Gain Your Life By Losing It
“Just use some common sense!” How many times when faced with a problem is the answer just plain common sense? How many times have you seen someone struggle with something and think to yourself that if they only had a little common sense, they would not be in the mess they are in? Common sense can help a great deal in life. And despite its name, common sense does not always seem all that common.
There are many statements in the Bible that are and make good common sense. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6) makes perfect logical common sense. If you want to harvest more crops, then you need to plant more seeds. Paul uses this analogy to encourage the Corinthians to give. In order to expect a harvest of received blessings, you first have to plant the seeds of blessings by giving what you have to others. It is common sense used to make spiritual application to our lives.
However, not all the spiritual lessons we have to learn make good common sense, at least at first. Some lessons taught in Scripture seem to be contradictory to what common sense might seem to tell us. These statements are called paradoxes. The word ‘paradox’ might seem to mostly be reserved for science fiction writing. But a paradox can refer to a statement that is true, but seems contradictory or against intuition. Jesus uses several paradoxes in his teachings.
One of the most famous paradoxes of Jesus is found in several places stated in slightly different ways: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25; See also Matthew 10:39, Luke 17:33, John 12:25).
At first glance (and even second and third glances) we may look at this statement and wonder. How can it be that the person who doesn’t try to save their life is the one who will end up having it? And how can the person who tries to hold onto their life be destined to lose it? Part of the reason the teaching is taught in such a way is to get us to take note of it, and try to reason it out. It is precisely because the statement doesn’t seem to make sense that makes it that much more intriguing.
Our natural inclinations tend toward preserving our lives. It is involuntary in many ways. If a baseball comes careening for our head, we have a nervous system that will react and cause us to try to move out of the way. It is so fast, that the signals our nervous system uses will have moved our body before the signal even reaches the brain. Common sense tells us that if we want to save our lives, we better do things that tend toward saving it. Common sense tells us that if we give up our lives, then that is a surefire way to lose it completely.
The point that Jesus is making is that even though it goes against our gut and our common sense, in order for us to truly save our lives, we must be willing to let it go. We must be willing to give it up completely, and hand it over to Jesus. It's a matter of faith, trust, hope, and a myriad of other positive spiritual traits that we not only have to accept, but actively take part in. It is only in giving up control of our lives that we can hope to attain the promise of Jesus that we will not only have life but “have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Do you want to have the abundant life that Jesus came to give you? Then how can you expect to receive an abundant life without first giving up what you already think you have? Jesus offers you so much more than what you already have, but you have to let go of what you have in order to receive what he has to give you. The promise of Jesus is predicated on sacrifice. It cannot happen without it. You must first give up your life in order to attain it. It all starts to make sense, if you think about it.