What are you worth? What is your value? What would you trade your soul for? Is anything worth more than your soul? These are the questions and thoughts Jesus wants us to deeply consider as we follow Him throughout life.
Look at what Jesus says in Mark 8:34-38, “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (NLT)
Today we are going to think about what your soul is and why it is so valuable and why the greatest thing you can do with your soul is to love God with it. Before we dive into Mark 8:36-37, I want to highlight a few of other verses that address the soul.
Look carefully at what 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (NLT). You are made up of “spirit and soul and body.” All three are connected. Your “soul” is the mind, the will, and the emotions of you. Your soul is what makes up your thinking, feeling, and doing. Your soul is what houses your thoughts, values, passions, intentions, and aspirations. Your soul is the real you. So Jesus is asking, Is anything worth more than your soul?
Now take close look at Hebrews 4:12 which says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (NLT). When you begin to let the Word of God work in your life it will begin to do surgery in your soul. It exposes the real you to you. You will discover what sins you really struggle with and you will discover who you really are in Christ. The Word of God has the ability to go deep within you and reveal to you why you think the way you think and why you do what you do. The word of God does this for the purpose of helping you grow spiritually and maturing you in your walk with God.
Now let’s look at Hebrews 13:17 which says, “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (NLT). One of my responsibilities as a pastor is “watch over your soul.” My job as a pastor is to pay attention to how you think, how you feel, and what you do. I cannot fix your soul, only God can do that. I can present to you the Word of God that can do surgery on your soul. My responsibility is to teach the Word of God in such a way that it helps you to think more like Christ, react more like Christ, and make decisions more like Christ.
Let’s look at one more, 1 Peter 1:8-9 says, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls” (NLT). Keep in mind “salvation” is past, present and future. You were saved from the penalty of sin, you are being saved from the power of sin, and you will be saved from the presence of sin. God’s salvation is working on your soul.
- Your soul (thinking, feeling, and doing) did a lot of sinful and evil things. But because of the grace of God and Christ work on the cross you have been saved from the penalty of those sins. You have been forgiven and pardoned by God. That’s called justification.
- Your soul (thinking, feeling, and doing) is growing stronger and maturing in your battle against the sins you currently face. You are going to still wrestle with rebellious thoughts, selfish feelings, and sinful behavior. However, as God’s Word does its work on your soul you will mature and grow. This is called sanctification.
- Your soul (thinking, feeling, and doing) will one day be completely saved and rescued from the very presence of sin and your soul will be perfectly blameless. You will think, feel, and do without any influence of sin. Your soul will be saved from the presence of sin. This is called glorification.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the question by Jesus regarding your soul. Jesus asked, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?” Let’s break this down into bite size pieces.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world
Let’s talk about “the whole world” for a moment. Jesus is comparing two things: “the whole world” and “your own soul.” He is laying before you “the whole world” and one soul, yours. He wants you to think about the value of each one. The value of the world and the value of your soul.
What does Jesus mean by “the whole world”?
- The “world” (kosmos) refers to the world system of evil of which Satan is the head together with the pursuits, pleasure, purposes, people, and places where God is not wanted. It includes the mass of thoughts, opinions, speculations, hopes, impulses, aspirations in the world that oppose God in any form. He is referring to anything and everything the world can offer.
- Jesus is using an extreme example to cover everything anyone could possibly want in the world. Jesus says what good would it do if a person were able to “gain the whole word.” This person controls all the nations, all the influence, all the people, all the pleasures, all the money, all the land, and everything else the world has. He has gained the whole world. Let’s say a person was able to do this and accomplish gaining the whole world, what is the profit in it at the end of his life?
Listen carefully to 1 John 2:15, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:15-17, NLT). No one will be able to gain the whole world, but even if you could gain a large portion of it would it still be worth losing your soul over? That’s the question.
but lose your own soul?
So Jesus is asking, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” This word “lose” (zemioo) is best translated or understood to be forfeit. It was a business term that means “to punish by demanding a forfeit.” To forfeit something is to lose or be deprived of something as a penalty of wrongdoing. When you try to gain the world and reject God the penalty or consequence of this wrongdoing is to lose or be deprived of your soul.
There is going to come a moment in everyone of our lives where our soul will be required of us. Some of us will gain a glorified soul where our thinking, feeling, and doing is completely redeemed and free of sin and heartache. Some of us will lose our soul.
Listen carefully to what Jesus said in Luke 12:18, “And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ [for him he has gained a large portion of the world] 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (ESV). I want to encourage you to be rich toward God. Invest your life, time, energy, finances, resources, and your soul into the things that have eternal value. For His sake and the sake of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Is anything worth more than your soul?
To help us think deeper about this, Jesus asked, “Is anything worth more than your soul?”
- This tells me that Jesus places a high value on your soul. Jesus died for your soul. He died for you. That tells me that Jesus cares for you.
- Let’s play fill in the blank: “_____ is worth more than my soul.” What would you put in the blank? You may say nothing is worth more than my soul. That would be a good answer. However, how does your life and actions fill in that blank? Does your life say, “Money is worth more than my soul” or “Acceptance is worth more than my soul” or “Happiness is worth more than my soul” or “Being right is worth more than my soul.”
What do you do with something like this? Let me suggest three actions.
Love God with all your soul
Love God with all your soul. Listen to Mark 12:28, “One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important? 29 Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength’” (NLT). Take your mind, will, and emotions and love God with all you’ve got. Throw yourself completely in with Jesus. Love Him and follow Him with all your soul.
Love the soul of others
Love the soul of others. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the [consistently] righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise captures and wins souls [for God—he gathers them for eternity] (AMP). To often Christians criticize the souls other others and condemn their soul. We look down on crush people for how they think, feel, and what they do. Instead of being a judge of people’s souls let’s be winners of people’s soul. Instead of destroying their soul let’s win their soul.
Refresh your soul
While you are winning souls, don’t forget about your own soul. Proverbs 3:21 says, “My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace” (vs. 21-22, NLT). Make sure you live in the realm of “common sense and discernment.” Once you step out of that you will find confusion, frustration, disappointment, and hurt in your life. Your life will become very draining. Refresh your soul.