As most of you know, I'm an inveterate collector of a lot of things, with "things" being the operative word here. And the rule is, if you're going to collect something you'd better know what the value of those "things" are in the market place or you're going to waste a lot of money. So, we're going to talk for a few moments about the value of "things" and, hopefully, see a lesson about where we place our values.
Being a bonafide collector of old things I can attest to the fact that a "thing" is really only worth what somebody will give you for it. New "things" are something else, but still we try to make deals when buy them too, don't we? Basically, I guess you could say, that we like to get our money's worth when we make a purchase, and as previously stated, it's important to know what that "thing" is worth.
Let me tell you a little story that helps illustrate our lesson today. I think that we all can relate to this man's situation, because we've no doubt done the same thing in our lives, and if the truth be known, on more than one occasion. I'll step right out and admit that I have done so and will probably do so again down the line. Also, you might even be a little surprised at who tells this story on himself.
It's a story about a boy and his whistle and told by the man he later became. He was about 7 years old when some family friends gave him some money. He immediately headed out to buy himself a toy. On the way to the store, he met another boy tooting on a whistle and he liked that whistle so much that he offered the boy all of his money for it. Recognizing a deal when he saw it, the boy wasted no time in selling it to him.
He loved that whistle and tooted it all over the place, generally disturbing everyone else in the family. When they found out what he had paid for the whistle, his brothers and sisters started making fun of him because he had paid over four times more than it was worth. He said that all of their laughing at him and teasing him about his purchase vexed him so much that it ruined his pleasure in owning the whistle and tooting it.
But, this incident stayed in his mind and he never forgot the lesson he learned from his over-payment of the whistle. After he had grown to be a man, he said that he would observe the actions of others in their various dealings and sometimes note that many of them "gave too much for the whistle." He said, "When I met a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of his mind or of his fortune, to mere material satisfactions, and ruining his health in their pursuit, 'Mistaken man, say I, you are providing pain for yourself instead of pleasure, you pay too much for your whistle.' If I see one fond of appearance only, of fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts and ends his career in prison, 'Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.'
In short, I conceived that a great part of the miseries of mankind were brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles." (Author: Benjamin Franklin)
Let's advance our thoughts from the "material things" of life to the "spiritual things" and think about what should be the "thing" most valuable to us - our soul. I suppose that the passage that hits home the most in this regard is something that Jesus said in the form of a question: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26)
The Bible is replete with examples of people making poor exchanges for their souls. One great example, when we think of the "Promised Land" as being a type of heaven, is what the Israelites figured it was worth. Joshua warned them about transgressing the Covenant with God and if they did so, they would "perish quickly from off the good land which He hath given unto you." (Joshua 23:16) Short story, they did and they were. They paid a dear price for the whistle of idolatry.
Probably the most famous example in Biblical case history of selling something far too dearly that we can cite is the case of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. In the 26th chapter of Matthew we read where he negotiated a deal with the Chief Priests to deliver Christ to their custody. Think of it this way, what they were willing to pay, and what he was willing to take, was the value Judas placed on the life of Jesus Christ. Thirty pieces of silver. By the way, did you know that the amount of 30 pieces of silver was the value of a slave/servant under the Law of Moses? Sure was. Check it out in Exodus 21:32. But look at what he personally lost for that piddly little amount. His life and his soul. He paid dearly for his whistle.
In closing, let's return to the question Christ asked in Mt. 16:26 and ask it this way: What is a person's soul worth? Is there someway we can find out the value of a soul? Is there a reference book somewhere that will tell us? Yes, there is and it just happens to be the same book wherein we found the question.
Remember me saying that something is worth what someone will give for it? Well, think about this: to Christ, our souls were worth his dying on the cross. That's the price He paid for us having the opportunity to get to the "Promised Land." (Mt. 20:28) So then, the question becomes: What is a soul worth to man? The same reference book that gave us the first answer also gives us the answer to this question.
I cited to you Matt. 16:26 earlier and now I'd like to direct your attention to a couple of verses just prior to that one and I think we'll find the answer to our last question. Look at verses 24-25: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
So, the simple answer to the question 'what is a soul worth to man?' is really part of a simple equation: to Christ, if our soul was worth His life, then it's worth our eternal life to us. It's an even trade in value.