Posted on: June 11, 2020 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By: Matt Gordon

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

That question.

In Mark 8, there are some key moments. But that question. It is a mic drop for all time—a question relevant to every human in every age, forever. That question.

Just think of your life—heck, think of your today. I woke up thinking about the work I needed to get done. Stressed for the busyness and knowledge that I won’t get to everything and I’ll let some people down. I pull away from my house, waving wildly at my son, and the sight of him makes me think that I plan to buy a different car soon—one that has four doors and doesn’t require circus flexibility to enter the backseat. New car means money. Money we don’t have. Not if we want to vacation well. Or be generous. Or safeguard against a recession. Or replace our broken shower. Oh yeah, the shower—how are we going to afford that? I press the accelerator toward work so I can work for money so I can afford the things I’ll be replacing tomorrow.

Very few of my actual daily decisions take into account my soul. I don’t think about meaning and goodness and purpose. Purpose. A couple years ago we had a company-wide small group and spent one week on purpose. It was confusing and even combative in places, as thousands of people sat in a room for one hour out of their year and considered the potential depths of life. Many said they never made time to ponder such things, and for a large number of our people, it was uncomfortable. I’m content in the kiddie pool where I can see the bottom—don’t foist me into the vastness of the ocean, with its mysteries lurking fathomlessly below.

But I’m made for depth—a four-door way of life, not contorted in a tiny backseat. I’m made for running in the wilderness, the open road, the mountain terrain, yet I’ve become so accustomed to the treadmill that I can’t imagine going outside—the feel of the wind, the potential of rain; shrinking before a majestic view that takes my breath away more than the cardio. The unnatural bend of our backs after years of bowing before a computer screen, a smart phone, is the epitome of an equally bent life.

We were made for more—purpose woven into our very souls.

And since that is the case, we strive and bow and contort, fueled on by the reflex of purpose, but toward dead-ends. We run a race without finish or direction—always striving but never satisfying that soul-deep longing; we stride on forever in place.

That is what Jesus’ question is getting at. We fall so in love with fool’s gold that we no longer value the real thing. We chase money—and never have enough. Our bucket-list experiences—end. Our homes get invaded by ants and our showers need replacing. And the cycle repeats. If I could just have _______ then I’d be fulfilled. And we chase, chase, chase all over again, falling once more in love with the vainglorious pursuit.

Little by little, we forfeit our soul, our purpose, to these things, which aren’t bad things, mind you. They just aren’t soul-worthy; they aren’t ultimate.

The Faust legend predates Faust, of course. The notion of someone selling his soul to the devil is as old as time. Faust apparently traded his soul for intellectual knowledge and the worldly pleasures such acumen would bring him. A more recent adaptation of this myth is that of Robert Johnson, a mediocre musician who goes to a crossroads at midnight. Upon his return, he is a blues savant with a seductive way with women.

These are legends. But is there any truth in them? In a cognitive or spiritual sense, have I ventured to any crossroads? What deal might I have unknowingly struck there? What is that lures me away from truth and meaning and purpose? If I do have a soul, I wonder what I would actually be willing to trade it for? Or, perhaps more realistically, what lackluster deal have I already struck, made evident by the ineffectual manner of my living?

I think about America and its grand dream. Many of us live in homes that eclipse the abodes of rulers of the past. We work hard, save up, and buy, buy, buy our way to happiness. And we look around after this grandiose Fitzgeraldian ride, and we are hollow. The party rages on, yet there is a no joy in it, just the rote movements of a dance we don’t know how to make stop. There are metrics to our malaise. For our wealth and technology and advantages and opportunities, we are miserable, with ever-rising suicide rates and morbidly plunging mental health. We are chronically lonely and increasingly isolated. For all our wealth, we find ourselves bankrupt, in something that feels a bit, well, soulless.

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”


Okay, what’s your offer?

But rather than answer, Jesus walks on, beckoning interested parties to follow him and watch. Witness.

His early followers were called The Way.

Which way? I’m not altogether sure, but in the second half of The Book of Mark, Jesus shows us a four-door approach to life; he steps off the treadmill; he pulls the plug on the music, offering us an altogether different song.

I don’t know if it goes soul-deep or not for you. But for me, the world and all its dreams are not enough.

This post is part of a series called Mark: My Words. To read the preceding post in the series, click here.


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