You remember the words that Jesus spoke about this, right? Sure you do. Here is what He said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36,37).
The word “soul” is sometimes translated as “life.” In this setting, the Master was definitely talking about losing true spiritual life, which would be the loss of the soul. A soul is not lost in the sense that it can be misplaced, nor does a soul being lost mean that it goes out of existence. To “lose” one’s soul means the loss of spiritual well-being – separated from God by sin in this life, and ultimately separated from Him eternally in the life to come (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9).
A quick look at the context in which Jesus was teaching about gaining the world and losing one’s soul shows that Jesus’ message challenged people to make choices. In Mark 8:34 we read that our Lord calls on all people to follow Him. Will we? He calls on each person to deny himself and take up His cross (8:34). Will we? He appeals to us to lose our life for His sake and the gospel’s in order to save it (8:35). That simply means that He wants us to give up our devotion to ourselves and our own desires and count Him and His will as being most important. Will we do that? He further makes it clear that He does not want us to be ashamed of Him and His words (8:38). Will we?
Like I said, all of the teaching in this context at the very end of Mark 8 shows us that we have to make decisions – important decisions, tough decisions, decisions that will determine our eternal destiny. They are, indeed, “major.” And, right there in the middle of these instructions is the Christ’s question about what does it profit a man if he could gain the whole world and lose his own soul in the process. Well, what is the answer? In the big picture of things, what would it profit him? Jesus’ inquiry causes us to think soberly about what really matters most in life. In our heart of hearts, just what is it that ranks right up there in the top position on our list of “most important stuff?”
If a woman could become the richest female in history, but in the process rebels against Jehovah and loses her soul, what profit would there be for her to have heaps of gold and the notoriety of being so rich that she cannot possibly count all of her money?
If a Christian couple can amass mountains of money, but when it comes to contributing to the Lord’s work, they give like beggars, what shall it profit them to have gigantic sums of wealth if they only give God their leftover crumbs and ultimately lose their souls?
If two Christian men who are brothers in the flesh run a business that has been in their family for three generations, and they take that business to a financial level that brings them outrageous sums of money in annual profits, but they make a bunch of their profit by dishonesty and other immoral practices, not to mention the fact that, due to their job commitments, they only attend 25% of the services of the church (because a fellow has to make a little living, you know) – what, what, what does all of their money profit them, if in the end they lose their souls?!
If a young woman purposely wears skimpy clothing that reveals her cleavage and thighs for all the boys to gawk at and is known as “the hottest” girl in school, what shall it profit her if she loses her soul in the process?
If a young man drinks a few bottles of beer, takes illegal drugs, and uses profanity to prove to his friends that he is a mature man (???), but he loses his soul because of his ungodliness and lack of self-control, what has his so-called show of manliness gained him?
Brothers and sisters, if we want to be popular in the eyes of other humans, the devil has an unlimited number of ways to help us pursue popularity. If you and I count making money and acquiring material goods as our biggest goal in life, do not worry; Satan’s got us covered on that one, too. He has every kind of ploy that one could imagine to assist us in getting our hands on material things. We may never make Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people in the world, but covetous people have a way of getting their hands on stuff. For a heart filled with covetousness, though, there is never a feeling of being satisfied with what one has. There is always the longing for more, more, more. I recall that someone asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Are we listening?
Our soul is by far our most valuable possession. I know that is how God sees it, but do you and I have that same outlook? Let us be more concerned about our soul’s security than we are the securing of our material resources. “What will it profit . . .?”
— Roger D. Campbell