Yesterday I wrote about what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life. Overnight I felt there was more that needed to be said, especially in relation to the second question Jesus posed. He said, “What can a man give in return for his life?” (Verse 37) Jesus actually answered that question in this section, and has also answered it elsewhere, so I would like to address this question further.
Before doing so we need to understand what he is talking about when speaking of profit. I touched on this yesterday, but overnight had more information and insight given to me by the Lord.
When man talks about profit he is talking about something of value. In this world every person spends their time whether they know it or not, seeking value. When we work we are seeking value, wages so we can buy things we need. When we buy something we are exchanging one thing of value, our work effort converted into money, for something else of value, the goods or services being purchased.
Money is only the medium of exchange. The real value in the transaction is in the work we perform and the time we put into working, in exchange for goods and services to satisfy our needs; food, shelter, clothing, entertainment or whatever.
In everything we do in life we are looking for a value proposition that is acceptable to us and the other party we are dealing with. Basically there are three types of value proposition. When we are satisfied with the exchange of value we have a “fair value” transaction. If we think we have paid too much for something we feel “ripped off.” On the other hand if we believe the value of the goods or services is greater than what we have paid, we believe we have a “bargain.”
Now when Jesus asked, “What can a man give in return for his life?” I have often thought of this as sort of a rhetorical question. As I considered this overnight I realised it isn’t. What the Lord asks of man to give in return for his life IS his life! That is, if we are to receive eternal life the Lord is seeking us to forsake the things of this life that would lead us astray and away from the Lord.
In a nutshell, the Lord is seeking our obedience to the word of life so that we can receive life eternal. He says as much in this same section. Verse 35 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” That is, whoever would seek the things of this life, wealth, riches, power, material possessions and so on, will lose the opportunity of eternal life. All the trappings of this world are of this world and not of God.
However the second half of this scripture says that anyone who will forgo all the trappings of this life and the world as we know it for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel will receive his eternal life. Is this consistent with other scriptures? Yes it is. For we see in the following scriptures from Matthew 13:44-46 this same sentiment expressed.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
In both these parables the two men discovered something of great value that they desperately wanted to possess. In order to gain this thing of great value they went and sold everything they had so they could own it. The value of the treasure and the pearl were so enormous that they outshone the value of everything else they possessed and everything else was completely insignificant by comparison.
That is what entry to the kingdom of God is like. The opportunity of eternal life so exceeds anything on this earth that the value of it makes anything else seem worthless. So in answer to the question Jesus posed saying, “What can a man give in return for his life?” the answer is that we must be prepared to give up everything in this world and of this life to receive the far more valuable treasure of eternal life.
Coming back to the value proposition, is this a “rip-off,” or a “fair value trade” or is it a “bargain”? The truth is that there is one other value proposition that is better again and the gospel of Jesus fits into that category. The only thing better than a “bargain” is to also get a “bonus.” What we are trading our life in this world for is a life into eternity. By any measure that is a great bargain. We are trading a life of typically sixty to eighty years in a world full of sin, trouble, pressure, stress, suffering and anxiety for a life into eternity without any of those things. That has to be the greatest bargain of all time.
But it gets better because there is a bonus as well. By following the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of the truth we also get a better standard of life here and now. We get a great treasure in this world, not in a monetary sense, but in the things that really matter in this world. In Jesus we have peace, security, joy, love, happiness and the knowledge that any and every problem we may come up against we can hand over to Jesus for he cares about us. Now that’s what I call a bonus!
People chase money, wealth and power in the hope of have peace, happiness and security, but money and possessions can never provide these things. Money and possessions can be lost, stolen and destroyed as we have seen in the recent financial crises around the world. Money cannot be relied upon, but God can. If we want happiness, peace and security then we need to come to Jesus for these things do not exist in a reliable form anywhere else.
It seems the church has fallen for the same trap as the world. Those ministers who preach a wealth ministry are basically telling their flock that they cannot find happiness and security in God. They are replacing the God of Creation and Jesus Christ with the false god of this world, money. There is no security in money as the value of currency is at the whim of the markets. Some years ago I travelled around the USA when the Australian dollar was worth around fifty US cents. Today the Aus dollar is worth around US$1-06 because of the financial crisis. This dramatic shift was caused by the greed of a few financiers who have brought the global economy to the brink of bankruptcy for their own gain.
Should you then rely on money as a saviour? Can you rely on the dollar for security when it can be so quickly devalued? No. And neither should it be preached as the will of God for us to be rich. These wealth ministers have fallen into the trap of the church at La-odice’a written about in Revelation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Thinking they are rich they have missed the truth. The gold they need to buy from God is the knowledge of the truth so they can be truly rich, not in monetary terms, but in spiritual terms.
We must seek his kingdom first and then we will be in a position to receive the greatest bargain of all time and the bonus that goes with it. Eternal life in God’s kingdom and a life of peace, happiness and security now. That is the real value proposition of Christianity that is on offer to all of mankind. Who in their right mind would pass up on such a bargain? Nobody, but many still will and do for they are blinded by the trinkets of the here and now rather than the greater value that is on offer in the future.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu)