Gaining the Whole World, But Losing Your Soul

Nena Arias | September 19, 2022

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?
Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul?
(Matthew 16:26)

The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., usually on the first Thursday in February. The event has taken place since 1953.

Every year several prominent figures from the religious and political arenas address the audience of about approximately 3,500 guests including international invitees from over 100 countries. Its purpose is to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and pray together. It is important to mention that other countries have also established their own annual prayer breakfast events.

All the speakers make sure that their remarks promote unity, although, as a side note, how can there be unity with such a diversity of spiritual and political beliefs? Many are not even praying to the same God. Anyway, the intentions and gestures are good and if you have an opportunity to go to the archives and read some of the speeches it will be worthwhile.

At these prayer breakfasts ecumenism is promoted. They make it sound like a good thing, but is it? There is much that could be said on the subject but suffice it to say that ecumenism has evolved from bringing Christians of different Christian denominations in cooperation to what has now evolved into including amongst them different religions not based on Christianity. Needless to say, the event ends up being a big platform for some opportunists to push their political agendas by even force-feeding and twisting biblical references to make their point. This is pathetic but a subject for another occasion.

When President Donald Trump was in office, in his first message at this event, he said something that must not be ignored by every human being, not only in the United States but the world. It is something that needs to be known, understood and experienced. He said:

America is a nation of believers. In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success. I will tell you that. And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success. Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people. And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith. They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy. Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you. (Emphasis added)

Picture: Eugene Burnand
Picture: Eugene Burnand

This is so true! And Matthew 16:26 tells us this, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul?” In this passage Jesus is emphasizing that it is possible to accumulate the world’s wealth and still miss the whole purpose of life. Not even religious observance is enough.

At a time when so many people’s main goal in life is to accumulate as much wealth as they can it is very important to heed the words that Jesus told his disciples. Here’s what he told the disciples: “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).

On another occasion, Jesus used a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16:19-31. Both were Israelites and both died; the rich man went to hell and Lazarus to Paradise. This parable was used to teach a moral lesson. In this parable, Jesus was dealing with the topic of when believers make money their god and are consumed in pursuing pleasures that not only lead them into deeper unhappiness but also have eternal consequences. Verse 14, reveals Jesus’ condemnation how even religious leaders use their position to gain influence and yet are very dishonest when dealing with God’s truth: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him” (Luke 16:14).

The love of money, or material gain, is the reason for so much misery, unhappiness, and deadly destruction throughout human history because it may even be the cause that people lose out on eternity with God. This is why Jesus made it clear that individuals cannot serve God and money: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:24-25).

Is God against the pursuit of financial gain? Absolutely not! He created all the wealth in the material universe. But he wants us to learn that what is most important is to understand life’s priorities from his perspective as revealed in his Word.

Picture: Eugene Burnand

Humanity’s biggest problem is not the lack of finances, but a life controlled by sin, which separates us from God’s divine purpose. When Jesus revealed that He came to give us abundant life, John 10:10, He was emphasizing a quality of life that has nothing to do with material accumulation. Trump accurately stated this when he said: “the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.” The true quality of life is only possible God’s way, and it begins when we are reconciled to God in our new birth in Christ, John 3:1-21. Rejection of this offer leads to further emptiness and spiritual death even before our physical death.

“Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15)