24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
This statement of Jesus seems paradoxical in two aspects: “whosoever will save his life shall lose it”, and also “whosoever will lose his life … shall save it.” This seemingly paradoxical statement is also found in Matthew 10:39. In John 12:25, Jesus states it in an explanatory manner: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
So it is apparent that Jesus used the word “life” in two senses – firstly, life as pertaining to earthly life with all its sins, cares, ambitions, pleasures, etc; and secondly, life as pertaining to eternal life.
Thus Jesus was essentially saying, “If the desire and focus of your heart is to save your earthly life because of your love for its carnal pleasures, material glory and suchlike, then you will lose sight of the importance of pursuing your eternal life and will eventually lose your very soul in hell. But if you give up the carnal pleasures and material glories of your earthly life for the delight and pursuit of eternal life that Jesus offers, then you will have life eternal.”
Self-love and love for the world and the things of the world are ruinous to one’s soul. It prevents a man from setting his mind and his affection on Christ and eternal life. If a man, like the rich young ruler, loves and holds on to his earthly life and its glories, he will go away without eternal life.
It is important to take note that Jesus was not advocating that by simply giving up one’s earthly gains, one would have eternal life. Jesus has clearly said that eternal life is for those who “will lose his life for my sake”. In other words, the reason for giving up earthly life has to be for the pursuit of Christ. By giving up everything for charitable purposes would not grant anyone eternal life. The emphasis is on one’s total consecration to Christ, even at the expense of one’s physical life. So, if a man hates his material and carnal way of life and totally turns to Christ, he renounces the sinful, carnal pleasures and temporal glory, and shall thereby gain eternal life.
Christ calls all His followers to put Him first in their lives. Nothing should be given priority in one’s heart above Christ, if one is to be a possessor of the eternal life that Christ promises.