Matthew 16:26 Meaning of Gain the Whole World yet Forfeit Their Soul

Matthew 16:26
“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?”

Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 16:26

Ultimately there are two ways to live, with God in Christ or against him. If we are with him it is our life that he demands. While this appears costly at first when we are still in our flesh, what do we really lose when we lose the world? We lose satan as a king, we lose slavery to our sin, we lose our idols which do not deliver what they promise, and we lose a false way of seeing the world and living in it. To seek to gain even a small part of the world is to forfeit our soul, and to gain the whole world is a paltry substitute for abundant life in Christ.

And yet, our Father will give us all things (Lk 11:13). Jesus came that we would have life abundantly (Jn 10:10). Surrender of our false sinful life to him is the way to gain our true life in him. Christ’s temptation in the desert was to gain the world if he forfeited his soul (Mt 4:8). He could have avoided dying for the sins of the world. He could have had the easy way, but of course, he would not do that. His destiny was to be exalted (Phil 2:11) and have every knee bow to him and every tongue confess his Lordship. But first, he would leave his heavenly throne, give his life, take up his cross, and drink the cup (Mt 20:22) that his Father had given him to drink.

For those of us who would follow Jesus on his way, we must do no less. Whether it means martyrdom, laying down the life we thought we wanted, or denying the impulses in our flesh, our own road involves a cross to bear daily, and total surrender to God and to his kingdom. The cost only seems high until it is paid.

Breaking Down the Key Parts of Matthew 16:26

#1 “What good will it be for someone…”
All people attempt to seek their own good. In the blindness and ignorance of our flesh, we look in all the wrong places to find it. Jesus knows that we want our own good, and here he seeks to redefine the good life.

#2 “…to gain the whole world,”
This means to win the world’s game by the world’s rules. It could be fulfilling every fleshly desire, conquering other men, winning earthly fame, or stealing wealth from one’s rivals through oppression, but it is all a losing strategy.

#3 “yet forfeit their soul.”
To live in this way costs the very self, or the soul that God created us to be. In the most basic sense, it may mean spending an eternity in hell. But also, as we construct a self to move through the world, we lose every real part of us in the quest, never fully who we are as God created and intended for us to be.

#4 “Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Once lost, there is nothing one can give in exchange for their lost soul. While there is still opportunity, a soul can be bought by the blood of Jesus. If we would repent and accept his free gift to us, that is the only way to gain our own soul. It comes with the price of surrender; the false life for the true life, or everything one has for the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44).

Expert Overview of Matthew Ch. 14-28

Biblical Translations of Matthew 16:26

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?”

NLT
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

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?”

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?”

NKJV
“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 16:26 Meaning and Commentary

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.