What Will You Give to Keep Living?
“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”—MATT. 16:26.
1. Why did Jesus reject Peter’s rebuke?
THE apostle Peter could not believe his ears. His beloved Leader, Jesus Christ, was saying “with outspokenness” that He was soon to suffer and die! In response, Peter—doubtless with the best of intentions—rebuked Jesus, saying: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” Jesus turned his back on Peter and looked at the other disciples. Likely they too shared this mistaken opinion. Then he said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”—Mark 8:32, 33; Matt. 16:21-23.
2. How did Jesus define the requirements of true discipleship?
2 Jesus’ next words may have helped Peter to see the reason for Jesus’ strong reaction to his rebuke. Jesus “called the crowd to him with his disciples” and said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for the sake of me and the good news will save it.” (Mark 8:34, 35) Jesus here used the word “soul” to mean “life.” Clearly, not only was he about to sacrifice his life but he also expected that those who followed him would have to be ready to sacrifice their lives in God’s service. If they did so, they would receive a rich reward.—Read Matthew 16:27.
3. (a) What questions did Jesus ask his listeners? (b) Of what might Jesus’ second question have reminded his listeners?
3 On that same occasion, Jesus asked two thought-provoking questions: “Of what benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his soul?” and, “What, really, would a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37) The answer to the first question is obvious from a human standpoint. It is of no benefit for a man to gain the whole world if he loses his life, his soul. Possessions are useful only if one is alive to enjoy them. Jesus’ second question: “What, really, would a man give in exchange for his soul?” might have reminded his listeners of Satan’s allegation in the days of Job: “Everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.” (Job 2:4) For some who do not worship Jehovah, Satan’s words might be true. Many would do anything, abandon any principle, just to stay alive. Christians, though, view things differently.
4. Why do Jesus’ questions have deeper meaning for Christians?
4 We know that Jesus did not come to earth to give us health, wealth, and a long life in this world. He came to open up the opportunity of living forever in the new world, and the prospect of that life is what we value highly. (John 3:16) A Christian would understand Jesus’ first question to mean, “Of what benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his hope of everlasting life?” The answer is, Of no benefit at all. (1 John 2:15-17) To help us answer Jesus’ second question, we might well ask ourselves, ‘How much am I willing to sacrifice now to make my hope of life in the new world sure?’ Our answer to that question, as seen in our life course, reveals the strength of that hope in our hearts.—Compare John 12:25.
5. How can we receive the gift of everlasting life?
5 Of course, Jesus was not saying that everlasting life can be earned. Life—even our relatively brief life in this system of things—is a gift. We cannot purchase it or do anything to deserve it. The only way we can receive the gift of everlasting life is to “put our faith in Christ Jesus” and in Jehovah, “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Gal. 2:16; Heb. 11:6) Nevertheless, faith must be demonstrated by actions, since “faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26) Hence, when we further meditate on Jesus’ question, we would do well to consider seriously how much we are willing to give up in this system of things and what we are willing to do in Jehovah’s service to demonstrate that our faith is truly alive.
“Christ Did Not Please Himself”
6. What was Jesus’ priority?
6 Instead of setting his sights on what the world of his day had to offer, Jesus focused on the important things and rejected the temptation of material self-interest. His life was one of sacrifice and obedience to God. Rather than please himself, he said: “I always do the things pleasing to [God].” (John 8:29) How far did Jesus go in order to please God?
7, 8. (a) What sacrifice did Jesus make, and how was he rewarded? (b) What question should we ask ourselves?
7 On one occasion, Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Earlier, when Jesus began to warn his followers that he would soon have to “give his soul,” Peter urged him to be kind to himself. Still, Jesus was not swayed. He willingly gave up his soul, his perfect human life, for mankind. As a result of his unselfish course, Jesus’ own future was secure. He was resurrected and “exalted to the right hand of God.” (Acts 2:32, 33) He thus became a wonderful example for us.
8 The apostle Paul counseled Christians in Rome “not to be pleasing” themselves and reminded them that “even the Christ did not please himself.” (Rom. 15:1-3) So, then, to what extent will we apply that apostolic counsel and give of ourselves in imitation of Christ?
Jehovah Desires Our Best
9. What does a Christian actually do when he dedicates himself to God?
9 In ancient Israel, the Mosaic Law stipulated that Hebrew slaves were to be freed either in the seventh year of servitude or during the Jubilee year. However, they had another option. If a slave came to love his owner, he could choose to remain a slave in the household for the rest of his life. (Read Deuteronomy 15:12, 16, 17.) We make a similar choice when we dedicate ourselves to God. We voluntarily agree to do God’s will, not follow our own inclinations. In doing so, we demonstrate our deep love for Jehovah and our desire to serve him forever.
10. In what way are we God’s property, and how should that fact affect our thoughts and actions?
10 If you are currently studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, sharing in preaching the good news, and attending Christian meetings, you are to be commended. We hope that soon you will feel moved to dedicate yourself to Jehovah and ask the question that the Ethiopian asked Philip: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” (Acts 8:35, 36) Your relationship with God will then be like that of those Christians to whom Paul wrote: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, if we have dedicated ourselves to Jehovah, he is our Owner. How important, then, to suppress selfish desires and “stop becoming slaves of men”! (1 Cor. 7:23) What a privilege it is to be a loyal servant for Jehovah to use as he pleases!
11. What sacrifice are Christians urged to offer, and what does that really mean, as illustrated by the sacrifices under the Mosaic Law?
11 Paul admonished fellow believers: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Rom. 12:1) Those words may have reminded Jewish Christians of the sacrifices that were a feature of their worship before they became followers of Jesus. They would have known that under the Mosaic Law, animals offered on Jehovah’s altar had to be the best available. Anything inferior was unacceptable. (Mal. 1:8, 13) The same is true when we present our bodies ‘a living sacrifice.’ We give Jehovah our best, not merely what is left after we have satisfied all our personal desires. When we dedicate ourselves to God, we unreservedly give him our “souls,” our lives—including our strength, assets, and abilities. (Col. 3:23) What does that mean in a practical way?
Use Your Time Wisely
12, 13. What is one way that we can give our best to Jehovah?
12 One way to give Jehovah our best is to use our time wisely. (Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.) That calls for self-control. Influences from the world along with inherited imperfection incline us to use time purely for our own enjoyment or personal benefit. True, “for everything there is an appointed time,” including pleasurable relaxation and secular employment to enable us to fulfill our Christian obligations. (Eccl. 3:1) However, a dedicated Christian needs to stay balanced and use his time wisely.
13 When Paul visited Athens, he noted that “all Athenians and the foreigners sojourning there would spend their leisure time at nothing but telling something or listening to something new.” (Acts 17:21) Today, many similarly waste their time. Modern distractions include watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet. More and more distractions increasingly compete for our time. If we give in to them, we may neglect our spiritual needs. We might even come to believe that we are too busy to care for “the more important things”—matters related to serving Jehovah.—Phil. 1:9, 10.
14. What questions deserve our serious consideration?
14 Therefore, as a dedicated servant of Jehovah, ask yourself, ‘Does my daily schedule include time for Bible reading, meditation, and prayer?’ (Ps. 77:12; 119:97; 1 Thess. 5:17) ‘Do I set aside time for preparing for Christian meetings? Do I encourage others by giving comments during the meetings?’ (Ps. 122:1; Heb. 2:12) God’s Word states that Paul and Barnabas spent “considerable time speaking with boldness by the authority of Jehovah.” (Acts 14:3) Could you adjust your circumstances in order to spend more time, even “considerable time,” in the preaching work, perhaps serving as a pioneer?—Read Hebrews 13:15.
15. How do elders use their time wisely?
15 When the apostle Paul and Barnabas visited the Christian congregation in Antioch, “they spent not a little time with the disciples” in order to encourage them. (Acts 14:28) Loving elders today likewise use much of their time to strengthen others. In addition to their field ministry, elders work hard to shepherd the flock, search for lost sheep, assist the sick, and care for many other responsibilities within the congregation. If you are a baptized brother, do your circumstances allow you to reach out for these additional privileges of service?
16. What are some ways that we can “work what is good toward . . . those related to us in the faith”?
16 Many have found joy in helping to provide relief to those who have suffered loss through man-made or natural disasters. For instance, one sister in her 60’s who serves at Bethel traveled long distances on several occasions to volunteer as a relief worker. Why did she use her vacation time in that way? She says: “Although I have no special skills, it was a privilege to do whatever was needed. I gained so much encouragement seeing the strong faith of my brothers and sisters who had suffered severe material losses.” Furthermore, thousands worldwide help to construct Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls. By having a share in such activities, we unselfishly “work what is good toward . . . those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:10.
“I Am With You All the Days”
17. What would you personally give in exchange for everlasting life?
17 Human society alienated from God is about to pass away. We do not know exactly when that will happen. Still, we do know that “the time left is reduced” and “the scene of this world is changing.” (Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.) That gives added meaning to Jesus’ question: “What, really, would a man give in exchange for his soul?” We will surely make whatever sacrifices Jehovah asks of us in order to gain “the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:19) Indeed, it is imperative to heed Jesus’ admonition to ‘follow him continually’ and to ‘seek first the kingdom.’—Matt. 6:31-33; 24:13.
18. What confidence can we have, and why?
18 Granted, following Jesus is not always easy, and true to Jesus’ warning, it has cost some their lives in this system of things. Nevertheless, like Jesus, we avoid the temptation to ‘be kind to ourselves.’ We have faith in the assurance that he gave to his first-century anointed followers: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) Let us, then, to the fullest extent possible, use our time and abilities in sacred service. As we do so, we demonstrate our confidence that Jehovah will preserve us through the great tribulation or restore us to life in the new world. (Heb. 6:10) Thus we will have shown how highly we value the gift of life.
What Are Your Answers?
• How did Jesus display outstanding willingness to serve God and man?
• Why should one disown oneself, and how is this done?
• In ancient Israel, only what kind of sacrifices were acceptable to Jehovah, and how does that guide us today?
• In what ways can we make wise use of our time?
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Jesus always did the things that pleased God
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Appreciative Israelites gave their best to support true worship
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We please God through wise use of our time