“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
– Mark 8:36 NASB (Jesus speaking)
The soul is the seat of our thoughts and feelings. It’s the place where body and spirit come together. It’s the central place we experience life.
Your soul is joyful…or sorrowful. It’s peaceful…or fearful. It’s lively…or lethargic. And so on.
Jesus is asking a very important and very practical question: “What good would it do to accumulate everything possible and lose your soul in the process?” Since the whole purpose of accumulating things is to feel peace, losing your peace is missing the point.
This negative dynamic is easily seen when it comes to greed. We want more (of whatever) because we think it will make us feel better, but, so often, it only makes us feel worse. This is why the practice of contentment is so healthy for the soul. Contentment keeps greed at bay and allows us to make the well-being of our souls the primary focus of our lives.
The most important factor in keeping a peaceful and joyful soul is doing what is right in the sight of God. When we do right, God rewards us with His peace. You can probably recall a time when you did something good – whether solicited or unsolicited. Maybe it was a good deed for a stranger around Christmas; maybe it was forgiving someone in your own family who had hurt you. You felt great inside! The cup of your soul overflowed – even though you probably didn’t think about it in those terms. This is but an example of how doing what is right in the sight of God (and not for the praise of people) can enrich your soul.
Conversely, when we do something we shouldn’t or fail to do something we should, we lose peace in our souls. We begin to feel more restless. After a while, we seek to suppress the voice of conscience that nags us. We can muzzle conscience, but we can’t stop the low-grade anxieties that fester in our souls and eventually grow into full-blown fears or outbursts of anger.
Keeping your soul is more important than gaining the world.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Heavenly Father, I want to be able to say, like the old hymn, “It is well with my soul.” Show me what I need to make right with You in order to bring Your peace back to my soul…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.