“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?” (Matt 16:26) There is no physical thing with which a man may buy back his forfeited soul. While there is indeed no physical thing that a man can give in exchange to purchase his soul, there are several physical things that we do give in exchange to forfeit them (Heb 3:12).
We Exchange Material Needs and Desires for our Soul
In Luke 14:16, Jesus told a parable where the offer of salvation is compared to “a big dinner” to which many had been invited. Notice that the first invitee exchanged the invitation (for the salvation of his soul) for the need he felt to look at land he had purchased, v.18. How often the needs we feel for material things (possessions) are exchanged for our soul’s salvation! Jesus warned against this in Luke 12:15, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” It is so easy to become wrapped up in the pursuit of the material things of life, things moths and rust destroy or that thieves steal (Matthew 6:19-20), that we wind up exchanging the priceless value and eternal permanence of our souls for them.
We Exchange Business Pursuits for our Soul
Back in the parable of Luke 14:16ff, the second invitee exchanged the invitation to his soul’s salvation for the opportunity to try out ten oxen he had recently purchased. The Scriptures certainly teach that we should be industrious rather than lazy when it comes to providing for ourselves (1 Thess 4:11-12), our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and even others (Ephesians 4:28). However, the Bible also teaches that we have to keep our priorities straight, and always “seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you,” Matthew 6:33. “Work” is a physical necessity, but not to the exclusion of the spiritual needs of our souls! Don’t exchange “the bread which comes down out of heaven” to feed and save your soul for the “manna in the wilderness” of this world (Jn 6:48-51).
We Exchange Family Connections for our Soul
Look one more time to Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:16. The final invitee to the feast excused himself from the benefits of attending because he had “married a wife,” v.20. Marriage is certainly honorable (Heb 13:4), and our families certainly deserve our love, respect, and attention (Eph 5:22-32; 6:4). However, even they cannot be allowed to take precedence in our lives over our God and our souls. Jesus plainly said that “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” Matthew 10:37. Luke’s gospel extended this to mean our spouse as well and even our own self (Lk 14:26). And yet, how many people have exchanged their souls for the love of their families? How many precious souls are forfeited for “family ties”? Some forfeit their souls by following a spouse away from God and into sin. Many men commit adultery by marrying a woman who has a living husband (Rom 7:2,3 f; 1 Cor 7:39). Many women commit adultery by marrying a man who didn’t divorce his wife for fornication (Matt 19:9). Some take the advice of their parents or other relatives over the Word of God. We are supposed to love, respect, and obey our parents, but never more so than we love God, for in so doing we exchange our souls for family connections.
Conclusion: There is truly nothing that we can give in exchange for our souls in the sense of buying them back. Jesus alone is that redemptive purchase price, (1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). However, there are many things, including the “passing pleasures of sin,” (Heb 11:25), that we may and do give in exchange for our souls in the sense of forfeiting them. Your soul is the most precious thing you will ever possess. Jesus died to buy it back (redeem it) from sin. Don’t make that sacrifice worthless by exchanging anything for your soul!