HOW MUCH FOR YOUR SOUL?

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26-27)

In the movie, "A Man for All Seasons", Sir Thomas More is put on trial for his life for denying that King Henry VIII's new wife, Ann Boleyn, was rightfully queen, whose children would be heirs to the throne of England. As the former Lord High Chancellor of England, his opinion counted for much in England and Henry wanted him to come fully out in favor of Parliament's Acts of Succession and Supremacy (the supremacy of the King rather than the Pope over the Church in England). Thomas More rightly maintained that he could not be convicted of treason for denying the said acts simply for refusing to take the oath affirming them. He was silent but silence should be construed, according to the law, with consent rather than denial. Therefore, in order to convict Thomas More, the prosecution produced a witness who falsely testified that he had heard Thomas deny that Parliament had the power to make the king the head of the Church in England. It was obvious the man was lying but it was just the pretext needed to bring in a jury's verdict of "guilty".

In the movie, Thomas More requests the court to allow him one last question of the witness: "That's a chain of office you're wearing. May I see it? (Thomas looks at the medallion on the chain and says) The Red Dragon. What's this?" The prosecutor answers, "Sir Richard is appointed Attorney General for Wales." Thomas replies, "For Wales. Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world - but for Wales?" The chain of office around Sir Richard's neck plainly showed what he had been paid by the prosecution in order to lie. Wales is a tiny bit of land as compared with the whole world and that Richard would sell his soul for it by committing perjury was a high bit of irony brought out by Thomas More in the movie. (Not having the transcript of the actual trial I do not know if the real Sir Thomas More actually spoke these words.)

Sir Richard Rich did not sell his soul as cheaply as most of us do. In fact, the Bible records several instances that make his sell-out seem pale by comparison. For instance, Adam and Eve sold their souls to the devil for a piece of fruit! Esau sold his for a pot of lentil stew. The Israelites would rather have had the "leeks and the onions" of Egypt than enter the Promised Land, "flowing with milk and honey." David was willing to cash in his relationship with God for a one-night stand with Bathsheba. Thankfully, he repented before it was too late. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver - and he never got it back. C. S. Lewis is quite right in observing that our problem is not that we want too much but that we want too little. We over-value pale, paltry things that are here today and gone tomorrow and grossly undervalue those things that are of infinite worth and eternal substance. A soul is one of those things - your soul, for instance.

At what price do you evaluate your soul? Jesus said it is worth more than the whole world. Only a few have aspired to gain the whole world. Alexander the Great wept when his soldiers compelled him to turn back after having conquered the world from Greece to the Indus River. Napoleon thought he could take not only Europe but the East if he could but conquer and keep Egypt. Hitler supposed that at the successful conclusion of his conquest of the Soviet Union he and the Japanese Emperor would eventually have to decide by war between them who would rule the world! Despite these ambitions, no one has succeeded. All the most extensive empires have come and gone, from that of Genghis Khan to that of Great Britain, but none have encompassed the whole world.

Satan offered Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. And Satan could have fulfilled his promise for, as he told Jesus, "I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." (Luke 4:5-7) But Jesus refused this "bargain", declaring, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'" (verse 8) Did Jesus want to conquer the world? Yes! It was for this very purpose He came into the world. And that is why Satan's offer was truly tempting to Him. However, Satan could only give Him power over a broken, fallen and sin-cursed world. Jesus came to overcome sin and all its evil consequences. His was not a selfish intent but a loving one. That is why Jesus said, "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world [Satan] will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." The Gospel writer follows with this explanation: "But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die." (John 12:31-33) Jesus came to draw (not drag) all men to Himself by demonstrating His love for them. He did this by dying on the cross for their sins. Jesus turned down the devil's offer of world power so that He might have something far, far greater - the power to turn men from selfishness to love, from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God.

The measure of your soul's worth is the suffering and death of Him who was, and is, God Incarnate! If Almighty God was willing to wrap Himself in feeble human nature, suffer horribly in that nature and die to save your soul then how can you sell it for some miserably small fraction of the world, let alone the whole world? Yes, so long as you choose something created instead of your Creator, you are selling your soul for nothing and less than nothing. The world, the flesh and the devil offer us an unlimited supply of substitutes for our relationship with God. Sin comes in many forms but they all come to one thing: choosing a finite good over an infinite one. Whether it be vain-glory or vengeance, gluttony or greed, jealousy or lust, anger or apathy, sloth or miserliness, worldliness or fanaticism, snobbery or racism, whatever the vice, whatever the transgression of God's law, it all comes from selling one's soul for a trifle and turning one's back on God.

John Bunyan, famed author of "Pilgrim's Progress" wrote many other books, among which is one called "The Holy War: the Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul". In it, he pictures the human soul as a city with walls and five gates, the gates being "Ear-gate, Eye-gate, Mouth-gate, Nose-gate, and Feel-gate" - the five senses. The story is about the assault by one named "Diabolus" and his army upon the city of Mansoul to wrest it away from the rule of its lawful King, "Shaddai". This was successfully accomplished by flattery and deceit. The story is really about your soul and mine and about how our souls came to be under the sway of Satan and how God manages to gain us back to Himself. Still, even if God has brought us back under His blessed rule, our adversary rages outside the walls and seeks to regain the position he once held. This can only happen if we allow it to. The keeping of our soul is indeed in God's hands but He works by persuading us to stand and fight in His strength: "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might…" So if we truly value our souls, we will keep on the watch at all times, just as our Lord commanded, to join with Him in beating back the in-roads of the enemy upon our souls and not allow it a foot-hold within us. Thankfully, we have all the weapons and protections of God's armory at our disposal. (See Ephesians 6:10-18) Fight for your soul for its worth is beyond price!