Jesus, taught, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26; ESV)”
In the movie, A Man For All Seasons, which concerns the historic refusal of Sir Thomas More to countenance the marriage of King Henry VIII to Ann Boleyn, and his subsequent execution for the same, there is a scene near the end where Sir Thomas is found guilty of treason due to the testimony of a certain Sir Richard Rich. Sir Richard plainly commits perjury, but his solitary testimony is all the excuse the jury needs to find More guilty. As More is about to exit the court, he cannot help but notice that Sir Richard was wearing a new chain of office and inquires concerning it. When he is informed, “Sir Richard is appointed Attorney General for Wales,” Sir Thomas replies, “For Wales. Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world – but for Wales?” It was clear to More that Sir Richard had been paid off to lie, and the payment had been a position in Wales.
It is a good line, and a reminder that each sin we willfully commit is an example of selling out our soul for some short-term gain. If the whole world was not a fair trade for a soul, how much less fair is selling out for just a portion of the world? Yet, most individuals settle for far less than even Wales when it comes to the price of their soul.
Adam and Eve sold out for a piece of fruit (cf. Genesis 3:6).
David sold his soul for a single night with a married Bathsheba (cf. 2 Samuel 11:4).
Judas Iscariot decided that the price of his soul was thirty pieces of silver when he agreed to betray the Son of God to the Jewish leadership (cf. Matthew 26:15).
No matter the price, it is never worth it.
We have nothing so valuable, as our God-given immortal soul. Long after this body has turned to dust, our property has been destroyed, and this world ends in fire, our soul will continue, either in heaven, or in torment (cf. Matthew 25:46). It behooves us then to make those choices that will permit us eternal life and eschew any that will cause us to lose the same.
Beyond its eternal nature, the value of the soul is also seen in the willingness of Christ to die for the salvation of the same. The Son of God did not die for a culture, a border, or even a philosophy. None of those things were worth the blood of God. Jesus died so that He could redeem individual souls from judgment and condemnation.
It is unfortunate that most individuals so undervalue their souls. This lack of esteem for what should be understood as a priceless possession is seen in the behavior of those who settle for far less than the world as they willfully throw away their souls for a moment of sin. People sell out for a night of pleasure, a drunken party, a bit of cash, or even just a desire to avoid making others angry at them. Eternity is thrown away for a pittance.
We need to give the same value to our soul as Jesus did. This means, reminding ourselves when temptation comes, that nothing is worth losing our souls for, and we are to serve God and Him alone (cf. Matthew 4:8-10). It also means that when we know we have sinned, we repent of those sins and turn to Christ for salvation and forgiveness, understanding that Jesus paid the price He did, because He loved us and valued us enough to want us to be saved. Do we value ourselves enough to accept that salvation?
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.