"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world ..." (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?" (Matthew 16:26)

How can someone 'forfeit their soul'?

The word "soul" here is being translated from the Greek word, ψυχή (psychē), which means, according to the lexicon, "the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing" and "the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions." The lexicon goes further to say, "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body)."

This means there are two general references here: One as the "soul" being our core vitality - essentially us.

But the other, which Jesus is using, relating to the "soul" being our core essence - and our vital and essential element - being to love and serve the Supreme Being.

Jesus is stating clearly here is by seeking the material attractions of the physical world - including power and fame - we give up the core feature of the soul - that of loving and serving the Supreme Being.

It is a matter of focus. To focus on materialism means to give up our focus on our spiritual journey. This relates directly to Jesus' statement about serving God and materialism:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)
As we clarified with that verse, the Greek word μαμωνᾶς (mamōnas) refers to "mammon" or materialism, rather than strictly "money."

Who is the 'someone' Jesus refers to?

In the statement above, Jesus distinguishes "someone" (earlier translations had "man") and 'his soul'. Does this mean that "someone" has a soul? This would equate a soul as being some sort of organ or something. As if the soul is like the heart. That would mean that a soul could theoretically be transplanted out of one man and put into another. Could this be what Jesus is speaking of?

The phrase, "someone" - is being translated from the Greek word ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos). The word is not describing just a man or woman. The word is defined in the lexicon as encompassing the physical body and mind.

The body and mind are both changeable, temporary structures. They both change over time, and in the case of the body, it dies within a few decades. And the mind can be changed. Therefore, neither are permanent features.

The soul, taken from ψυχή (psychē), refers to our eternal spiritual composition - our actual selves.

So it is not as if we have a soul. We are the soul. Each of us is a soul, temporarily occupying a physical body.

Does Jesus refer to this soul elsewhere?

Yes, elsewhere Jesus refers to "soul" Jesus as not just a part of our nature. It also means, according to the lexicon, "the vital force which animates the body.

The soul is also considered who we are. We are each a soul. Yes, our soul also has a "soul-like" essence that can be forgotten. But we are nevertheless a soul at the same time.

This is confirmed by Jesus in another statement:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
If we are these physical bodies, then why would killing the body not be important to Jesus? Because these physical bodies are temporary vehicles. They are not who we are.

We are wearing these physical bodies much as a person wears clothes. And we are driving these physical bodies much as a person drives a car.

The fact that we were given these physical bodies as we fell from the spiritual realm is also confirmed in the Book of Genesis:
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

What are 'garments of skin'?

Is this speaking of animal skins or something? As if God went around and killed some animals and made fur coats for Adam and Eve?

This is metaphorically describing that the Supreme Being gave us these physical bodies.

But why? So that we could play out our self-centeredness. We became self-centered. This is the "forbidden fruit" that Adam and Eve - symbolizing each of us who fell to the physical world - ate.

The spiritual realm is a place of love for the Supreme Being and love for the Supreme Being's children and playmates. Once we became self-centered, we had to leave. We were no longer qualified to stay in the spiritual realm.

The symbolism that Jesus is using relates to forgetting our spiritual identity - our relationship with the Supreme Being - in order to achieve material success in the physical world. To give up our relationship with the Supreme Being means to identify ourself as the center of the universe, and everything revolves around me.

This is the height of self-centeredness, a condition that defines what Jesus is saying, as forfeiting our soul.

Where does the soul go when it rises from the body?

Where does the living being go when each of us leaves the body? This depends upon the consciousness of the living being, and how the living being has utilized the human body. If the consciousness of the living being revolves around a self-centered physical existence - of eating, sex, and material acquisition, then the living being is spiritually dead.

This was characterized elsewhere by Jesus:
“Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)
If the consciousness of the living being is at all focused on God, then the living being can be considered alive.

If we progress in our spiritual growth and regain our love for God, we will return to the Supreme Being and His world of love. Here we will be ever-satisfied. In this state, we would be appropriately be described as being alive.

Some question why some people are born with handicaps. Some wonder why some people are born into starvation and disease. Some wonder why children are otherwise born into desperate situations, while others are not.

Why do these bodies suffer?

Some will begin to question God’s love for us when they think of why some people seem to be suffering without any cause.

Meanwhile, sectarian institutions and their teachers have no answers for this.

It is not as if God is going around arbitrarily choosing to make some of us suffer more than others.

Rather, suffering is caused by us. Our sufferings are the consequences of our previous activities.

The Supreme Being simply designed a world with consequences - just as a parent might try to educate a child by teaching them the consequences of their actions.

Consider, for example, if a 10-year old were to throw food on the dining room wall. Would a smart parent just clean up the mess? No. The smart parent would make the child clean up the mess that they caused. This is called consequence training. It teaches the child to understand the consequences of their decisions. And the effects their actions have upon others.

God's physical world is no different. Here our activities have consequences. Either in this life or the next. If we mistreat someone, we will be mistreated either now or by someone else later on down the road. If we spend our lives mistreating others, we will suffer the exact consequences of our actions in our next physical lifetime.

We know Jesus taught this system. Consider this question, asked by Jesus' disciples:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1)
This question, asked by multiple disciples, assumes that Jesus taught that the actions we take while in a physical body will impact our condition in the next body. While the particular person being discussed in John 9:1 was a special case, Jesus in no way denied the teaching or criticized his disciples' question.

Jesus' disciples also reflect this teaching elsewhere:

"A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)
The King James Version states it as "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" and elsewhere, "as ye sow, so shall ye reap."

God also states this directly elsewhere in the Old Testament:
"The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards, I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekial 7:27)
With this statement, "I will deal with them according to their conduct" refers to the results of our own activities. "By their own standards I will judge them," illustrates that we are to be treated as we treated others.

In other words, those born into suffering are experiencing the precise consequences of the suffering they inflicted upon others during a previous lifetime. Those who are starving likely denied someone else food in their previous body. Those who are mentally handicapped likely mentally abused others during their previous body. (This does not mean we should not help others - for herein lies the concept of forgiveness.)

In other words, the Supreme Being created the perfect teaching system. Just as educators and parenting specialists have determined that the best way to punish a child is to give him consequences to his actions - ones reflecting the deed - the Supreme Being set up a similar system to slowly teach and purify the living being. When we experience how we treated others, we learn.

What can we learn here?

We can learn that we are all connected, and we are all children of the Supreme Being. We can learn that caring for others is no different than caring for ourselves.

We can learn the meaning of love.

We must also remember, as we talk about consequences, that these bodies are temporary vehicles. They are not much different than computer icons in a computer video game. Just as a computer gamer will take on a temporary icon or persona in order to play a game, the living being takes on a temporary physical body to try to live out our desires. Just as the computer game icon is often damaged or even destroyed, our physical bodies must undergo disease and death.

And just as we can get up from the computer after our icon is killed in the computer game, the living being rises up from the body at the time of death and moves on. It is the illusion of the physical world that makes us believe that we are our bodies.

In other words, this pain and suffering does not happen to the living person within. It happens to the temporary physical body - the virtual icon of the living being. Only the body feels physical pain. We move on unscathed - except for the lessons we learn.

So where does the living being go after the death of this body? Again, this depends upon whether we have learned the lessons of the physical world. This depends upon our consciousness. Are we self-centered or are we God-centered?

If we are self-centered, we will take on another temporary physical body and undergo the consequences of our self-centered activities in this lifetime. These will include pain, suffering and other consequences of previous activities. They may also be the bodies of animals or even insects - which undergo not only suffering but ignorance.

If we are God-centered, then we will return to the Supreme Being, where we will live eternally within our loving service relationship with Him and His children. This is our real home and where our happiness lies.