Luke 9:24

I. A CURIOUS CALCULATION. These verses present themselves in the light of an arithmetical calculation regarding profit and loss - a calculation as important as it is curious. In this calculation the soul is on one side, and the world on the other; secular matters on the one hand, spiritual concerns on the other. A calculation of this sort involves a difficulty, for there is no common standard to which we can bring things so different in their nature. There is no common measure by which we can simplify their comparison, and so better gauge their real relative proportions. They have no common factor; they stand prime to each other. But perhaps it were better to regard these verses as an allusion, not so much to a bare arithmetical calculation, as to a practical mercantile reckoning. It is customary with merchants and others, at some particular period of the year, to look into their books and see how they stand with the world, and how the world stands with them - to balance their accounts, ascertaining their profits and determining their losses. Now, the course thus pursued in secular may with still greater advantage be adopted in spiritual concerns, while the adoption of some such course seems suggested by the inquiry, "What shall it profit a man?"

II. SUPPOSED PROFIT. The supposed profit is here set forth to the greatest advantage. The supposed gain is the very maximum - the greatest possible. It is, in fact, much greater than any man has ever reached. That any one individual should gain the whole world is quite improbable - nay, it is almost, if not altogether, impossible. No man has ever gained so much, no man is ever likely to do so; no man nowadays ever dreams of such a thing. We read, indeed, of one in ancient times that made an approximation to it. We are informed that Alexander the Great subjected the surrounding hostile tribes to the arms of Macedon; conquered the provinces of Asia Minor, deciding the empire of all Asia in three great battles at Granicus, Issus, and Arbela; received the submission of Italian, Scythian, Kelt, and Iberian ambassadors; penetrated to the furthest limit northward, and overthrew the Scythians on the banks of the Jaxartis; pushed his victories far eastward, even to the Hyphasis or Sutlej; founded cities and planted colonies in the Punjab. And when at that point his progress was checked by the murmuring of his troops, and he was obliged to retreat to the Hydaspes or Jhelum, he built a fleet, sailed down the Indus to its mouth, and there, standing in view of the Indian Ocean,' and feeling he had arrived at the limit of his career, tears filled his eyes, and he wept because his victories were at an end, and there was no more for him to subdue - "no other world," say the old historians, "for him to conquer." But, if we examine the matter with any degree of accuracy, we shall find that this bold adventurer overran only a few countries of the then known world, and but a very inconsiderable portion of those immense continents and many islands which modern geographical discovery has added to the present huge dimensions of the globe. We have all heard of another in modern times who grasped at the scepter of universal empire, who rose rapidly from a lieutenant of artillery to captain, and from captain to colonel, and from colonel to general of division. Soon he became first consul for ten years, then for life, and afterwards ascended the imperial throne. The empire of France he increased by one-third; but what was that to the high-vaulting ambition of Napoleon? He must needs reign supreme and without a rival in Europe, and in prosecution of that gigantic scheme of conquest he actually added to his empire Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hanover, the Hanse towns. He seized on Spain and Portugal, and set his kinsmen on foreign thrones. He sought Russia, but above all he sighed for England. He pounced on Egypt; thence, as the most potent point of attack, he fixed his eye on India. India once gained, the world, he thought, would be laid subject at his feet, and he its one and sole possesser. This, doubtless, would have been the result of its successful invasion. But the tide of fortune ceased to flow. To his failure in Spain succeeded his retreat from Moscow, next his defeat at Leipzig, then his banishment to Elba, and, last of all, his final and fearful overthrow on the plains of Waterloo. No. one individual has ever yet attained to the possession of the world; no one has advanced beyond a distant approximation to it. But let us for a moment fancy the supposition, to have become an accomplished fact. Let us suppose the wide empire of earth in the hands of one man; let us take for granted that the possession of the world - the whole world - is realized by a single individual; let us imagine all the benefits of that vast dominion - its conveniences and comforts, its riches and honors, its pleasures, praises, and profits, all at the command of one man.

III. THE DURATION OF SUCH PROFIT BRIEF. What then would be the continuance of such? Why, he would find it impossible to retain it for any considerable length of time. We cannot calculate with certainty on the continuance of any worldly possession during the whole of life; we cannot reckon on its lasting for even a few years of that life in advance; and, even if we could, we are not sure of life itself fur a single moment. "Life is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away;' "There is but a step between us and death;" "This night the soul may be required." There is no permanence of possession upon earth; there is no fixity of tenure here below. The heirloom handed down from father to son, and again from son to father, shall pass into strangers' hands. The hereditary estate, secure it as you may by deeds and settlements, will soon, notwithstanding all your caution, change proprietorship. The baronial residence will in time become a ruin grey, round which the ivy twines. Truly as well as eloquently has the poet said -

"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve." Our most cherished possessions must soon revert to others. It matters not how firmly we hold them; three, or fraud, or casualty, or imprudence, or disease, or death - one or other of these will wrench them from our reluctant grasp; and the question may be asked of us, as of the fool in the Gospel, "Then whose shall these things be?" If, then, we possessed the whole world, every instant we lived in it we should run the risk of losing it or leaving it, of being taken from it or having it snatched from us, of being compelled to give up the possession either by the open violence of enemies or the treacherous avarice of friends, by folly on our part or dishonesty on that of others, by some sudden reverse of fortune or by some sad dispensation of providence.

IV. THE ENJOYMENT OF IT IMPOSSIBLE. Further, if we had the whole world in actual possession, and were able to retain it in inalienable and never-failing proprietorship, still we could not enjoy it all. With all the progress of modern times, with all the advances of science, with all the forward strides of this nineteenth century, with all that geological research and chemical analysis and botanical skill have discovered, there are still many plants and many substances of which we know. not the nature, or at least have not yet learned the use. So long as the properties of any object remain unknown, it is manifest that that object itself cannot be enjoyed. And even if we knew all the qualities of every fowl of heaven, of every fish of the sea, of every plant that grows on the surface and of every mineral that is buried in the bowels of the earth, yet what use could any one individual make of them all? What a small portion of them would meet all the real necessities of life! How few of them would suffice for man's limited powers of enjoyment! How few of them would supply a substantial answer to that wide question, "What shall I eat, or what shall I drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed?" If the cattle on a thousand hills were ours, if all the mineral wealth of the world were our own, if earth and all its store of gold and silver and precious stones were at our feet, if earth with all its fruits and flowers, its animal and vegetable productions, were at our disposal, what could one individual, possessing limited powers and capacities, do with them all? How could he enjoy them? Where would he store them that they might be safe? What, in a word, would they really profit him? Ah! how forcibly is the whole expressed in the simple lines! -

"Man needs but little here below,
Nor needs that little long."

V. THE UNSATISFACTORY NATURE OF IT. The world, if we possessed it all, and could retain it always, and enjoy it fully, would not satisfy us. We all know the possibility of being as much or more disappointed in a thing, as inconvenienced by being disappointed of it. Hope has its pleasures, and they are frequently as great, sometimes far greater than those of enjoyment. The poet, when he wrote of "the pleasures of hope," knew well that hope was one main source of human enjoyment. But in the supposed possession of the whole world that source of enjoyment would be cut off, as in that case man would have nothing to hope for. The distance, that lent its enchantment to the view, would be annihilated; desire would still be unsatisfied, and yet hope would be at an end. Besides, where is the rich man who is perfectly satisfied with his wealth, and who feels that it is a sufficient source of happiness? Where is the man of pleasure who can truly say that his pleasures have been without alloy? Where the ambitious aspirant who is not in feverish dread of the fickleness of popular favor? Where the heart that has not yearned for more than earth can furnish? Who has not felt that "aching void" which "the world can never fill" ? It is not in the increase of riches, nor in the accession of honors, nor in any augmentation of creature enjoyments, that true satisfaction is to be found: the wealth of this world cannot purchase it; the pleasures of sense and sin cannot procure it; honors bestowed by fellow-creatures cannot confer it. Nor yet do we mean to decry the importance of temporal things. We know that they can minister much to man; they can add to our convenience and comfort; they can furnish their quota to our enjoyment; they can supply enlarged means of usefulness; they can contribute to the decency and dignity of life; they can shield us from the distresses, and difficulties, and discomforts of poverty. But we deny altogether that they can prevent or remove the vanity and vexation of spirit that are inseparably associated with all worldly things. In the midst of all that this world can furnish men have been heard to cry out, if not in Words, at least in the sentiments of the patriarch, "I would not live alway." When this is the way with the prosperous worldling, often too has the child of God, amid the perplexities of life, cause to repeat the saying -

"I would not live alway; I ask not to stay
Where storm after storm rises dark o'er the way.
The few fleeting mornings that dawn on us here
Are enough for life's sorrows, enough for its cheer.

"Who - who would live alway, away from his God;
Away from you heaven, that blissful abode,
Where rivers of pleasure flow o'er the bright plains,
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns?"


1. Practical bearing of all this. What, it may be asked, is the practical lesson from all this? It is to lead us to God as the end, and to Christ as the way to the Father; to show us the value of salvation, the importance of eternal things; to make us alive to the things of God; and, above all, to impress on us the worth of the soul and spiritual life. We have seen that if a man could possess the whole world he might still be unhappy - ay, perfectly miserable; fears harassing him, conscience tormenting him, afflictions overwhelming him, death overtaking him, and his worldly all departing from him amid "the swellings of Jordan." But in general men stop far short of what has been thus supposed. They are willing to lose the soul for infinitely less than the world: at all events, a small thing takes the place of all the World to the sinner, and is made the means of his losing the soul. Thus, to the drunkard, the indulgence of his passion for strong drink is the horizon that bounds the world of his happiness and of his hopes; while to gain his object he submits to the loss of his soul. So with the licentious; the gratification of their low lust is all the world to them, and to it they sacrifice the soul. "Avoid," says the apostle, "youthful lusts, that war against the soul." So with the ambitious; the attainment of the object on which their heart is set is their world of gratification, and, for the sake of it, they will not only run the risk of losing the soul, but rush upon sure destruction. We might enumerate many and various classes of sinners - the horse-racer, the gamester, the blasphemer, the liar, the murderer - all ruining their own soul for the sake of questionable pleasures; at all events, pleasures that last but for a season, and that perish in the using. With sinners of every grade the indulgence of sin is their world of gratification, their all of wretched happiness, for which they are every day throwing away their chances of salvation and deliberately damning their own soul. Oh, what fearful folly! What unspeakable madness! Oh, may we not with propriety appeal to that sinful man, to whatever category or class his sin belongs, and with all the earnestness of our nature plead with him to spare his own soul? Should we not urge him, with all the powers of persuasion we can possibly command, to part with his vice at once and fur ever, rather than plunge his soul into a hell of eternal misery?

2. Exegetical note.

(1) The word θέλη is not will "of future time, but will "connected with choice or purpose." It is correctly-rendered "would" in the Revised Version. The word is also distinguished from βούλομαι, which expresses a wish - mere willingness or inclination. Homer employs the latter for the former in the case of the gods, for with them wish is will. Thus the meaning is, "Whosoever may will [or choose] to save his life; "while in the next clause it is taken for granted that no one, of his own free will and choice, would desire to lose it, and therefore the expression is different, being literally, Whosoever shall (as a matter of fact) destroy (ἀπολέσει) his life.

(2) The word ψυχὴ is the bond of union between the body and the spirit in the triple trichotomy of "body, soul, and spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Viewed in connection with the body, it is the natural or animal life, but in its relation to the spirit it is the spiritual or higher life. Thus in one sense it is less than what we understand by soul, and in another sense it is more, comprehending not only the immortal life of the soul, but the never-ending life of soul and body when reunited.

(3) Ζημιωθῃ denotes forfeiture, and so it is correctly rendered in the Revised Version "forfeit;" while ἀντάλλαγμα (from the roots ἀντί, instead of, and ἄλλος, another) denotes one thing given in exchange for another, and so an equivalent or ransom, the idea being that if a man have lost, by way of mulct or forfeiture, his life or soul, what ransom will he be able to give in order to buy it back or redeem it? The expression in St. Luke is, "What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and destroy himself" or "suffer forfeit?"

3. A celebrated choice. The fabled choice of Hercules has at least a useful moral. Two ladies of gigantic stature-one graceful and modest, with raiment white as snow, the other florid and affected; the former called Virtue, the latter Pleasure, though self-named Happiness, approached the youthful hero. The latter promised him the possession of all pleasures, and that his path in life would be strewed with flowers, if he chose to follow her, reminding him at the same time that the path of virtue was tedious and thorny; the former promised to make his name glorious to posterity, and introduce him at death into the society of the Gods, reminding him that the pleasures of the senses are the enjoyments of the brute, and that true pleasure springs from virtuous conduct. The hero, as the fable goes, did not long hesitate, but, giving his hand to Virtue, bade her be his guide, saying, "Lead on, and I will follow you."


1. Value of the soul variously estimated. We may estimate the value of the soul in several ways; we may enumerate four of these as the most obvious. We may estimate it by the infinite price paid for it, by the immensity of its capacities, by its intrinsic worth, and by the immortality of its being.

2. The price paid. The price paid for the soul was a precious ransom price, "for the redemption of the soul is precious." That price was not "corruptible things, as silver and gold," but "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." In him we have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." On account of the soul Christ died; on account of the soul the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, is at work; on account of the soul the Word of God is given, the gospel is preached, and "the arm of the Lord revealed." Thus, from the pains God takes to save the soul, from the power the Spirit exerts to sanctify the soul, from the efforts Satan makes to destroy the soul, as well as from the blood which Christ shed to redeem the soul, we may infer the value of the human soul, and consequently infer the exceeding greatness of its loss.

3. Its intrinsic worth. Again, we think of its intrinsic worth. It is a scintillation of Deity; it is the breath of the Almighty; it is the candle of the Lord in man. "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." It was at its creation the image of its Maker as well as the masterpiece of his workmanship; it was stamped with the likeness of the Eternal. And though the superscription is sadly defaced by sin, it is an infinite spirit still, and the direct offspring of the Father of spirits.

4. Its immense capacities. When we reflect on its great capacities, we bethink ourselves of its capability of suffering, which is immense. No pain or' body is to be compared with the unspeakable anguish of the soul. There is, on the other hand, no pleasure of bodily organization to be compared with the intensely thrilling joyousness of the soul, when it delights itself in God, or meditates on his Word and works, or soars aloft in high and holy contemplation. Even a worldly poet, speaking of the happiness of thought, says, "I have oft been happy thinking." Besides, there is its wonderful power of development. The little that the lower animals possess is soon perfected; instinct flows in at once. The mind of man con-rains in itself the elements of almost unlimited improvement. As long as life lasts, accessions may be made to our knowledge, additions made to our attainments, new discoveries made in science, fresh advances in art. Better still, it is the very prerogative of the soul, as it is the very purpose for which its powers were bestowed, to glorify God on earth and be glorified with him in heaven, to enjoy him both here and hereafter, to see him and serve him, to hold converse with angels and glorified spirits, to have fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit, to drink deep of the fountain of grace and love that wells up beside the throne of the Eternal.

5. The immortality of its being. Add to all this the immortality of its being. It is an immortal spirit; it is a flame that can never be extinguished; it is a light that can never be put out; it is unseen, but eternal. The babe that is only a span tong has a soul that will outlive this world. In the bosom of that babe, as it sleeps in the cradle, or hangs on the breast, is a soul that will last longer than sun and moon endure. When the elements shall melt with fervent heat, when the earth shall be burnt up, and the heavens rolled together like a crumpled scroll, that soul shall survive, and remain unhurt amid "the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds." Not so the body.

6. The shroud of Saladin. Who has not heard, or rather read, of that famous Asiatic warrior, Saladin? After subjugating Egypt, establishing himself as Sultan of Egypt and Syria, taking towns without number, and retaking Jerusalem itself from the hands of the Crusaders, this Moslem hero of the Third Crusade, and beau-ideal of mediaeval chivalry, had at length to yield to a still mightier conqueror. A few moments before he breathed his last, he ordered a herald to suspend on the point of a lance the shroud in which he was to be buried, and to cry as he raised it," Look, here is all that Saladin the Great, the conqueror, the emperor, bears away with him of all his glory." Thus all the honors and riches of this world, all bodily pleasures and gratifications, all earthly greatness, are reduced by death to the shroud and the winding-sheet; but the soul, immortal in its nature, and secure in its existence, "smiles at the drawn dagger "or other implement of death. From all these considerations may be inferred the immeasurable loss of the soul; for -

"What is the thing of greatest price,
The whole creation round?
That which was lost in Paradise,
That which in Christ is found.

"The soul of man, Jehovah's breath,
It keeps two Worlds in strife;
Hell works beneath its work of death,
Heaven stoops to give it life."

7. The full force of the question. What, then, we may repeat, shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world - and yet all! the gain any man can expect is infinitely less than that - and lose his own soul or higher heavenly life? What shall it profit him, if he shall make a little sordid gain, but lose his soul? What shall it profit him, if he shall indulge some degrading passion, and thereby lose his soul? What shall it profit him, if he gratify some vile lust, and by it lose his soul? What shall it profit him, if he swallow a few more intoxicating draughts, and in the end lose his soul? What shall it profit him, if he gratify a few more lusts of the flesh, and lose his own soul? What shall it profit him, if he enjoy a little longer the society of evil companions, or even the smile and favour of the great ones of the earth, and lose his soul ? What will it profit him, if he have a few more pleasures of any kind - pleasures that last so short a space, and satisfy so very little while they do last - and in lieu of them lose his own soul .9 Who is not, on due reflection, prepared to answer any such questions with the strongest negative? The angels in heaven, and the spirits of the just made perfect that are already there, if asked the same question, would declare, in tones of loudest earnestness and solemn emphasis, "Nothing, nothing!" Lost souls in hell, if malice prevented not, would assert the same. God the Father, who sent his Son to save the soul; God the Son, who suffered on the cross to redeem it; God the Spirit, who came to sanctify it; the Almighty undivided Three in One, would answer their own question in this passage by a negative that neither man nor angel, fallen nor unfallen, would gainsay, and that would wake an echo both in heaven above and in earth or hell beneath.


1. This is an entire loss. The loss in question is an entire and unqualified loss. When Francis I. lost the important battle of Pavia, he described it by saying, "We have lost all but honour." And thus, though the disaster was overwhelming and the loss exceeding great, yet there was one qualifying circumstance - the preservation of honour intact and unsullied. Not so with the loss of the soul: there is nothing to qualify it, nothing to mitigate it. It is the loss of losses, the death of deaths - a catastrophe unequalled in extent, and unparalleled in its amount through all the universe of God.

2. A loss without compensation. The loss of the soul is a loss for which there is no compensation. The great fire of London consumed six hundred streets, thirteen thousand dwellings, and ninety churches, and destroyed property to the amount of seven and a half millions of pounds sterling. Yet that calamity was in some sort changed into a blessing; for the rebuilding of the city, in a superior style of architecture, and with more regard to sanitary arrangements, banished for ever the fearful plague which had previously made such havoc in that populous place. There is, besides, a well-known compensatory principle in the providence of God, so that, when a man loses his sight, the sense of hearing becomes more acute, and the perception of sounds more exact and accurate. The deaf mute, again, is said to have the sense of sight quickened; while the man both blind and dumb gains a more exquisite sense of touch. But the loss of the soul is a calamity for which there is nothing to compensate, and which nothing can countervail so as to make amends for it.

3. The loss is irreparable. Other losses may be repaired. The friend you love as your own soul may take an umbrage; he may misunderstand you, or you may be misrepresented to him; -

"Angry words will soon step in,
To spread the breach that words begin." But let a proper explanation be given, and his friendship may be regained; or, if he continue obstinate, other and even better friends may supply his place. You may lose your health; you may be like the poor woman who had suffered so much from, and expended so much on, physicians without any improvement; but, under the blessing of Providence on the skill of yet another physician and the use of proper medicines, or by the intervention of the great Physician apart from any means, or when all means have failed, you may regain that inestimable blessing. You may lose your property, like Job when his cattle were lost, and when his children had perished, and want had come in like an armed man; yet, by years of patient industry and steady perseverance, under the Divine blessing, you may, like that same patriarch, gain double of all you lost. But oh! there is no reparation for the loss of the soul; that loss can never be retrieved, and can never be recalled. When Sir Isaac Newton had lost some most important and complicated calculations, the result of years of patient thought and investigation, by the burning of his papers, the loss to him was immense; and yet, with patience equal to his genius, he could say to the favourite animal that caused it, "Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the labour thou hast cost me!" But what is the loss even of years of patient philosophic investigation and profound mathematical research compared with the loss of a human soul, capable of conducting, in some degree, similar investigations, and of repeating and repairing, in case of loss, those investigations?

4. "Cast away. This is the expression in the parallel passage of St. Luke. Though it may serve in exposition, it is not quite exact. The word has rather the signification of having incurred a forfeiture; but, in sooth, a fearful forfeiture - a forfeiture that involves the fate of being cast away into that blackness of darkness," unrelieved by any starlight of hope or sunshine of promise, and where no rainbow of mercy ever spans the sky. The heathen, without any proper notion of a future state, shrank from the death of the body, because they were then deprived for ever of the light of day. "There is a magnificent fullness of life," says Bulwer, "in those children of the beautiful Hellas. They ever bid a last lingering and half-reluctant farewell to the sun. The orb which animated their temperate sky, which ripened their fertile fields, in which they saw the type of eternal youth, of surpassing beauty and incarnate poetry - human in its associations, yet divine in its nature - is equally beloved and equally to be mourned by the maiden tenderness of the heroine or the sullen majesty of the hero. The sun was to them a familiar friend. The terror of the nether world lay in the thought that its fields are sunless." Oh, what shall we, to whom futurity has been revealed, then say of the second death, when the lost soul is cast away, through a fatal forfeiture of the light of heaven, into that sunless region where the "blackness of darkness" ever reigns, where it is consigned to the companionship of devils and the damned, where it sinks deeper and deeper into the bottomless abyss of misery," where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"? - J.J.G.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it.
I. WHAT IT IS TO LOSE THE LIFE, The term "lose," as here employed, is to be understood in the sense of parting with, giving up, surrendering; and when the act is done it is to be treated as something entirely gone, completely lost. You observe another thing here, also, that this is not loss in the ordinary way. Usually when anything is lost, it is either by carelessness, indifference, or bad management, but always against the will of the loser. And even in cases where none of these conditions apply — where the utmost care, attention, and good management are exercised, and losses occur, they would be prevented if possible. But this is not so in the case before us. Jesus says, "Whosoever will lose his life," or "Whosoever will save his life," showing that in either case the act is deliberate and willingly done. No man is forced into a sinful life, nor is any man compelled to become a Christian; in both cases the will of the actor is left free and unfettered, hence his responsibility. And it is just here where the test becomes so keen and crucial — the life — the entire life. Men would more readily accept discipleship if the conditions were easier, if they could be met half-way with some compromise. But we are met by men who raise objections to this doctrine of complete and unconditional surrender to Christ. They say it is too hard a thing for human nature to do, that men must be more than human to comply with such conditions. That it is more than human nature in itself can accomplish we freely admit.


1. The gain is present. Self-love, love of the world, or the things of the world, as a primary and all-absorbing principle of the soul, is ruinous to the entire life — the soul. But the man who sets his affections on Christ and things above — such a man saves his soul and secures his interests for eternity. This consecration to Christ brings present gain. A man gives himself up to the service o! God, and what follows? He keeps his life. A Christian man only can be said to be a living man. He has Divine life in the soul, born of God, re-created after the similitude of the heavenly. Has he not gained then richly, abundantly, yea, transcendently, in giving up his life for Christ's sake?

2. The gain is eternal. The advantages and pleasures of a Christian life, as they relate to the present only, more than compensate for any sacrifice which that life involves. But see I how rich to repletion is the Divine method of repayments" he shall keep it to eternal life." "Ye are dead," — referring to the old nature where death unto sin has been produced — "and your life" — the new creation, or life Divine in the soul — "is hid with Christ in God" — safe, inviolable, doubly secure, kept by Divine power and grace unto the time of eternal redemption. This is the now — the present, the here, of probation and pilgrimage. And are not these honours and immunities the loss of which worlds could not compensate? Oh then t who would not lose the life for Christ's sake? Loss by Christian service is a misapplied term; there is no real loss, for even in those times when we are apt to think the loss or sacrifice the greatest and most severe — when we have to suffer for conscience' sake, then the compensating principle is working most vigorously in our lives, giving back to us an increase of riches that gold cannot purchase; advancing, refining, and fitting us for nobler company, and writing for us some fresh record that shall give increased emphasis and sweetness to the Master's " Well done" at the last. This subject suggests three thoughts.

1. The present makes the future. The NOW is everything to us.

2. This is the time of preparation. That of retribution.

3. For what, then, are you living — Self or Christ? " Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

(J. T. Higgins.)

The highest life, by thinking of something else than your life at all, of something else than yourself, than either of your own body or your own soul. Quit thinking about yourself and your own life; that is how man shall attain the true life, by losing himself in something else I Now, this is apt to seem a contradiction and a paradox. Is not the first principle in doing anything this — to keep the thing steadily before you and aim right at it? It seems a sort of getting at the true life round a corner; going in one direction in order to get into another. And yet it is not so. See! It is true that with respect to the work man has to do outside himself, "the way to do it is to keep it directly in view, aim consciously at it. But what I want you to notice is, that the moment you come to the operations of mind or life in man himself, not merely in this higher life Christ speaks of, but in almost any part of his nature, in man himself, the opposite principle comes in — this very principle which seems so paradoxical, the principle that losing the life, letting it go, not thinking of it, is the surest way of saving it. This is not only true with regard to coming to the best for one's soul, it is true of coming to the best even in the commonest faculties and qualities of life. Why, you see the truth of it every day even in such a common thing as the operations of mind and memory. You want the name of a person or of a place. It is something you know perfectly well — you know it, you say, as well as your own name. Yet you cannot recall it; no l and the serious thing is that the harder you try to recall it, the more it won't come. Dr. W. B. Carpenter tells how some years ago an English bank cashier lost the key of the vault. In the morning it was not on hand. The whole business was at a stand. What must be done? He certainly had it the night before and put it some-where — but where he could not remember. A sharp detective was sent for, and when he had inquired into every circumstance connected with the affair, he said, "The only way is for you to go home and think of something else." And the man did go home; probably found it very hard work to get interested in anything else but at last something attracted his attention, set him thinking in quite a different direction, and then, almost directly, it flashed into his mind where he had put it — and all was right. Take a higher operation of mind than mere memory. Did you ever try to cross a stream by some rather awkward stepping-stones, or by a rather narrow plank? Or have you tried to walk at some dangerous height? or, in fact, anything requiring a particularly clear, steady head? If you have, you know that it is to be done exactly by not thinking about it. If you begin looking down at the stepping-stones, or at the water, or at the depth beneath you, and thinking about it, and about how you shall go through with it, you are lost. Whereas, if you are so occupied, thinking about something else, that you hardly notice the stepping-stones; if you are on some errand in which you are so eager that you are not thinking of yourself — that losing yourself is your safety — you may go perfectly safely over places and heights that afterwards, when you do come to think about them, will make you dizzy to look at. There, too, life is safest by not thinking about saving it. Take another matter — the preservation of health. One condition of keeping in good health is not to think about your health, but to be wholesomely occupied with quite other thoughts. Think about your health, begin feeling your pulse, watching your symptoms, considering all the things which might possibly be the matter with you, and you may think yourself into an illness. Why do physicians so often order "change of scene" and " something to distract the mind," but that the patient may be led to lose himself, and so find the health which he could not gain while anxiously thinking of himself? And so, when there is some epidemic about, how true you constantly see it that "he that will save his life shall lose it." The most dangerous thing of all is to be constantly thinking and scheming how to escape infection. And so it is even in life's most tremendous crisis and trials and perils. In those terrible days of persecution, when the Christian might any hour be taken before some magistrate, and have it put to him to say a word or two cursing and denying Christ, or else to be thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre, or put to any cruel torture that happened to have come in fashion-they believed their Master's words. They didn't worry themselves about saving life, and they did "find it." They found it even here — here, as Christ had said, a hundred-fold, even with their persecutions. The life they had was a nobler, happier life, because it was not occupied in thinking of its own safety, and when they lost it, why, they found it elsewhere. Yes; for these are the things which make us feel man's immortality. It is not when I see men in a mad rush for safety; it is not when I see men setting such store on the mere life that they will sacrifice everything for it, that I am most impressed with life's deathless quality, but just the opposite. When I road — and every week there is some instance of the kind — of those who in the wrecked ship or the burning building are content to let life go in order to help others; when I read of such brave men as that lifeboat crew who, a while ago, pushed off into the raging sea out to the stranded ship, and the storm was so awful that their own boat swamped, and eight of them were drowned; or when I hear such a story as that of the colliers in a mine only five miles from my old Lancashire home, where there was one of those awful explosions, and the men from some lower levels came rushing up right into the danger of the deathly afterblast, when the only chance of escape was by another shaft; and one man knew this, and stood his ground there in that dangerous passage warning the men, as they came rushing along, that their only safety was the other way, and when they urged him to go that other way, saying, "No; some one must stay there to guide the others" — ah! these are the things which make you feel that immortality is real. For the moment you touch this — not self-preservation, but self-renunciation — you feel that there is something in such life of quite other sort than that gross matter by which it can be crushed or burned or drowned; something against which those brute substances and forces are as powerless as a sledge-hammer against steam. I know it seems a hard doctrine. The whole spirit of the common world rises up against it. "We must look to ourselves," men say. Yes, I know how natural this is, and I know that it has its place. I do not want to speak intolerantly or condemnatorily about self-interest. Self-interest, if it is not the highest thing, is one of the useful forces of the world. Self-interest has set man grappling with nature, has taught him the arts of self-protection, has trained him to dig and plant, and spin and weave, has sent him sailing and discovering over the world, has raised the human race from savagism to civilization. Yes, and it has all this, and this kind of thing, to do perpetually. Self-interest is one of the great, strong, permanent forces at the base of life! It is part of nature; but it is not the whole of nature, and it is not the highest nature. Through these self-motives, more and more disciplined and restrained, man should be ever rising higher. The world's best life and work are always leading on to this higher quality in life and work, of losing self, forgetting self. The very things which begin with self do not come to their best till self is lost, forgotten. If you only want to be a public speaker, well, you may begin your practising for it — perhaps you have to do — by thinking about yourself; but you will never come to any real eloquence till you have got away past that, till in some hour of passionate feeling you have forgotten yourself in your subject. The physician may study medicine in order to earn his own living; "but he will be a poor doctor who does not by and by become so interested in his work, and in trying to do good to his sick patients, that he constantly forgets himself. So with all the real excelling power in life. The real power to do any worthy thing in the world depends upon our loving that thing more than ourselves. The moment you rise to that — forget yourself, think of something else, some one else — that moment your work takes on a higher quality. The merest hand-worker goes to work for his own need, but he will find his work happier, and do it better, whenever he forgets his own interest in thinking of his employer's interest. And just so the employer carries on his business primarily for his own self-interest.

(B. Herferd, D. D.)

Men are saved only as they get the better of themselves; the higher self treading down and treading out the lower self. What is virtue but sharp conflict all the way along, and in death alone the victory? If ever we enter heaven, we go in on our shields. To escape with our lives is to lose our lives. To be slain is to live for evermore.

I. IT IS COMMONLY REQUIRED OF US TO SACRIFICE A LOWER GOOD IN ORDER TO GAIN A HIGHER. Not always, but almost always. The rule is, with regard to the good things of this world, that every man shall take his choice, and then abide by it; selecting some one thing that he wants, and consenting to forego all the rest. The world is thus turned into a vast bazaar, where everything is ticketed and has its price, but where no man makes more than one purchase at a time. Especially true is it that a lower sort of good has to be given up for a higher. If we may not have God and Mammon for our friends, still less may we reverse the order, and have Mammon and God. All that a man may win of earthly good he must be ready to sacrifice, if need be, in order to save his soul. You may call the demand a hard one; but all the analogies of our ordinary life endorse and favour it. As pleasures are trampled on in the chase after gain, and gold has no glitter for a proudly aspiring eye, so is it no more than just and fair that he who would shine as a star in heaven, should be willing to have his light eclipsed and quenched on earth. Pleasure, money, fame — each has its price; and nobody complains of it. The soul, too, has its price. Its redemption is precious. It may cost us all we are worth, and all we covet, to save it. The life temporal may have to be flung utterly away in order to make sure of the life eternal. The men who burnt thought they were taking his life. They would have taken it, had they persuaded him to deny his Lord.

II. BY FIRST SECURING THE HIGHER GOOD, WE ARE PREPARED PROPERLY TO ENJOY THE LOWER, AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO SECURE IT. The principle I wish to emphasize is, that no worldly good of any sort can be well secured, or properly enjoyed, if pursued by itself and for its own sake. This may be seen in our most ordinary life. The man whose aim is pleasure may, indeed, secure it for a while; but only for a while. It soon palls upon his senses, disgusts and wearies him. So of gold. So also of fame. The best way to win renown is not to work for it, not to think of it, but to work for something higher; to work for God and work for man, forgetting self, and, by and by, it will be found that both God and man are helping us. He that most utterly forgets himself is the one most surely and most warmly remembered by the world. General Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States, spent forty years of his life in comparatively obscure, but very faithful, service at our Western outposts; receiving no applause from the country at large, and asking for none; intent only upon doing promptly and efficiently the duties laid upon him. By and by events, over which he had exercised no control, called him into notice upon a broader theatre. And then it was discovered how faithful and how true a man he was. The Republic, grateful for such a series of self-denying and important services, snatched him from the camp, and bore him, with loud acclaim, to her proudest place of honour. And this was done at the cost of bitterest disappointment to more than one, whose high claims to this distinction were not denied, but who had been known to be aspiring to the exalted seat. And so through our whole earthly life — in all its spheres and in all its struggles. To lose is to find; to die is to live. It is so also in our religion. We begin by abjuring all; we end by enjoying all. He that loves God with all his heart, and serves Him with all his powers, working here, with a self-forgetting devotion, in the world where God has planted him; willing to forego pleasure, gain, renown, and everything for Christ, shall find that everything comes back to him — if not in its material fulness, yet in its essential strength and spirit. Am I charged with preaching that "gain is godliness"? Not so, my friend. But godliness is gain. It begins by denouncing and denying all; it ends by restoring all. First it desolates, and then it rebuilds. In conclusion —

1. We may learn the great mistake committed by men of the world in their chase after worldly good. They make it an end. They must reverse the present order of their lives. They must learn to seek first the kingdom of God. They must abandon themselves to the service of Christ.

2. We may learn why it is the happiness of Christians is so imperfect. They have only partially denied themselves; are only partially resigned to the love and service of their Maker. Hence they are still in part devoted to the world and fettered by it. blot till the last link is sundered, and their souls entirely absorbed in Christ, can they attain to a perfect joy. Not till they are wholly dead can they wholly live.

(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)

Does the cross terrify you by its dark shadow? Do those nails seem so sharp — that thorny crown so terrible — that spear so pointed — that darkness so heavy? Stay for a moment, while you listen to these solemn words: "What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" You are running away from the cross; but there is a cross being prepared for you. Remember that the cross was the instrument of a felon's execution; and while you are flying away from the unfriendly shadow, behind the veil there is a ghastlier cross being erected for you. You are asserting your own will, you are loving your own life. You shall "lose it"; and lose it by your own irrational self-love. You have elected to live for yourself; you are running after what you conceive, in your own blindness and deception, to be your own self-interest. Do you not find, even now, O child of the world I that your self-interest is deluding you? The bubbles you grasp burst in your hand; the flowers you gather fade at your touch; as you go along life's journey you are conscious of the approach — ever becoming more and more terrible — of a cloud of darker sorrow, while the present sense of blank disappointment becomes more and more appalling! Years creep on upon you; the effect of age is felt: the body is shattered as you near the end of your journey; the human strength decays; the joys of life are withered, and, one by one, as your earthly possessions slip from your grasp — then, what then? "Say ye to the wicked, It shall be ill with him, for the rewards of his hands shall be given unto him." You have fled from suffering into the arms of suffering; you have endeavoured to escape from the cross, you find your portion in the cross for a!l eternity. Thus it is that the man prepares his own doom, and is himself the creator of his own misery.

(W. H. H. Aitken, M. A.)

This is one of those sayings of Christ which have aroused in men opinions of the most opposite character. It has been received on one side with scorn, on the other by reverence. It has been considered as a piece of unpractical sentiment; it has been hailed as the very inmost law of all life. Any spiritual theory of life which tends to destroy, and not to assert, the individuality of man is an inhuman theory, and, as such, false. Any explanation of this text must account for the fact of the desire of individuality. We must keep our individuality, but we ought to take care that it is true and not false individuality. The key to distinguish them from each other is given in the text. It speaks of a double nature in man; one which asserts itself, the other which denies it. The first has a seeming life which is actual death; the second has a seeming death which is actual life; and, therefore, if life is inseparably connected with individuality, the development of the selfish nature is false individuality; the development of the unselfish nature is true individuality. Individuality is not isolation.

(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

It was my fortune last year, in going from Torcello to Venice, to be overtaken by one of the whirlwinds which sometimes visit the south. It was a dead calm, but the whole sky high overhead was covered with a pall of purple, sombre and smooth, but full of scarlet threads. Across this, from side to side, as if directed by two invisible armies, flew at every instant flashes of forked lightning; but so lofty was the storm — and this gave a hushed terror to the scene — that no thunder was heard. Beneath this sky the lagoon water was dead purple, and the weedy shoals left naked by the tide dead scarlet. The only motion in the sky was far away to the south, where a palm-tree of pale mist seemed to rise from the water, and to join itself above to a self-enfolding mass of seething cloud. We reached a small island and landed. An instant after, as I stood on the parapet of the fortification, amid the breathless silence, this pillar of cloud, ghastly white, and relieved against the violet darkness of the sky, its edge as clear as if cut out with a knife, came rushing forward over the lagoon, driven by the spirit of the wind, which, hidden within it, whirled and coiled its column into an endless spiral. The wind was only there, at its very edge there was not a ripple; but, as it drew near our island, it seemed to be pressed down upon the sea, and, unable to resist the pressure, opened out like a fan in a foam of vapour. Then, with a shriek which made every nerve thrill with excitement, the imprisoned wind leapt forth; the water of the lagoon, beaten flat, was torn away to the depth of half an inch; and, as the cloud of spray and wind smote the island, it trembled over it like a ship struck by a great wave. We seemed to be in the very heart of the universe at a moment when the thought of the universe was most sublime. The long preparation, and then the close, so unexpected and magnificent, swept every one completely out of self-consciousness; the Italian soldiers at my side danced upon the parapet and shouted with excitement. For an instant we were living in Nature's being, not in our own isolation. It taught me a lesson; it made me feel the meaning of this text, "Whosoever will lose his life shall find it"; for it is in such scanty minutes that a man becomes possessor of that rare intensity of life which is, when it is pure, so wonderful a thing that it is like a new birth into a new world, in which, though self is lost, the highest individuality is found.

(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Two men were sinking a shaft. It was a dangerous business, for it was necessary to blast the rock. It was their custom to cut the fuse with a sharp knife. One man then entered the bucket, and made a signal to be hauled up. When the bucket again descended, the other man entered it, and, with one hand on the signal-rope and the other holding the fire, he touched the fuse, made the signal, and was rapidly drawn up before the explosion took place. One day they left the knife above, and, rather than ascend to procure it, they cut the fuse with a sharp stone. It took fire. "The fuse is on fire!" Both men leaped into the bucket, and made the signal, but the windlass would haul up but one man at a time; only one could escape. One of the men instantly leaped out, and said to the other, "Up wi' ye; I'll be in heaven in a minute." With lightning speed the bucket was drawn up, and the one man was saved. The explosion took place. Men descended, expecting to find the mangled body of the other miner; but the blast had loosed a mass of rock, and it lay diagonally across him; and, with the exception of a few bruises and a little scorching, he was unhurt. When asked why he urged his comrade to escape, he gave an answer that sceptics would laugh at. Well, they may call it superstition or fanaticism, or whatever they choose. But what did this hero say when asked, "Why did you insist on this other man's ascending?" In his quaint dialect he replied, "Because I knowed my soul was safe: for I've gie it in the hands of Him of whom it is said that 'faithfulness is the girdle of his reins,' and I knowed that what I gied Him He'd never gie up. But t'other chap was an awful wicked lad, and I wanted to gie him another chance." All the infidelity in the world cannot produce such a signal act of heroism as that. Carlyle refers to this story in one of the chapters of his "Life of Sterling."

Luke 9:24 NIV
Luke 9:24 NLT
Luke 9:24 ESV
Luke 9:24 NASB
Luke 9:24 KJV

Luke 9:24 Bible Apps
Luke 9:24 Parallel
Luke 9:24 Biblia Paralela
Luke 9:24 Chinese Bible
Luke 9:24 French Bible
Luke 9:24 German Bible

Luke 9:24 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Luke 9:23
Top of Page
Top of Page