Everything and Nothing
In the gospels Jesus asked this simple, yet haunting question–“What good is it to gain the world, yet lose your soul?” In other words, what if you have it all, but you’re missing what matters most?
Is it possible to be incredibly full and yet painfully empty? Can someone have it all together, and yet, be utterly and irrevocably depleted? Jesus was entreating us to think about our lives and what we’re striving for. He was inviting us to consider what constitutes a meaningful life.
Everything and nothing.
They are polar opposite ideas in some regard, but probably a closer reality than most of us care to admit. Because haven’t we been there before? Haven’t we had it all together, only to reveal that there was something missing too?
Awards, accolades, money, and accomplishments.
These dominate the landscape of our lives most days. They are external measuring tools we use to determine our success and health and general well being. We often repeat this mantra everyday–“If I just achieve this… if I just get a little more…if I can just get past this area.”
They are undeniably externally focused.
And this is how most of us live–from the outside in.
We work hard to establish and maintain our image. We go to great lengths to portray the person that has it all together.
If we do it right, we can be an example, a leader to our peers. We can create a life that is clean and tidy and perfect. We can maintain that image. But we can also be terribly lost.
The outside can look fine, but the inside, in your heart and soul, well, that can be a mess.
And Jesus cares about our hearts. He cares about the conditions of our souls.
What does it means to gain the world? Undoubtedly, to gain the world, regardless of culture or context, has meant to capture the allure of the world.
Money and riches, pleasures and status. It’s how we are perceived by those around us. It’s the titles we so desperately cling to. Gaining the world is having everything; it’s chasing the externals. Lot’s of people gain the world. And most of us struggle daily to follow in suit.
But what about to lose your soul? What does that mean? Is Jesus referring to salvation in this sense? Perhaps to a degree He is. But maybe He’s also talking about who you are as a person.
Maybe He’s excavating something deep down inside the core of what it means to be human. And when we gain the world–and that’s all we’re focused on–we are in danger of losing who we are.
Some have erroneously thought that Jesus was about fastidious self-denial to the point of losing any recognizable signs of our humanity. If we are more spiritual, more like God, we will be less like our yucky human selves.
Not at all. It’s quite the opposite, really.
Following Jesus is about becoming more human. His goal, after all, was for us to become fully human, embracing our true identity as those made in the image of our creator.
Your soul is not just a part of you like your hand or your big toe. You don’t have a soul. It’s who you are. Your soul is you–it’s your personhood. We are not fractured beings, split apart by flesh and spirit, but one, united being.
To lose your soul, then, is to lose who you truly are. It’s to be detached from your true personhood, the person God created you to be.
Don’t we see this all the time? It’s the loss of humanity.
It’s the greedy exploits by those chasing paper more than compassion.
It’s the lustful gaze of the selfishly ambitious.
It’s the hate-filled speech of indifference.
It’s the abusive, harmful, and dark deeds of the heart, often masked by a certain image we fight to uphold.
Gaining the world is filling up with all the wrong things. It’s to pile on the values of the world and to lose who you truly are in the process. It’s to forget whose we are.
To answer Jesus’ rhetorical question is simple. What good is it if this happens? It’s no good. To empty yourself of the love and joy and compassion of Christ, is to be nothing.
I wonder if it’s possible that we’re guilty of this? Are we not at times guilty of what Jesus’ original hearers were? Individuals who replaced love and mercy with man-made laws and regulations? People who cared more about the opinions of others than God.
The Pharisaic heart is alive and well in our world.
Certainly this election season has proven that again and again, as we consider the image presented to us, versus character and motives.
This question Jesus asks is an important one.
What are we gaining and what are we losing?
Is it possible to have everything and nothing at the same time?
The external will always be attractive in our world and culture. We will always care about how it looks and sounds and what it feels like. But let’s not forget that God looks at the heart.
In all of our pursuits, let’s not forget what matters most. Jesus cares about our hearts. He cares about the condition of our souls.
If we gain all the world has to offer, but lose our soul, that part of us that matters most, what have we really gained?
It’s easy to live from the outside in, caring only about how we appear to others. Honestly, we’re all, at times, guilty of this. But let’s remember our focus.
Jesus wants the inside to be whole and pure and alive. He calls us to live from the inside out.
What good is it to gain the world, yet lose your soul?
It’s no good. It’s no good at all.
Let’s remember that.