There are many important decisions that people need to make during their lifetime, but is there one particular decision that is more important than all the others? Among the important decisions to be made are the following:
- Whether or not to attend college.
- If the decision is to attend college, which one?
- Whether or not to get married.
- If the decision is to get married, whom to marry.
- The area of the country in which to live.
- Whether to purchase or rent a place to live.
- If the decision is to purchase a place to live, which one?
- If married, whether to get a job or to be a stay-at-home spouse.
- If the decision is to get a job, which type of job to pursue.
- Also, if the decision is to get a job, which company to work for.
- How much to save and invest, especially for retirement.
- Which types of savings and investments to make.
Although all of these secular decisions and, probably, several others are important, a strong case can be made that the most important decision a person will ever make is not any of these decisions.
So, what is the most important decision a person will ever make? To answer this question, we will focus upon what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 16:26: “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?”
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
In reference to Matthew 16:26, John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible declares,
Christ reminds [His inner circle of 12 disciples] that the soul of man was not created merely to enjoy the world for a few days, but to obtain at length its immortality in heaven. What carelessness and what brutal stupidity is this, that men are so strongly attached to the world, and so much occupied with its affairs, as not to consider why they were born, and that God gave them an immortal soul, in order that, when the course of the earthly life was finished, they might live eternally in heaven! And, indeed, it is universally acknowledged, that the soul is of higher value than all the riches and enjoyments of the world. . . .
Adam Clarke Commentary states with regard to the same scripture,
If a man should gain the whole world, its riches, honours, and pleasures, and lose his life, what would all these profit him, seeing they can only be enjoyed during life? But if the words be applied to the soul, they show the difficulty – the necessity-and importance of salvation.
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible explains Matthew 16:26, as follows:
If a man makes the present world—in its various forms of riches, honors, pleasures, and such like—the object of supreme pursuit, be it that he gains the world; yet along with it he forfeits his own soul. Not that any ever did, or ever will gain the whole world—a very small portion of it, indeed, falls to the lot of the most successful of the world’s votaries—but to make the extravagant concession, that by giving himself entirely up to it, a man gains the whole world; yet, setting over against this gain the forfeiture of his soul—necessarily following the surrender of his whole heart to the world—what is he profited? . . . “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Thus, . . . does our Lord shut up His hearers, and all who shall read these words to the end of the world, to the priceless value to every man of his own soul.
And, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible says in regard to the same scripture,
[M]en have stood astride their world many times in history, and have received much glory and wealth, but in the end all have died, and perished. Not one is alive today. And thus ultimately, if their living had not been for Christ, they had lost all. They may be famous names in the history books, but if their names were not written in Heaven, they have nothing.
What Jesus Christ states in Matthew 16:26 implies that the most important decision a person will ever make is their decision regarding the eternal destiny of their soul, which is determined by whether or not they trust in Him as their Savior. In contrast, all the other decisions that we have mentioned – and any other secular decisions that might be mentioned – have only temporal consequences (i.e., they pertain to only the relatively brief time during which a person is living in the current world).
The eternal salvation a person receives by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will provide everlasting peace and joy, as implied by Romans 14:17, which states, “[F]or the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In contrast, the secular world can provide, at best, only fleeting satisfaction, as indicated by Ecclesiastes 5:10a, which says, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.” Therefore, even gaining all that the secular world is less beneficial than having the benefits of eternal salvation.
[Note: For a discussion of who will have eternal salvation, click on “Will Only Christians Have Eternal Salvation?” And, for an understanding of how to be assured of eternal salvation, click on What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?”]