“For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). People will lie, cheat, and steal to gain the profits of this old world, but in the end, what have they gained? The implications involved in the answer of this rhetorical question are tremendous indeed.
Man has a Soul
There are many people who deny that man has an immortal soul within him, but these individuals are not believers in Biblical teaching. Let us note some passages pointing out the fact that man does consist of more than just the body. The Bible states that “God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). Solomon said in Eccl. 3:21, “Who knows the spirit of man that goes upward and the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth?” Jesus clinched the point in Matt. 10:28, as he said, “And fear not them who are able to kill the body and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”. Peter said, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls unto him in well doing as unto a faithful creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). Once more Paul said in Heb. 10:39: “We are riot of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Furthermore, James said that the body without the spirit is dead (Jam. 2:26). So we can see that the Bible teaches that man does have a soul or spirit, and that the body without the spirit is dead. Every man, rich or poor, wise or unwise, bond or free. Jew of Gentile, has an immortal soul which is of greater value than all the possessions of the world.
The Soul has Value
Implied in the question, “what shall a man be profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” is the affirmation that the soul of man is of transcendent value. It is impossible for one to measure the value of his soul in tangible things. Man cannot; with his finite sense of values, realize the infinite value of his soul. The only standards of worth and value that man can know and comprehend are those by which we evaluate materials in this life, but one’s soul cannot be classified with this group of things. The worth of the soul is not to be judged by monetary standards, by stocks and bonds, or by houses or lands.
Since I cannot properly sense its tremendous worth, I am unable adequately to impress your mind with its value. Were I to comprehend its infinite worth, words would be insufficient to express it. Let us try, though, by physical standards of value, to get some concept of the worth of the soul.
Every year, millions of dollars are made through the oil industry, even to the extent that we commonly think of oil as a symbol of riches. Think of the many industries dependent upon the oil industry, and all the money that is made through this giant business: hundreds of millions of dollars annually! After thinking of all this wealth, turn now to the spirit of a small child, and so incomparably greater is the soul in value that we need not speak of it.
Go to the great shipping centers of the world and stand there watching the valuables to which we have been referring, and still there is no comparison between them and just one soul.
Think, now, of the staggering cost of war! Billions of dollars have been added annually to our national budget because of the terrific cost of such engagements. Add to this the cost of every war since the beginning of time (and our imagination will not permit us to picture such a figure) and still it is incomparable to the soul.
Fill the world itself with money, and one would be foolish, indeed, to exchange it for a soul. So Christ said, “What shall a man be profited if, he gain the whole world?” All that the whole world holds is not equal in value to that priceless gem which the poorest of us have been given.
Who Values Our Souls?
We can better understand Christ’s question and the value of one’s soul when we consider how much interest is manifested in the human soul by all the higher powers of the universe. First, the Devil is deeply interested in every soul of the earth. But remember what kind of an interest it is that the Devil has in our soul. Is it malicious or benevolent? All who read the Bible know the answer to that question. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden, giving them complete happiness, Satan had no rest until he had tempted and seduced them into sinning in order that he might wreck their happiness. When Job and his sons were living charitably and happy, he assailed them with his wicked intents. All are familiar with his efforts to destroy the saving power-which Christ alone could bring unto mankind-by tempting our Lord. The Devil’s interest in our soul is that he might destroy both body and soul in hell.
The soul has been shown to be of great value by the keen interest which the angels have in it. Jesus said, “See that ye despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Paul said, in referring to the angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). Christ again said, “Even so, I say unto you, that there is joy in the presence of angels of God over one sinner that repents” (Luke 15:10). When such great characters as the angels in the presence of the God of heaven show interest in man’s soul, surely it must be of great value.
Again the soul of man is shown to be of great worth because of the supreme interest which God has shown in it. The reason for God’s interest in man’s soul seems only to be because the soul is created in the image of God. God said, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The body of man is not made in the image of God, but the soul (or spirit) is. God gave His Son, His only Son, that man’s soul might be redeemed from eternal destruction. One is not willing to give a son, much less his only son, for a cause in which he is not vitally interested, but such was the interest which God showed in the saving of man. Such was the intrinsic worth attached to man’s soul by God. The Lord wants us to preserve that valuable soul which He has given us, so He gave His only begotten Son in order that we might do it. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing’ that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Also the human soul is of greatest value, because of how much Christ was willing to give for its salvation. When one has given his life for a cause there remains nothing more that he can give. He has given all. “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our life for our brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). Since Christ paid the greatest price to save our souls, they certainly must be of greatest value.
What are You Exchanging?
Notice now, the last part of the question, “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” This should cause us to think seriously. Now is the time of exchange. We might exchange our time, thoughts, labors and energies now for the salvation of our souls eternally, but in eternity it will be too late. There is a time coming when I cannot give my time in the saving of my soul for time will be no more; my energy cannot be given for it shall have been expended. It takes all that one can do to save his soul plus all that has been done by God. Some now will exchange their souls for a moment’s pleasure, but in the day of judgment they would exchange an eternity of physical pleasure to save their souls, but the offer will be futile and rejected.
What are we doing now to save our souls? Eternity will be too late. Now is the accepted time (2 Cor 6:2). A realization of this should inspire us to greater consecration day by day and to make diligent effort to exchange our souls for an eternal reward rather than for a world.