“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
MANY PEOPLE REACH “FORWARD,” BUT THEY REACH FOR THE WRONG THINGS — AND END UP LOSING THE BETTER THINGS THEY COULD HAVE REACHED FOR. And there is no sadder fate in life than to get what we wanted and discover that, in the very process of getting it, we have given up what we should have wanted.
Consider the word “life” for a moment. Most people have some concept of the kind of life they would like to have, and they pursue that concept more or less diligently. Some may think of real life as consisting of pleasure or wealth or power. Others may think of it as service or relationships or philanthropy. Very likely, most people have some combination of these targets in mind when they sit down to write their personal “mission statement.”
Now the striking thing about Jesus’ teaching is that He said you could put all of these things together and still not have “life.” Not anything in this world — not even everything in it — is enough to give us what we really need. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
But not only that, Jesus also taught that by seeking these things and holding on to them greedily, we lose them. We “get” them, in the highest sense, by giving them up! “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” What does this seemingly contradictory statement mean?
It means we must put life at risk (and maybe even give it up completely) in order to gain that which is life indeed. Most of the things in this world that people suppose they have to have are little more than hints or pointers to real life. If we make these lesser things our main objective, neglecting the greater life they were meant to point us to, then we lose everything, both the lesser and the greater. So we need to be careful when we’re writing our “mission statement” to make our goals those that we won’t regret later on. It would be the ultimate tragedy if we set our hearts on having (and never letting go of) some of the “preliminary” things and lost out on all the permanent joys we could have had. Let’s not lose eternity by hanging on to the life we have right now.
“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow” (Aesop).