The Gain that is Loss, and the Loss that is Gain
Matthew 16:25, 26
For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Great confusion has been introduced into these verses in the Authorized Version by the rendering of the same Greek word as "life" in ver. 25, and "soul" in ver. 26. The Revisers have helped to a better understanding of the passage by translating the word "life" throughout. Christ was not speaking of the soul as we understand it, of the higher nature of man; but of life as opposed to the idea of being killed and so losing one's life.

I. SELF-SEEKING IS SELF-LOSING. Jesus is warning his disciples of the dangers and hardships of his service. Many will be tempted to shrink from the cross in order to save their lives. They are told that a cowardly unfaithfulness under persecution is not the way to save their lives. It is true a violent death may be thus avoided. But what is the use of a life preserved at the cost of honour and fidelity? It is not really saved, for it is so degraded that it has become a worthless thing. Thus it is a wasted life, a lost life. The same is true today under other circumstances. The man who denies Christ for his own convenience lowers himself to the level of worthlessness. He who greedily grasps at his own pleasure to the neglect of higher interests so impoverishes his nature by his mean and narrow way of living that his life is really ruined. This is the case on earth. It will be more apparent in the next world, when Christ comes to "render unto every man according to his deeds" (ver. 27). Even in spiritual things, if a man's religion is purely selfish it will be of no use to him. If he thinks only of his own salvation, and nothing of the service of Christ and the benefit of his fellow men, he will be lost. It is not the teaching of Christ that our great business is to save ourselves. Religious teachers are greatly to blame for inculcating this most unchristian notion. Christ comes to save us from ourselves; but this will not be effected by the cultivating of a habit of supreme self-seeking in religion. Such a habit is ruinous to all that is worthy in a man. Therefore ver. 26, which is often quoted in favour of a self-seeking religion, should be read in the light of ver. 25.

II. SELF-LOSING IS SELF-FINDING. This is the opposite to the principle just considered; it has a positive importance of its own that demands careful consideration. 'How is the paradox verified in experience? We must first of all call to mind the immediate circumstances our Lord had in view. His disciples were being warned of coming persecutions. Some of them would lose their lives in martyrdom. Yet then they would most truly find them, for they would be the heirs of life eternal, and would live on in the bright future. That is the first lesson of the words. But they go much further. What is true under persecution is true at all times. The martyr temper is the Christian spirit. We gain the only life worth living on earth when we deny ourselves and embark on a career of unselfish service. The abandonment of selfish aims is the acquisition of heavenly treasures. There is a blessedness in the life of obedience and self-surrender that the selfish can never know. Happiness is not attained by directly aiming at it; it comes in as a surprise to him who is not seeking it when he is busy in unselfish service. Now, these lessons are driven home and clenched by the obvious truth of the following verse (ver. 26). What is the use of a world of wealth to a man who loses his life in acquiring it? The pearl seeker who is drowned in the moment of clutching his gem is a supreme loser even while he is a gainer. Nothing will compensate a man for making shipwreck of his life by self-seeking. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

WEB: For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.

Temporal Loss Eternal Gain
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