Matthew 16:26 is sometimes obscured by the epic texts that surround it. Matthew 16 contains Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (v. 16). It contains Jesus’ promise to build His church and lay siege to hell (v. 18). It contains Jesus’ first prediction of His approaching passion (v. 21). It contains Jesus’ call to His disciples to take up their crosses, renounce themselves, and follow Him (v. 24).
Surrounded by these revelatory sequoias is a challenge from Christ regarding the value of a soul: “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?”
What sobering words! Jesus tells us that to barter our souls for power or pleasure, Esau-like, is an eternally tragic transaction. Even if we gain the world! There is nothing on earth that makes hell worthwhile. To tilt Romans 8:18 a bit, a life of ecstasy for 70 or 80 years is not worthy to be compared to a life of agony for eternity.
To barter our souls for power or pleasure, Esau-like, is an eternally tragic transaction
But here’s what really strikes me about Jesus’ teaching. It tells not only of the value of my soul, but of the value of every soul. Despite my stubborn self-interest, my soul is no more important than anyone else’s. I am 1 of 7 billion people in this world—no more important and no less important than anyone else. This hit me with crushing force when I was passing nameless children, men, and women on a muddy road in Uganda, hour after hour, hut after hut, person after person. I had the same thoughts during my time in Indonesia last week. That little boy has a soul just like mine. That lady carrying a heavy load on her head will live somewhere forever, just like me. That group of teenagers bears the image of God, just like me. That grizzled old man has a soul that is worth more than the whole world, just like me. It shook me to my core. It regularly does, at least when I awaken from my materialistic stupor.
My soul is no more important than anyone else’s
Jesus’ teaching on the value of every soul is a call to faith and repentance. It is a call to discipleship. But if we are thinking, it is also a poignant call to missions.
Every soul is eternally valuable. What are we doing about it?
Chris expands on this theme in a recent sermon he preached at Killian Hill Baptist Church on Matthew 16:26, “What Is a Soul Worth?” You can hear the audio here (available later this week).