Spiritual Focus – A Study in Matthew 16
I know a lot of people ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. I probably have some sort of ADD myself but am just to distracted to go get it verified. Basically put, people with ADD get distracted very easily.
A lot of people, including myself, suffer from spiritual ADD. It doesn’t take a lot to get distracted away from seeking God’s kingdom. The question Jesus asks in Matthew 16:26 really hits me hard.
Matthew 16:26 – What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
Getting distracted and losing my sunglasses or car keys is one thing, but what about getting distracted by pursuing a career, watching TV, playing video games, or fill in the blank with your favorite distraction?
Imagine forgetting what you did with your own soul!
The Greek word for soul is “psyche.” This word has several meanings:
- Physical life
- Personal identity
- Spiritual life as it relates to God
Let’s look at all three of these in relation to our own “psyche.”
In Matthew 16:21 Jesus predicts His own death. He was about to lay his physical life down so that salvation could be provided for the world. This is the complete opposite to the man in Luke 12:16-21 who was busy chasing treasure. God responds to this man’s life choices by saying:
Luke 12:20 – ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
In this verse above the word life is also the word “psyche.”
While Jesus spent His life getting ready to lay His life down for everyone, the fool forfeited his life by constantly getting ready to live.
I don’t want to be found like the fool, spending my life waiting to live while Jesus constantly lived knowing He would soon die.
I also don’t want to lose the second definition of “psyche,” my personal identity. My identity is who I am, whom I belong to, and the purpose for my existence. This definition is also seen in Matthew 16:13-19.
Matthew 16:13-19 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Peter tells Jesus that He is the Christ after being asked by Jesus who the world says He is. Jesus then identifies Peter as the rock upon which the church will be built. But Peter forgets his identity and almost immediately starts chastising Jesus (16:22). Instead of behaving like the rock Jesus created him to be, Peter gets distracted by his own views.
The third view of “psyche” is that of the soul. I never want to lose that. It is the part of me that knows God. While all three meanings of psyche can fit here, it is this third definition that fits Matthew 16:26 most closely.
This verse looks back at Matthew 4:8-10 when Jesus was tempted.
Matthew 4:8-10 – Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Jesus never got distracted. He refused Satan’s offer to gain the world, reminding us that our life is meant for worshiping God.
He is the example. He asks us to ignore the distractions of the world and focus solely on seeking the kingdom of heaven.