to go around.

After all, for example, no one is ever going to make any more land…

and if I want to purchase more land, that means someone else will have less land.

If I keep more of the harvest for myself, that means someone else won’t eat.

What are you saying, John?”


Of course, we have no record of a conversation such as this,

but one can tell by John’s answer

that it was certainly on folks’ minds.


But I like to think there were probably several conversations like that,

and I like to think John might have answered something like this…


“Ah…but we’re talking about the guy

who all along, I’ve said “I’m not him.”

The guy we’ve been waiting for.

The guy who is showing us

that God’s love is unlimited.

In fact, if one has love, 

one can generate more love

and that prior love

is not diminished one little bit,

but, paradoxically,



I don’t need to be the rockstar here.

In fact, the way things are going,

it could well be my own time with you

is finite.

You’ll need him.

You’ll need to seek him out if I’m no longer around…

And if you have love already…

the love you have for me…

the love will continue to grow and spread.”


Two thousand years later,

we still get bound up

by the notion that 

there’s only a finite amount

of love in the world,

and still struggle with the idea

that love…

has never been a zero-sum game.


Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO. 

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