For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?…
I. Let us examine, in the first place, THIS FINE HUMAN POSSESSION, which the devil wishes to obtain, called, by all of the evangelists who report Jesus' words, a man's "own soul."
1. Think of this: Each of us has a whole soul to himself. There is that within us which has measureless capacities. There is within us, too, that which has marvellous susceptibilities. A human heart can weep and sing, groan and laugh, shudder and shiver. There is, also, that within us which has untold possibilities. Each birth begins a history, the pages of which are not written out at once. It can be a Nero or a Paul, a Saul or a David, a Bunyan or a Byron, a star or a shadow.
2. Think of this next: This soul is entirely each man's own. We might have expected such a thing, for all God's gifts and creations are perfect. He gave each human creature one soul, and then he placed the individual owner in dominion over it. Hence, He respects the property title in all His dealings with it. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (see Revelation 3:20). Even the devil has no power to steal away a man's soul unawares.
3. Then think of another thing: Great estimates have been set upon the value of a human soul.
4. Then, again, think of this: If lost, this soul of ours is all lost at once. When a soul is sold to the devil, it resembles real estate, in that it carries all improvements with it. For the sale of soul transfers all the powers of it. The intellect enters perdition unchanged. Moreover, this ruin carries with it all the soul's sensibilities. We can suffer here; but no one can picture with language how the finally lost at last learn to suffer. The sale of the soul, furthermore, carries with it all its biographies. Our souls are our biographies incorporated in existence. Each fibre of being is a thought, a word, or a feeling. He who sells his soul to the devil sells his father's tenderness and his mother's tears, his chances of good, his resolutions of reform, his remembrance of Sabbaths, his own fruitless remorses over sin, his educations, his embellishments — his all.
II. Now let us, in the second place, turn to consider the DEVIL'S PRICE FOR A SOUL, called, by the evangelists all alike, "the whole world."
1. Observe the rather fine show it makes.
2. But now, on the other hand, it is just fair that men should note some delusive reserves concealed in this luring price. For example, remember that the devil never offered the entire world to anybody except Jesus Christ (see Matthew 4:8, 9). He never said anything like that to a common man. Let us give even Satan his due. One lie there is he has not yet told upon this earth. He has offered no man the whole world. Nor has any one person ever had it. Nor does anybody keep what he gets.
3. Still further: observe as you contemplate this lure of the devil, which he calls his price, the painful drawbacks one meets in the enjoyment of it after it is attained. The world we get attracts jealousy the moment we have it in possession. Mere possession of "the world" brings satiety. One of the kings in Europe, it is recorded, wearied and disgusted with luxurious pleasures, offered a vast reward just for the discovery of what he called "a new sensation." The princes of the earth are not contented. Rasselas was restless even in the Happy Valley. The gain of this world engenders a fresh craving for more. Poetic justice at least was that when the Parthians rewarded Crassus for the infamy of his avarice by pouring melted gold down his throat until he was full of it; then he had enough, and died. Then love is lost in the strife of desire.
III. All that remains now to be considered, IS THE GRAND OFFER OF CHRIST, as He attempts to arrest the ruinous bargain He sees going rapidly on toward its consummation.
1. First, What does the Saviour say? The answer is found in the context. From this we learn that Christ's offer for a man's soul, is the soul itself. It is as if He said, "Give Me your soul, and I will secure the everlasting possession of it to yourself; if you will lose your life — or soul — to Me, I will see that you shall save it." He will take nothing away in this transfer but our imperfections and our sins.
2. Then what will the Saviour ask? Only this: "Come to Me; repent of sin; trust Me for an atonement; enter upon My service; try to do good; rest in My love; perfect yourself for heaven."
3. Can the Saviour be actually in earnest? The Son of God became the Son of man in order to make this offer for human souls.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?