What's It Worth?

     Shopping and buying things is a big part of our economic culture. I’ve read on numerous occasions that we have a “consumer economy” which I think means that our economic progress as a nation is tied to people earning a living and then spending a good portion of it on doing stuff and acquiring things. I took economics in college back in the fading reaches of time and can honestly say I remember very little of that course. But being in business for a while and life in general teaches that our economic structure depends on, in the words of James, buying and selling and getting gain (4:13).

     A big part of this process for us is the determination of value of the item or service we contemplate purchasing. I recently received the bill for a satellite radio service. It was too high as far as I am concerned. So I called the folks and shared with them my opinion, whereupon they offered to sell me the same thing for half the price. For me the final price was about what it was worth although I am sure they don’t go hungry selling the service at half price.

     You’ve done the same thing many times in your life for the goods and services you need or perhaps just want. We go through a process and we ask ourselves, “What is this worth?” If it’s a good value we pull the trigger and make the purchase. If it is not a good value, we pass and do without.

     I suspect most of you know where I am going with this. The passage is famous. Jesus asked “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NKJV). Here is that word “profit” which describes the difference between the cost of an item and its ultimate value. Think again of James’ words about “getting gain.” The English word profit has in it the idea of a benefit or advantage to a person or group of persons. The Greek word from which it is translated has in it the idea of a help, an aid, a benefit, and something that is of use in a positive sense.

     So, there are material things we need and want in this life and we are careful to ascertain value with regard to them. Will they be worth what we pay? Jesus took this commonplace idea set and asked us to think about the relative value of having everything one can imagine and losing our souls. We ought not have much trouble with this valuation process.

     The Lord went on in that verse to ask the same thing another way: “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The answer is implicit in the question. Souls are outside the realm of things we can price. There is no little code reader for the soul. There is no tag on the shelf. Indeed, souls are not kept on shelves; they are given us by God at the moment of our conception (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1).

     In John Jesus said that “flesh profits nothing” (6:63). We are not silly people. We know that for a time our flesh provides the benefits and blessing associated with this physical life. And that’s His point. In the long run flesh is useless because it ceases to exist. Coffins are eventually castles of dust. But the soul goes on and on.

      Jesus wants us to think about this as we look to our short term responsibilities versus the long term reality of eternity. We want to do the best we can while we are here. Many of us have lived long enough to know that adequate money is always better than no money. But our need for money (or anything) is limited to our days here. It seems that the superior position to take is that while we are getting along as well as possible here with each other to be sure that we prepare for eternity there with God.

     Remember that Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV, Galatians 3:26-28). We work to get our money’s worth here. That’s not wrong. But our souls are worth infinitely more. Let’s not lose them.