Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

“What Does It Profit?”

Categories: Congregational Bible Reading


In the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, there is a very interesting skeleton of a man. When the volcano started to erupt, this man was collecting his things and his gold spilled on the floor. As he reached out for it, the fumes and ash overcame him. Now, he is embalmed for all time, grasping that gold.

Even though the folly of his decision is evident, he saw those things as so valuable that he couldn’t leave them behind. But what is his gold worth to him now?

In our culture of comfort, we surround ourselves with things that would be superfluous in other societies. We make concessions for why these possessions exist in our lives, not realizing the value we are placing on these things. However, Jesus’ teaching demands we evaluate the priorities of our possessions.

Human choices are determined by what we value. In the business world this is called a cost/benefit analysis: Is the reward worth what I must give up? This is the proposition Jesus offers in Mark 8. “If you would save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s you will save it.” (Mark 8.35).   

Jesus often made polarizing statements that we tend to glaze over or excuse away. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” He is literally telling people, to follow him is to be willing to give up everything. If Jesus showed up today and said, “Follow me… and bring an electric chair with you” would we be so eager to do so?

We need to appreciate the intensity of Jesus’ call. To follow him, you cannot be halfhearted or lukewarm because there is no such thing. That type of mentality is near-sighted and blind to the reality of life. Everyone will die and there is no human power to control life beyond death. The need for hope beyond this life exists… but do we see that clearly?

Jesus teaches this sobering reality of life to get us to think long-term. The riches of this world will harden us into self-sufficiency when we need to abandon those things and follow Jesus. I’m not suggesting that Jesus calls us to poverty but rather to priority. When put in the context of life and death, our things are insignificant. The greatest challenge in life is to see through the temporary and realize that ultimate fulfillment comes when I deny myself for the sake of the gospel.

This means every decision I make is important. Do I realize that the decisions I make today will affect me, not just tomorrow, but for eternity? This is why Paul encourages us to “make the best use of our time” (Ephesians 5.16) … we don’t know which moment will be our last and so we must invest in things that will be of value in eternity.

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8.36)