An exchange for your soul (Matthew 16:26)

This is another post from the series “A life spent for the King,” based on Matthew 16:24-27. We have already looked at Matthew 16:24 (October 26), where we saw that the disciple who would follow Jesus must submit to Jesus, must willingly take up the cross that Jesus gives him, and must obediently follow Him wherever He leads. In Matthew 16:25 (October 31), we discovered that finding meaning and joy and peace in life depends upon surrendering our lives into Jesus’ hands. Thus, paradoxically, we find our life by losing it for Jesus’ sake.

Today we will examine the next verse in the passage, Matthew 16:26.

“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?”

Whatever you are pursuing in life should be evaluated in light of these two profound questions.

Consider Jesus’ first question:

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”


Jesus’ question makes clear that everyone has a choice to make. Will you live your life to gain much in this world, or will you live your life to gain the kingdom of heaven? Will you gain the world and forfeit your soul, or will you forfeit the world and gain your soul? There are two, and only two, options. You either gain the world and forfeit your soul, or you forsake the world and follow Jesus Christ. One or the other, and the choice is yours. And you must choose.

Now, some will say, “I don’t know what you are talking about. You say that I must make this choice between ‘the world’ and my soul, but I have never done that.” Oh, but you have made the choice, and you have chosen the world. The default position is to seek to gain much in this world and to be indifferent to the state of your soul. We are all born into this world as natural people with a love for the world and, unless there is a life-altering encounter with Jesus, we continue that way until death. So, for the one who is not aware of making a choice, you are gaining the world and forfeiting your soul. And this is most people. A look at their lives reveals that they are consumed with the pleasures and concerns and activities of this life and are indifferent to their eternal destiny and to the state of their own soul.

But Jesus is not speaking primarily to those who are gaining the world and who are indifferent to Him. We remember that Jesus’ first question here is directed at those who wish to come after Him (16:24) and so, Jesus is telling them what it will cost to follow Him.

16:24 – Deny yourself. Take up your cross (Will you suffer for Me?). Follow Me (wherever I lead).

16:25 – Surrender your life (soul) into My hands. Lose your life (soul) for My sake.

Now (16:26) He says that all your priorities must change. Your desires for material gain in this life must be forfeited. “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7). Your natural desire to preserve your own physical life must be exchanged for a love for Christ. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). The desire to have material wealth and to accomplish impressive things and to indulge in the world’s pleasures (1 John 2:15-16) will endanger your soul (life). Jesus must reign as unrivaled King of your life so that you willingly forsake this present world. The one who would come after Jesus must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and trust that “all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

So, Jesus’ first question asks, “Does the evidence of your life affirm that you are ‘fixing your eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2), that you are living in this world, but you are not of this world, ‘having confessed that you are strangers and exiles on the earth’ (Hebrews 11:13)?” This is Jesus’ first question.

Now consider Jesus’ second question:

“Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”


The Lord’s second question reveals the spiritual and eternal nature of the choice every person makes with the way we choose to live our lives, and also implies the disastrous consequences of a life without Christ.

As we have already said, the way you choose to live your life is eternally significant. For what are you exchanging your soul? To live your life without Christ as you pursue your own kingdom is to gain nothing and to forfeit your soul. You have exchanged that which is most precious for rubbish that will burn up at the Judgment.


And it is toward the final judgment on the Last Day that Jesus is pointing. Jesus will speak about the Judgment in our next verse in this series, Matthew 16:27. For we must be certain of this: a day is coming when all will stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10). Jesus warns about this terrible judgment throughout His earthly ministry, telling us in advance that everyone must be ready because everyone will certainly be judged. Are you living your life in light of “that day,” or are you living your life at the expense of your soul?

SDG                 rmb                 11/5/2021                   #451

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