Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 11

Have you considered Jesus’ question, “What does it profit a person if he or she gains the whole world but loses their own soul?”?

This really is an unanswerable question. And that is the point!

None of us could gain the whole world, and interestingly, when Alexander the Great did, he wept for another world to conquer! Of course though, there is pleasure in attaining and gaining, whether it is land, possessions, pleasure, fame or family. Yet true pleasure appears elusive. Like catching hold of a wet bar of soap, or grasping sand in your hand – the tighter you hold it, the more it slips through your fingers. Alexander the Great is said to have envied the peasant in his cottage, and thought there was more happiness on the plains among the shepherds than in his palace amongst his silver and gold.

King Solomon, who lived 1,000 years before Christ, gained immense treasures of wealth, power and pleasure, as well as wisdom and fame. As a king, he had 1,000 wives and concubines! There was nothing which Solomon did not try as he ransacked the world to find its joys. Yet in reflecting on it all, he came to the conclusion, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ So even in terms of time alone, these gains became a disappointment. Peter Sellers said, “The expectation is greater than the realisation. I tell you straight, when I cry, I cry for yesterday.” We may not have the riches and influence of these people, but most of us take excellent care of our bodies and minds, which we will have for a lifetime, yet neglect our souls, which we have for all eternity.

So far, we have considered life on earth. But what does it profit a person when he or she comes to die, and they have gained the world but lost their soul? The Bible teaches that when a baby is conceived, that little mite is given an eternal existence. However long they have on earth, when the body dies, the real them, their spirit and soul, will live for ever. (Actually the Bible teaches that there will come a day when they will be given new bodies which will join with that everlasting spirit and soul, but that is another subject). We live our lives, and one day we will die. Then we will be judged, and Heaven or hell will depend on whether we have had the sin which would condemn us forgiven. Jesus died that we might be forgiven, so it is crucial to trust Him. But if we don’t, what a loss that would be. What a tragedy!

I heard of a sailor who, years ago, was aboard a sinking ship. He rushed to the captain’s cabin, broke open the chest which was hidden there, scooped up all the money he could, tied it in a belt around his waist, leapt into the sea, and sank! Knowing that one day we will die and meet our Maker, logically it is foolish to pursue that which we cannot take with us. It would profit us nothing.

To lose your wealth is much
To lose your health is more
To lose your soul is such
That nothing can restore.

Our souls were made to enjoy a relationship with God. They, like the God who made them, exist for ever, and have intrinsic value. As an indication of how valuable the soul is, consider simply this: that Jesus suffered on the cross, paying for our sin, so that He could save us from hell. So to lose one’s soul is the greatest disaster. It is the loss of an eternity with the loving, kind, generous God, whose relationship with us is worth more than all the world. Jesus lovingly warned about hell. (See the powerful text from Luke’s Gospel). He taught that it is truly awful. Political correctness leads most people away from talking about hell, but that does not eliminate its existence. Jesus, the only One who is eternal, wept over the thought of His people rejecting Him and being lost forever.

There is nothing wrong in enjoying pleasures, earning money and fulfilling ambitions. But if riches and joys increase, don’t set your heart on them as if they are yours forever. Knowing that you are right with God is the most important issue.

These words of Jesus describe the reality of what happens when a person dies forgiven or unforgiven.

The Rich Man and Lazarus: 
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Luke 16:19-31 (New King James Version)

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