Making Wise Investments (Part 1): The Value of the Soul

Making Wise Investments (Part 1): The Value of the Soul

The first valuable commodity that we will consider in our study is the soul. People often fail to properly consider the value of their soul because their estimation is distorted by either self-deprecation (failing to see how valuable they are personally) or short-sightedness (failing to see past the things of this life). So let us see what the Scriptures teach us about the value of the soul.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

Natural Desire for Self-Preservation

It is natural that man would rather save his life than lose it. This natural inclination toward caring for one’s physical life is used by Paul to emphasize the need for husbands to demonstrate a sacrificial love for their wives: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29).

Although the desire for self-preservation is natural, Jesus says that one must learn to “deny himself” and be willing to “lose…his life” (Matthew 16:24-25). But why would anyone do this? It is not because Jesus is demanding the neglect or destruction of oneself. As we will notice in a later point, we are much too valuable in the Lord’s eyes to adopt that mentality and behavior. Instead, Jesus says we must deny self and be willing to lose our lives in order to gain long-term security. Our desire for self-preservation should be more for our soul – our entire existence that extends past our time on earth – than our temporary physical lives.

Dangers of an Overly Ambitious Attitude

In this passage, Jesus warns against having an overly ambitious attitude. Though one may gain “the whole world,” it is meaningless if he “forfeits his soul” in the process (Matthew 16:26). Of course, we are not to completely shun ambition to the point of laziness (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10). In the parable of the talents, Jesus condemned the servant who so severely lacked ambition that he would not even put his master’s money in the bank to earn interest on it (Matthew 25:24-28). At the same time, He praised those who went out and doubled their master’s money that had been entrusted to them (Matthew 25:14-17, 19-23).

Rather than condemning ambition, Jesus is condemning the attitude in which one is never satisfied. He asks the question: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). However, no one will ever be able to gain the whole world. Yet this is the pursuit in which many are engaged. They may not say that their goal is to obtain the world. But there is a never-ending list of wants and desires that they have. Whenever they gain anything, that fulfilled desire is simply replaced in their minds with an unfulfilled desire. Regardless of their circumstances, they are never satisfied and always wanting more.

While a degree of ambition is good (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23), it must be tempered by contentment. Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). This included both prosperity and poverty (Philippians 4:12). Paul was certainly a hard worker – even to the point of “working night and day” (2 Thessalonians 3:8) – but he understood the need to be content with just the basic necessities of life (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

In the parable of the rich land owner, Jesus described one who had an overly ambitious attitude. When he had a harvest greater than he expected, this man said, “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry’” (Luke 12:18-19). The productivity of his land did not make him a sinner. His plan to build larger barns was not inherently wrong. His sin was that he sought to gain more material goods by neglecting the well-being of his soul. He was called a fool because he forfeited his soul to gain the things of the world. He did not appreciate the value of his soul.

The Value of One’s Soul

So that we do not make the same costly mistake as the rich man, we need to be sure we understand how valuable our souls are. First of all, our souls are valuable because they were created by God. In the beginning, God “formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul, KJV]” (Genesis 2:7). Though the word in this verse simply denotes breath – the physical life that man and animals have in common – man is unique, having been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God is the “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) and one day, every “spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Second, our souls are valuable because they are the only thing we have than no one can take away from us. The things we possess in this life can be taken if “thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Our souls, in contrast, cannot be taken from us. They were given to us by God and will be returned to Him in the end (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Paul told Timothy, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). Though everything in this life is only temporary (2 Peter 3:10; 1 John 2:17), our souls – which will live on after this life – are eternal (Matthew 25:46).

The words of Peter remind us just how valuable our souls are when he explained what it cost in order to secure our redemption: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus was God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The Father had to “see” His Son suffer a cruel and torturous death on the cross in order to make atonement for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-11). As Peter pointed out, the blood Jesus shed in His death was worth more than silver and gold. God would not have allowed His Son to endure what He did on the cross if our souls were of little value.

For these reasons, our souls are more valuable than anything and everything that exists in the world. This is why Jesus presented the question: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The answer is implied in the question: There is no profit for trading our souls for the things of this world. Our souls – not just our temporal physical lives, but our entire existence – must be valued above all the riches of this life.

What Happens if We Forfeit Our Soul?

Jesus makes it clear that if we forfeit our souls for anything in this life, we have made a terrible decision. He shows us what the better choice is – diligently working to preserve our souls rather than neglecting our spiritual well-being in order to try and preserve, for a limited period of time, the things of this life.

If we make this failed investment – sacrificing our souls for the things of the world – we will not be able to give anything to buy it back. This is Jesus’ point in His second question: “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). One day, all of those who are lost will realize their error when they face the punishment for their sins – “eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). They will stand before the One who is “able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28), and will be told, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). At this point, there will be no hope. Even if one “gains the whole world” (Matthew 16:26), because his soul is more valuable than all of it, he will have nothing to offer to save himself in the end.

Conclusion

One day the Lord will return in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). At that time, He will “repay every man according to his deeds” (Matthew 16:27). Because our souls are so much more valuable than anything in this life, we must not risk losing our souls by not being in a state of readiness. Therefore, let us remember what Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica: “The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

If we are to make wise investments to secure our future, we must start by recognizing the need to take care of our souls.


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