“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt 16:26).
Values are a means of equating the worth of things in contrast to their usefulness or utility. Whether a thing is valuable or dispensable is determined by the individual. The question directed to Jesus was what value one would place on his own soul. It has to do with ultimate importance, or to consider the ultimate cost one would have to pay for it. Values fluctuate among the immature. True maturity is marked by the development of a value system that is unalterable. They become the center of our lives, standard of behavior, and the stimuli for thinking straight. Jesus asks them to make a value assessment of their lives. He asked them, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world?” If the whole world were gained, would the gaining of it produce peace within the soul? Would the pleasures of the world squeeze you into a fixture that cannot escape the grip holding you tightly to it? The pursuit of acceptance and the trappings of success have the potential of robbing one of any desire for spiritual truth. The world defines the person rather than God giving him meaning for living. Has he really won or lost when his sole desire is to achieve greatness and all traces of humility have faded? The loss of one’s soul is a great loss from which few ever recover. Jesus does not speak of receiving at all when one’s soul is at stake. He speaks of the loss of spiritual sensitivity as severe loss. Even though the person paying may not be aware of the price attached to it, he is still paying more than he would be willing to pay if he only knew the consequences—where his decision is leading. The entire soul is lost in exchange for whatever he thought to receive on his end of the bargain.