I attended a concert this weekend with a friend that was pretty amazing – TobyMac and Mandisa. The thing I love most about concerts, especially with Christian artists, is that it allows an opportunity for them to share their hearts, their inspiration, and their testimonies of faith that spurred them to pen familiar lyrics that are often memorized but not fully understood. In these moments, you get to share in a worship experience and connect with the artists in ways you otherwise not be afforded. I don’t always like crowds though, which runs counter to what I appreciate most about the live concert experience. Thankfully, the opportunities I have been able to share in have been on a relatively smaller scale than the average concert scene.
Anyway, one of the songs that TobyMac has written is called Lose My Soul, and it is written based on the conversation that Jesus had with His disciples in Matthew 16:24-26:
[Matthew 16:24-26 ESV] Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 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?
Here He teaches the disciples about the most important thing. The purpose of a life is not about amassing material wealth to Jesus. The true purpose of a life is saving the soul and achieving eternal life with Jesus at His second coming. John echoes these words in his third letter. Once he has written his salutations, the first thing that John says is this:
[3 John 1:2 NKJV] Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
You see, John wanted them to make sure that they understood that no amount of material prosperity is equal in value to the prosperity of the soul. C.S. Lewis wrote that we are not humans having a spiritual experience, but spirits having a human experience. The bottom line is that, while we have a responsibility to meet the physical needs that present themselves in our everyday lives, and in the lives of our brothers and sisters with whom we share a planet, it is clearly the soul that is of the utmost importance and value in the economy of the Kingdom. It is from the soul that all other things flow from the spiritual into the physical. How we live our lives on this side of eternity is directly tied to our soul connection with our Creator. Therefore, it stands to reason that the soul is the most important thing to God.
Profit is defined as the gain, advantage, or acquisition beyond expenditure. In layman’s terms, profit, as we all understand it, is the surplus gained beyond what a particular venture might cost you. It is necessary in order for economies and businesses to thrive. In kind, prosperity is defined as the state of flourishing, thriving, good fortune, and/or successful social status. The concept of prosperity has a broad spectrum of areas in which it can be applied: business, ecology, personal life, etc. These concepts run parallel in that, if you have profit, you are deemed prosperous. The opposite seems to be true as well. But what does this all mean in view of eternity?
Recently, televangelist Creflo Dollar got caught in the crosshairs of the media for running a campaign to raise $65 million to replace his personal jet, all in the name of Jesus. He and many other big name televangelists have bought into and proclaim the well-known prosperity gospel, an ideal that God does not want His people to lack anything; rather, it is His desire that we are prosperous in a material way. This is all well and good, if we are being good stewards of said resources being afforded to us. However, the flaw in this philosophy is that it pulls a variety of verses, both from the Old and New Testaments, to support it without doing the homework of fully understanding each verse within the context they were written. The reality is that, while God did indeed promise that He would always provide for us (Matthew 6:25-32), Jesus also, in the very next verse, entreats us as His followers to seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness (v.33). And when Jesus was teaching his disciples in Matthew 16, He was talking about denial of self in order to be obedient and follow Him. It seems to me that the things of God and the Kingdom, acquiring souls for the Kingdom and doing the will of the Father was far more important to Jesus than amassing wealth in the physical realm. In fact, Jesus understood that having an abundance of wealth can actually be an obstacle to entering the kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:16-22). And, so, as a part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the masses to “store up treasures in heaven” that cannot be corroded or corrupted by earthly destruction, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). You see, the real prosperity gospel ought to reflect the heart of the teachings of Jesus, the One who gave up glory to take on the form of humanity, dwell and teach among us, and then, in obedience to God the Father, surrendered His very life to atone for the sinful nature of all humanity. He died so that our souls would once again be able to prosper. That, beloved, is the prosperity gospel that should be proclaimed from every pulpit, large or small.
In buying into this idea that we are meant to “have it all” as God’s children, we have allowed the enemy of our souls’ prosperity to appeal to the greed that is innate to human nature. We clamor to the physical things of this life that amount to nothing more than a jot or tittle in the kingdom of God. So the real question is found in Matthew 16:26.
[Matthew 16:26 NLT] And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?