“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”–(Mark 8:36, NIV)
Generally, this verse in the New Testament book of Mark is interpreted as a person so focused on gaining wealth that he (or she) loses sight of what is really important—their relationship to God and other people. What benefit is there really in being like Silas Marner, Ebenezer Scrooge, or Uncle Scrooge McDuck? Or, as the pop band ABBA puts it, “…money, money, money…”
In the context of the time we are now living, however, there is at least one other way in which we can lose our soul while attempting to become rich. Consider the corona virus pandemic which is sweeping the world and our insane reaction to it. It (the reaction, not the virus) has caused unbelievable chaos and havoc in our modern, ordinary, everyday life. In order to save the lives of a few people, we have managed to destroy our economies, our freedoms, and our social connections. We have, in short, become afraid—a world of wimps.
Why? Disease and epidemics used to be a regular part of life, ushering countless millions into the arms of the Grim Reaper. Death used to be understood as part of life. We are born, we live, we die used to be a concept which everyone knew and accepted as normal. Today, however, we are obsessed with the idea that life must be prolonged as long as absolutely possible, even using extraordinary measures to keep someone “alive.” We refuse to allow someone to simply die, even though everyone will go through the experience. We are, in short, afraid of death. We are afraid to die and anything which comes along to remind us of that certainty, such as a corona virus, just throws us into a fit of madness, denial, and hysteria.
The world has become accustomed to getting richer. The good life has become an end in itself. People seek out and live for prosperity, comfort, and ease, but cannot handle the current situation in which we find ourselves. What good, indeed, does it do a world of men if we all become rich, but lose our courage, strength, and common sense in the process? What benefit is there in becoming wealthy if we lose our freedoms in a mindless fantasy that we must be “safe” at all times from one of the vagaries of life?
Tough times make tough men. What we are just starting to go through will do one of two things:
1. It will cause us to be fearful and cowardly, amplifying the message that the sky is falling and that we are all going to die.
2. It will cause us to be strong and unafraid of what life can throw at us, knowing that we are here for only a short while, but able to live life to the fullest, no matter what.
Our focus needs to be, not on what might kill us, but on how we can survive AND prosper in spite of it. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Those words have never been more true and appropriate than right now. We do not have to give in to the panic and hysteria, neither do we have to be stupid and blind. With our eyes wide open, we should recognize that this situation IS serious, but there is no good reason to be so afraid of it that we rush blindly into the soul-crushing embrace of absolute safety, which is promised to us by those whose only desire is to control us completely.
“For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of self-control.”–(2 Timothy 1:7, Berean Literal Bible)
Yeah, I like it.