September 19, 2017

The Emptiness of a Full Life

Wally Morris

What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 8:36).

I recently watched a brief video highlighting the comments of novelists, poets, and other authors concerning their belief in God, or rather lack of belief in God. The purpose of the video was to demonstrate that intelligent and creative people do not need God and find belief in God irrational.

People such as Gore Vidal, Philip Roth, Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, Isaac Asimov, and Iain Banks have moved beyond the need for God and therefore the rest of us should as well. If you don’t or haven’t, then you are to be pitied.

All of these authors have led full, active, and successful lives, receiving the financial rewards and popular recognition that this world has to offer. But the statistics are sobering: 100% of people die. No exceptions. Every one of the people in the video either have died or will die.

When Christ spoke about a person gaining the world, that implies that a person can achieve and gain quite a lot. The world is a big place with much to offer and much to do. The opportunities are almost endless, and the attractions can be very attractive. A person can spend his entire life pursuing and gaining the world. A person’s life can be filled with much that seems and actually is fulfilling, meaningful, and rewarding. A person can live his life doing exactly what he wants to do and what fits his personality and interests. He may achieve financial security and be able to live his retirement years enjoying many interests.

Yet all of this fulfillment can end up being very empty.

When looking at videos such as this or listening to people when they explain their atheism, agnosticism, or anti-theism, accepting what people say is very easy. But is what they say the complete story? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Some of the Hebrew words in this verse imply that the heart is unpredictable, unstable, and weak. On the surface, their reasons for their beliefs seem logical, reasonable, and, at times, potentially persuasive, but are actually very self-centered and self-deceptive. Many people choose their beliefs on the basis of how they want to live. The acceptance of the Bible or even a basic belief in God would require major change in their life and the loss of the cultural status and acceptance they have come to love.

Philip Roth said “Faith is belief without reason.” Science fiction author Isaac Asimov routinely emphasized reason and rational thinking as his rejection of the existence of God. Yet all of their reasons require faith that they are not wrong. When people like this reach the end of their life, as all will, they face a great unknown with only the faith and hope that they are right in their rejection of God. Sometimes, if you look and listen carefully to these people when they are much older, you can see and sense the subtle fear in their eyes — fear that they will soon face an unknown far greater than anything they ever wrote about.

To “gain the world” involves activities that last a few decades. But to “lose your own soul” involves eternity. But it’s more than just “time”. Losing your soul involves losing your soul. Your soul is what makes you the person you are. Your personality, character, conscience, everything you are as a person – that is your soul. And to lose your soul involves much more than eternal punishment in the lake of fire, although that certainly is bad enough.

Losing your soul is to lose what you could become as a person. We are becoming “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Those who “gain the world” have accepted the temporary and shallow benefits of this world and have rejected the possibilities of what they could become in Christ which are permanent and far beyond what we can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9). I think it is interesting that science fiction authors such as Asimov can imagine incredible and beautiful worlds but are constrained by their own unbelief about God.

Losing your soul also includes losing the eternal relationship with the most incredible Being that exists. To lose and never know the experience of learning and exploring the relationship with the Lord God, to have an eternity to develop that relationship, and to lose all of that because the pursuit of gaining the world was more important — words cannot express the tragedy of that fact.

Many people have what appears on the surface to be full, active, successful lives. They have achieved what they sought to achieve, they have enjoyed their life, and they have received personal satisfaction from their life and the recognition of the world for their achievements. But when they face the end of their life, with nothing to look forward to beyond this life, how empty that full life will be because they gained the world and lost their soul.


Wally Morris is pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Huntington, IN. The church blogsite is amomentofcharity.blogspot.com. He has also published A Time To Die: A Biblical Look At End-Of-Life Issues by Ambassador International.


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