What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
(Mark 8:36 NIV)
If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve heard this verse and probably been taught, as I was, that it will do us no good to acquire the wealth and pleasure of the world in this life and wind up in hell. While that principle is true, I’m not sure that’s what Christ had in mind here. Perhaps it’s as John Ortberg suggests in his book “Soul Keeping”: It’s more of a soul diagnosis than a soul destination.
Back up and read Mark 8:31-35 from this lens. Peter had just made the great confession that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God. Then something interesting happens
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31 NIV)
As always, Jesus was setting something up.
He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:32 NIV)
I can hear the dialogue: “Jesus we have a good thing going here! If you keep performing all these miracles, the crowds will grow. All we need are some financial investors and we can take this thing global. But, Jesus, seriously. Talk like this won’t be good for you or us for that matter.”
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33 NIV)
Peter wasn’t seeing life through the totality of God’s plan. All he could see was the potential effect on his own comfort and security. This is so like us. A minute ago Peter was connected to God, but now with this thinking, he was disconnecting from God and living at odds with the way God is ordering his plan.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34 NIV)
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35 NIV)
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36 NIV)
I see this powerful verse in context as a soul that is disintegrating. Acquiring the whole world is not going to produce the satisfaction that can only come from having a soul that is connected with God. Peter was quickly losing a healthy center to his life, and to lose our soul means we no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides our life.
As you continue your soul-inventory, ask the question: “In what areas of my life am I protecting my turf out of fear and not submitting to God?” It could be a financial thing, a relationship thing, a secret sin, or a seed of rebellion in your heart. Whatever it is, left unsubmitted, it will slowly begin to dis-integrate your soul. You don’t want that to happen.