15. The Exchange Rate for a Soul (Mark 8:37)

The closer that Jesus came to his crucifixion the more urgently he taught his followers the nature of discipleship. We are familiar with his threefold requirement for those who would claim his leadership – denying self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus (Mark 8:34). Each of these three elements incorporates serious, life-changing requirements. While we might choose to focus upon the blessings that are integral to discipleship, we also meet in our journey with Jesus suffering, impoverishment, and hostility.

When Jesus explained to his friends these discipleship realities, I am sure he realized they would begin to make comparisons. People would weigh in their minds the benefits of becoming a Jesus follower, with the benefits of remaining the ‘CEO of self’. What would motivate a person to exchange their current situation for the challenges involved in discipleship according to Jesus’ definition? The rate of exchange becomes in an important issue.

As Canadians we know the rate of exchange that values our currency. The  Canadian dollar fluctuates in value with respect to the US dollar.  As part of his discussion about discipleship Jesus uses the word antallagama or “the rate of exchange” (8:37). We might paraphrase his words this way: “What rate of exchange would a person establish for his soul?” Jesus identifies the personal self in its eternal nature as being an individual’s most precious possession. Common sense would demand that a person value this possession appropriately, otherwise great waste will occur.

In this currency of the soul Jesus suggests several possible items that might equal or exceed the soul’s value – at least in public perception. In one case Jesus compares the value of “the entire world” with one person’s soul (8:36). When these two items are compared in terms of their relative values, Jesus proclaims that a person’s soul far exceeds the value wrapped up in “the entire world”. Compound and combine all of the wealth, power, beauty, and prestige found in the world and you still cannot equal the value of your soul! Because a person’s soul is so precious, it must be preserved at all costs. Jesus claims that this can be accomplished only by following him.

We need to be reminded about Jesus’ exchange rate, as he places such immense value upon our individual souls. Following Jesus is the most important occupation in our lives, because only in this way do we value our souls properly. When we see others in our Christian communities, we must value them as Jesus does – nothing in the whole world is worth harming a soul (consider Mark 9:42-47). As ministry leaders we are involved in the most important task our world knows – helping people to value themselves according to God’s standard and grasping God’s provision to preserve themselves. Each day we need to check our currency rating. Are we putting the proper value on our souls and the souls of those we serve? Do our choices, behaviours and attitudes reflect this value?

Application: as you reflect upon God’s ways today,

  1. try to visualize the most valuable thing you can imagine. Then line this up with your own eternal being. Which of these is driving your choices?
  2. reflect on some of the reasons people give you for not following Jesus. How could this concept of ‘soul value’ perhaps help them to see Jesus’ offer in a new light?
  3. when we gather to worship in community, how do the various aspects of that worship process help people to understand and reflect upon the value of their souls?

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