Jump Start # 2944
Matthew 16:26 “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Our verse today is familiar to so many of us. We’ve heard preachers use this passage over and over. It’s a good one. And, it does us well to take a look at some of the layers that are present in this verse.
First, the passage consists of two questions. Jesus doesn’t give the answer to those questions. It’s the type of question that has an obvious answer. It doesn’t need to be answered, because we all know the answer. So, what are the answers? What value is there if you got it all, but you lost your soul? Jesus is reminding us that our soul, created in the image of God is worth more than everything else. Everything. Put everything on one side of a balance scale and our soul on the other, and the scale would always tip to our soul.
Second, what Jesus presents is really an impossibility. No one can gain it all. Oh, through the centuries many have lived and died as if they could have it all, but they can’t. No one can. No one can own all the land on the planet. It’s impossible. No one can have everything. Also, so much of the world isn’t for sale. It’s not ours to have. We sing, “This is my Father’s world.” The planet is God’s. He has cattle on a thousand hills, the Psalms tells us. You can’t own every book. You can’t have every action figure. You can’t get every movie. It’s just not possible.
Third, there is a divine perspective that brings us to reality. Gaining it all, but forfeiting the most valuable is a terrible exchange. This is not about quantity—one soul contrasted with the whole world. It’s about value. Losing your soul is the worst thing that can happen to any one. It’s worse than cancer. It’s worse than dying. It’s worse than being alone. It’s worse than never checking off your bucket list. It’s worse than never fulfilling your dreams.
The difference between priceless and worthless is perspective. Value is determined by how much it costs to produce, how rare something is and what it means to someone. A plain piece of paper with a stick figure drawn on it doesn’t hold much value. Try selling that on EBay. Try taking that to the art museum. However, if we say that Walt Disney drew that stick figure, suddenly the value changes. If we say that Michelangelo drew that stick figure picture, the value explodes. Or, if we say that your child or grandchild drew that picture, while it may not mean anything to anyone else, you wouldn’t take anything for that. Priceless or worthless? It’s a matter of perspective.
So, plugging that thought into our verse today, for many in the world gaining everything is it. They will define life by how many cars they own, how much square footage there house is, where they have vacationed and the labels that are on their clothes. From an earthly perspective, they have it all. They are on top of the mountain. The newest, the biggest, the most expensive—they have it. They love to flaunt what they have. They love it when others ooze with envy. They want others to wish that they were like them. But their whole world is about stuff. Their definitions are qualified by stuff. The more stuff the better, is how their minds work. We have it all, is what they want. But that hasn’t been thought out very well. It never is.
What happens when that person is too old to drive all those cars? Or, he can’t climb the stairs in his massive house? Or, all he wants to do is sleep all day and the size of that TV no longer matters? What happens when he dies? What happens when the Lord comes and all those things are destroyed? Such a person is living a perspective that is built upon now and has no room for later. It is built upon physical and has no room for the spiritual. It is built upon self and has no room for God. It is a perspective, but it’s not a divine perspective. If such a person could live decades and decades at the same age he is, he might be on to something. But he can’t. And, even at that, some day he’ll meet God, face to face.
I read a very sad commentary upon modern society a while back when the question was asked, “What would you do for a million dollars?” The responses were illegal, immoral and selfish. A percentage would sell their own children for a million dollars. A greater percentage would be unfaithful in their marriage for a million dollars. Some would even kill a stranger for a million dollars. I wonder what the answers would be if I could ask some questions? Would you give up drinking the rest of your life for a million dollars? Would you change your ways for a million dollars? Would you follow Christ the rest of your life for a million dollars?
Two words about the soul that comes out of our passage are: forfeiting and exchanging. To forfeit is to surrender or give over or give up. To exchange is to trade one thing for another. In both words, the soul is lost. The soul is given up. The value of the soul doesn’t mean anything.
What a contrast to the pearl merchant who sold everything he had when he found the pearl of great price. Or, the rich man, when in torments, was begging for a drop of water. The value of the soul. When financial analysists determine your net worth, the soul is never included. When people look at their 401’s, the soul is not considered.
The most precious thing you have is your soul. It will transcend your death. It is something that you did nothing to gain, but can be exchanged for the simplest of Satan’s charms. God gave you the soul that you have. Protect it. Guard it. Honor it. Keep it healthy. Feed it. Be thankful for it. Please the Lord with it.
What will a give…that is the question of the ages.