March 3, 2024

Unprofitability of the World

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

What is the greatest advantage or profit a man can have in his life? The most common answers would be: “great wealth”, “material comfort”, “fame and prestige”, “great power”, “excellent education”, etc. Certainly, no one can deny that there are real advantages in this earthly life if one has such worldly gains.

The Bible instructs Christians not to be sluggish but to work hard to earn their bread (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Industrious Christians are also taught to be generous (Romans 12:13; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18). While the Bible encourages us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3), it also promises that God would provide all the needs of those who seek His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Nonetheless, Jesus sternly warned everyone who thinks that worldly gain is all that matters and who would even neglect the care of his soul to secure an affluent earthly life, “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:25). By “the world”, Jesus meant all the pleasures, riches and honour that this world presents to man. If there is a man who possesses all the earthly glories but fails to care for the salvation of his own soul, he is, according to Jesus, a terrible loser because he let his soul be a castaway in hell. All his material achievements will not contribute anything at all to purchase a safe eternal destiny for him.

A man of worldly affluence may astonish his observers, winning for himself their admiration and praise. However, within him is a weary soul, crushed by the wrath of God against his sin and unbelief. So a man who lives just for worldly achievements has an awfully impoverished soul. All his wealth and stature are utterly powerless to save his soul and help him secure eternal peace.

God’s Word has long declared, “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever)” (Psalm 49:6-8). Likewise, Proverbs 11:4 states, “Riches profit not in the day of wrath.” This is why Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “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?” Material wealth cannot purchase the redemption of one’s soul. All the wealth in the world will not be sufficient to redeem a man’s immortal soul.

Worse still, trusting in worldly possessions will lead to eternal peril. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall” (Proverbs 11:28). One’s confidence in his wealth will keep him from believing and submitting to the Lord. This was graphically illustrated by the example of a rich young ruler who came to Christ seeking eternal life and yet refused to submit to His command to follow Him after selling all his possessions and giving them to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22). When he went away sorrowful, Jesus said, “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

Besides, worldly gain accumulated through unrighteous and selfish means will provoke God to wrath. James, the apostle, forewarns, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days” (James 5:1-3). Man’s fascination with the worldly gain will make him a real loser of his soul to hell.

The danger of loving material prosperity is clearly and strongly cautioned against in God’s Word: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). Why would one covet after something that would afflict him with excruciating pain? Worldly pursuit can bring horrifying anguish upon a man’s soul because of his departure from the faith, resulting in remorse and guilt; painful recollections of his folly and the dread of the future wrath of God.

Just prior to the warning of the unprofitability of the world, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23–24). These words of Jesus make it plain that there can be no spiritual progress if one is unwilling to make the sacrifices required by the Lord. A genuine Christian must always be willing to give up any earthly pursuit that would impede his desire to follow Christ.

Worldly affluence provides no guarantee of spiritual prosperity. Too often, especially when one is indulging in material gain and pleasure, it is a sign of his spiritual poverty. Jesus said, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

What then is the real profitability of being preoccupied with worldly glory? Nothing at all. No one who wants his soul to be saved and be spiritually empowered and enriched should ever make worldly achievements his priority. The world’s wealth cannot secure spiritual wealth and joy. To be totally occupied with the world’s prosperity is to become spiritually bankrupt. One’s unrestrained pursuit of earthly gain will leave his soul utterly famished. Great wealth is certainly no great gain.

John Flavel (1627–1691), an English Presbyterian pastor, puritan and author, offered an excellent illustration of the unprofitability of worldly preoccupation. He wrote, “’Two things a master commits to his servant’s care,’ saith one: ‘the child and the child’s clothes.’ It will be a poor excuse for the servant to say, at his master’s return, ‘Sir, here are all the child’s clothes, neat and clean, but the child is lost!’ Much so with the account that many will give to God of their souls and bodies on that great day. ‘Lord, here is my body; I was very grateful for it; I neglected nothing that belonged to its content and welfare; but as for my soul, that is lost and cast away for ever. I took little care and thought about it.’”

Let no one be fooled into thinking highly of this material world and its glory, and fail to care for the salvation and nurture of his soul. The world is full of corruption and seduction that endanger our souls. Its glory is both unreliable and fading. Hence, let us not love the world (1 John 2:15). Take heed of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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