The One Trade You Should Never Make
For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul?
God has created us to live in two worlds, and while the spiritual is most important, our culture tends to value the tangible. We devote our time to making more money, and we spend our money getting more and more stuff. Some of us use our wealth as chips to show we’re smarter and sharper than others. We want to win, and possessions are the way we keep score. Others though, don’t really care what somebody else has. We just want as much as we can get to make our lives as pleasant as possible.
Jesus made a stark, sobering observation that the value of a single soul is greater than all the gold, oil, real estate, jewels, stocks, cars, and everything else of value on the planet. Jesus died to rescue our souls from eternal death. He died for our family members, our neighbors, the cranky old guy down the street, and the natives in the middle of the Amazon basin.
One of our most important, and yet one of the most difficult, tasks is to shift our attention from what is visible to what is invisible, from the tangible to the eternal, from what will rust and rot to what will last forever.
Souls are that important.
The meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.
A few days ago, thousands of shoppers got up early, rushed to stand in line, and fought crowds just so they could buy just the perfect gift for that someone special. Tired parents were willing to give up rest and sleep so they could find the perfect toy for their child. Others sat at a computer scrolling through dozens of items on sale trying to find that unique gift, that something special. Why do we do all this? Simply because we love and wish to bring as much happiness as possible to those we love.
In our mad-house world families are so busy trying to capture every moment of life, filling it with a myriad of activities; hoping in some way to give joy and satisfaction to those they love. Children are pressured to engage in extracurricular activities in addition to regular school hours. We simply have to gather with friends and family so we can enjoy time together. We are spellbound with entertainment, willing to drive miles and wait in lines for hours so that we can see our favorite artist.
We work hard, long hours so we can earn enough money to finance our lifestyles and for many their career has become the most important part of their lives.
The value of all the things we have and enjoy increases until they dictate our lives.
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to enjoy life. Remember He created paradise for Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden to enjoy all His gifts. It’s not that we are somehow to take a vow of poverty and have nothing in this world. It’s not even that God frowns on our entertainment- well most of it- or that He would limit us having fun.
I realize that some years ago, the church seemed to frown on any activity other than work and church and I’m by no means wishing for the legalism of that era to return.
In fact I think that sometimes the church is far too formal and somber even when we gather. When I think about Jesus, I imagine Him as being fun to be around. I don’t picture Him as a stuff-shirt religious person at all. My reason for thinking this is that the children loved hanging out with Him and most of the disciples were young men. Now when the church has something going on that attracts children and young men, it’s doing something. It wasn’t that Jesus had no standards or expectations concerning righteousness. Fact of the matter, He was pretty demanding with those who wished to be His disciples. Yet the people around Him weren’t somber or bored. It seemed that they found an excitement and enthusiasm that they were willing to give up the things of this world(read the story of Zaccheus).
What I’m seeing happening in the church community today is disturbing. I’m not disturbed that folks are involved in activities outside the church. I’m disturbed that all those things have become our priority and our relationship with God and His church are becoming the least of our priorities. I’m afraid we feel as a society that it’s more important for our children to have a good education-we want them to attend the best schools; we want them to be socially successful so we make sure they get involved with as many extracurricular activities as possible and somehow at the end of the day their spiritual needs get lost in the mix. I realize that church may not be as attractive as the things of the world, mainly because too many of us have made it some duty or obligation to fulfill so when we die we go to heaven. Perhaps that’s our problem. We’ve been so busy making sure we get our rituals correct that we’ve missed the relationship with the Living God. Church ought to be fun for every age- and no, I’m not talking about entertainment value.
In our world of confusion, our children are trying to find their way and far too many have no foundation. Their world view certainly isn’t a biblical world view and the steady decline of morality and the removal of absolutes is creating a chaotic, destructive environment.
Jesus is calling us to refocus; to remember that we are passing briefly through this world, and everything of this world will end. He is reminding us that only eternal things have value. In the accompanying verses, He poses an important question, “What would someone give for their souls?” What value do you place on yours? Your spouse’s? Your children’s? What value do you place on where you and those you love will spend eternity?
I’m not suggesting some rule or some legalistic thing but I’m asking us to reevaluate. If we truly believe that eternal things have a far greater value than the temporary things of this world, isn’t it logical that we make the things that contribute to eternity our first priority?
True the church needs to change. True it needs to work on becoming relevant and connected, but it’s the only plan God has given and we need it’s influence and teaching. Many point out the flaws in the church while overlooking those same flaws in their preferred activities. Our whole world is flawed, everything humans touch has issues.
What’s at the core and root of it all is how we value a soul and how valuable eternal life is to us. If the church truly values souls then it’s work become defines by what is working toward connecting people with God. Every activity, every resource, and every effort is measured by its effectiveness of relationship building with Christ. We will no longer try to fit into the world but to bring the world to Christ. We will choose our involvement and our children’s involvement in activities that make spiritual growth the priority. If eternal life is truly valuable, then we will make what brings us into a relationship with Christ, who is the giver of eternal life, our priority.
What do you think your soul is worth? What do you think the souls of those you know is worth? God thought the soul was so valuable that He gave up His Son and Christ thought it was so valuable that He gave up His life. Maybe we ought to consider it so valuable that we give up some of our pursuit of the things of this world and use that time and energy to pursue eternal life. In the end, only what is eternal will last.
Dr. John Thompson