Matthew 16:26

ESV For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
NIV What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
NASB For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul?
CSB For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?
NLT And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
KJV For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

What does Matthew 16:26 mean?

You can keep your earthly interests, or you can save your soul. That is Jesus' bottom-line declaration in this passage (Matthew 16:24–25) and in this verse. In the form of two questions, Jesus leaves those who will hear Him with only two alternatives.

What is the ultimate benefit to someone who acquires everything the world could ever possibly offer, only to spend an eternity suffering in separation from God? What is a soul worth? What should a man give in return for the saving of his soul? This is the ultimate question.

Jesus has said that those who follow Him must willingly sacrifice themselves in every way. They must be willing to deny their own wants and preferences, taking up their crosses as He is doing, and will soon do in a very literal sense. In other words, they must give up every ounce of their own agenda, totally submitting to the will of God and His purposes. It will "cost" them everything, but what is given up is temporary and relatively worthless.

Those who refuse self-sacrifice can live for themselves. Jesus' question allows for the fact that they may be quite successful in the world's terms. Perhaps they will even gain the whole world for themselves. The problem is that such earthly success can only last until death comes and raises the question of the soul persisting, and entering into eternal death.

In the end, each person must choose between one of only two options (John 14:6). Lose everything I am in the world, to follow Jesus and be eternally saved, or keep everything I am in the world, to serve myself, and lose my own soul forever in the end. Those are the only choices Jesus offers in this passage, and the only two presented in all the Bible.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: