On one side He put the world and all that the world can contain—all the wealth that one can accumulate, all the fame to which one can aspire, and all the happiness that one can covet; and on the other side He put the soul, and asked the question that has come ringing down the centuries: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
There is no compromise here—no partial statement of the matter. He leaves us to write one term of the equation ourselves. He gives us all the time we desire, and allows the imagination to work to the limit, and when we have gathered together into one sum all things but the soul, He asks—What if you gain it all—ALL—ALL, and lose the soul? What is the profit?
Some have thought the soul question a question of the next world only, but it is a question of this world also; some have thought the soul question a Sabbath-day question only, but it is a week-day question as well; some have thought the soul question a question for the ministers alone, but it is a question which we all must meet. Every day and every week, every month and every year, from the time we reach the period of accountability until we die, we—each of us—all of us, weigh the soul; and just in proportion as we put the soul above all things else we build character; the moment we allow the soul to become a matter of merchandise, we start on the downward way.
Tolstoy says that if you would investigate the career of a criminal it is not sufficient to begin with the commission of a crime; that you must go back to that day in his life when he deliberately trampled upon his conscience and did that which he knew to be wrong. And so with all of us, the turning point in the life is the day when we surrender the soul for something that for the time being seems more desirable.
Most of the temptations that come to us to sell the soul come in connection with the getting of money. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Or, as the Revised Version gives it, “A root of all kinds of evil.”
Because so many of our temptations come through the love of money and the effort to obtain it, it is worth while to consider the laws of accumulation. We must all have money; we need food and clothing and shelter, and money is necessary for the purchase of these things. Money is not an evil in itself—money is, in fact, a very useful servant. It is bad only when it becomes the master, and the love of it is hurtful only because it can, and often does, crowd out the love of nobler things.
But since we must all use money and must in our active days store up money for the days when our strength fails, let us see if we can agree upon God’s law of rewards. (See lecture on “His Government and Peace.”)
How much money can a man rightfully collect from society? Surely, there can be no disagreement here. He cannot rightfully collect more than he honestly earns. If a man collects more than he earns, he collects what somebody else has earned, and we call it stealing if a man takes that which belongs to another. Not only is a man limited in his collection of what he honestly earns, but will an honest man desire to collect more than he earns?