When it comes to living for Jesus, the concern always lingering at the back of my mind is ‘What’s in it for me?” That’s a strange question because I haven’t found one thing more consistently painful than living for Jesus (except living for myself—that was a real humdinger). You’d think I would have learned by now. No need for a crystal ball to see what’s coming. My flesh won’t be gratified. My ego won’t be stroked. I won’t get to walk a peaceful, trouble-free path with beds of daisies on either side. It won’t be all about me. Why even ask?
That question is a bad place to start, anyway. Living for Jesus begins at home plate: God has a legitimate and reasonable right to you—the right of ownership. Even if you don’t get much out of it. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if you don’t get a sugar high. He created you, along with every other atom of matter that exists. Everything is His.
The skyscrapers we put together are made with His sand and His metals mined out of His earth. Your existence is derived from a genome He engineered. He is responsible for the very atoms that make up your body tissue. Your personal cognizance—intelligent thought itself—is part of His design. His creation is ultimate, minute, and unavoidable. Everything belongs to Him. If you don’t understand this, an important component will be missing from your worldview…and it will come out in your daily life. You’ll act like a free agent, beholden to neither God nor man. Regardless of how you act, though, God made and therefore God owns.
For Christians, God owns us twice. He created us and then He bought us. We theologically refer to this as creation and redemption. When people hear about being bought, hackles go up. Huh? I’m not some commodity! Relax for a minute. Of course you’re a commodity. Don’t be naïve.
According to medical science you have a value—the worth of your organs, which might run up a tab as high as a few million dollars. You also have a certain value according to your job. Unfortunately it will diminish as the company store uses you throughout your twenties, squeezes what’s left out of you in your thirties and forties, and then discards your “rind” at retirement age.
Now what is your worth according to God? Jesus addressed that question Himself: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). The implication here is that not even the combined worth of the whole world is a fair trade for your soul.
I’m still surprised at this statement. I have a soul worth more than anything. Seems I’ve always been on the verge of putting it in the garage sale of life—I’d like twenty-five dollars for it, but I’ll take ten. Sort of like a chunk of zinc I had in a rock collection. Someone told me it was Fool’s Gold and therefore worthless. Then one of my relatives offered me fifty dollars for it. That shook me up. The offer made me reconsider what I had. After all, someone older and smarter was telling me my little chunk of “worthless” metal could fetch a dazzling sum (In 1972, fifty bucks could have bought a small crate of action comics, Hershey bars, and model airplanes).
99.9999% of the people on this planet would say I’m not worth much. And yet Jesus comes along and says nothing on earth is as valuable as my soul. I’m betting on Him.
The world tells you you’re a new car that immediately depreciates from the moment it’s driven off the show room floor. But in the eyes of God, the human soul holds its value. Forever. Before we thunder on about the demeaning idea of being bought, understand that you live in a world where you are routinely assessed, valuated, and occasionally sold off, whether you’re conscious of it or not. But God is the only One who really understands your worth.
This is not to falsely build up some kind of sentimental self-esteem. Please remember our priceless souls have been damaged by sin. We’re born in a state of wandering, hurting ourselves and others, an orchid passed around among six hundred school children. By the time it gets to that last second grader, its flowers are brown, handled, mashed. Yet it still took more than silver or gold to bring you back to God—“the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:19). It took the death of Jesus. Death. The only thing that could settle the demands of God’s holiness and pay for your soul.
Yes, being bought with money is beneath your dignity. But not when you’re bought with blood. That’s exactly what happened. Salvation didn’t just save you; it bought you. “You are not you own…you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20 ). Now that’s the starting point.
I can’t say I always get something out of it, but it’s always right. Always.