THE SUPREME VALUE IN LIFE
What profit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his life? For what is a man to give in exchange for his life?
It is quite possible for a man in one sense to make a huge success of life and in another sense to be living a life that is not worth living. The real question Jesus asks is, “Where do you put your values in life?” It is possible for a man to put his values on the wrong things and to discover it too late.
(i) A man may sacrifice honour for profit. He may desire material things and not be over-particular how he gets them. The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty. George Macdonald tells in one of his books about a draper who always used his thumb to make the measure just a little short. “He took from his soul,” he said, “and put it in his siller-bag.” The real question, the question which sooner or later will have to be answered is, “How does life’s balance sheet look in the sight of God?” God is the auditor whom, in the end, all men must face.
(ii) A man may sacrifice principle for popularity. It may happen that the easy-going, agreeable, pliable man will save himself a lot of trouble. It may happen that the man inflexibly devoted to principle will find himself disliked. Shakespeare paints the picture of Wolsey, the great Cardinal, who served Henry the Eighth with all the ingenuity and wit he possessed.
“Had I but serv’d my God with half the zeal I serv’d my king, he would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies.”
The real question, the question every man in the end will have to face, is not, “What did men think of this?” but, “What does God think of it?” It is not the verdict of public opinion but the verdict of God that settles destiny.
(iii) A man may sacrifice the lasting things for the cheap things. It is always easier to have a cheap success. An author may sacrifice that which would be really great for the cheap success of a moment. A musician may produce ephemeral trifles when he might be producing something real and lasting. A man may choose a job which will bring him more money and more comfort, and turn his back on one where he could render more service to his fellow-men. A man may spend his life in little things and let the big things go. A woman may prefer a life of pleasure and of so-called freedom to the service of her home and the upbringing of a family.
But life has a way of revealing the true values and condemning the false as the years pass on. A cheap thing never lasts.
(iv) We may sum it all up by saying that a man may sacrifice eternity for the moment. We would be saved from all kinds of mistakes if we always looked at things in the light of eternity. Many a thing is pleasant for the moment but ruinous in the long run. The test of etemity, the test of seeking to see the thing as God sees it, is the realest test of all.
The man who sees things as God sees them will never spend his life on the things that lose his soul.
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