Of the things we count precious in this life, how often do we think of our own soul? Or, for that matter, the souls of others? Jesus said that there is nothing more precious, i.e. of greater value, than our own soul.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, NKJV)
Of all the things I might think of as “precious,” any worldly possessions that I consider to be of great value, there is nothing that I should count as being more valuable than my own spiritual condition.
Regarding how we think about the soul, the Bible provides us a great deal of information. Our soul is that part of us that we would consider our “being.” That is, it is more than just physical life. It would also include our God-given intellect and reason, i.e. our mind. Where the King James Bible says that man became a “living soul,” when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), the New King James – among other modern translations – says that man became a “living being.” Man did not just become “alive.” He became a “living being” and both the physical life and the intellectual being came from God. In that way, man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27).
The Greek word for “soul” is the same word from which we get the English word “psyche.” Psyche is the root word for words like “psychology” and “psychological,” things having to do with the study and treatment of man’s emotional and intellectual wellbeing. When we really understand what our soul is then we understand what makes it so precious, or valuable. It is that part of us that will live on after our flesh has gone back to the dust (Ecclesiastes 12:7). It is at the point of physical death that the soul, or spirit, is separated from the body (James 2:26).
Peter’s admonishment, in 2 Peter 3:11, also shows how “precious” our souls are.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” (2 Peter 3:10–11, NKJV)
One day this world will come to its end! We don’t know when it will be but, if we believe the Bible, we know that it’s coming. It could be today, next week, next year, or in ten thousand years – nobody knows (Matthew 24:36). So, the only way I know for sure that I’ll be ready for that day is to be ready for it right now, this moment. That is what Peter is saying when he says, “what manner of persons ought you to BE?” The word “be” is a present, active, infinitive verb. That means Peter was telling his audience, and by extension telling us, to be in a constant state of readiness for that day by their “holy conduct and godliness.” I have to be actively thinking about and working on the condition of my soul in order to “stay ready” for that coming “day of the Lord.”
Not only do I know that the “day of the Lord” is coming (Acts 17:30, 31), but I also know that the number of my days in this world are few and fleeting, and I don’t know how many I have. Unless the Lord comes first, we all know that we will experience physical death (Hebrews 9:27). That we can know with full assurance! What we don’t know is when that’s going to happen. James points this out very clearly.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13–16, NKJV)
None of us know if we will have a tomorrow! So, the only way we can know for certain that we are prepared to leave this world with our soul intact is to be actively protecting our spiritual condition right now. What can this world possibly offer you – of its temporary, decaying treasures – that would be worth your precious soul? That is nothing more important than your spiritual condition! What are you doing right now for the health of your soul?