The Greatest Exchanges In History
Have you ever been scared of being attacked? The Dutch were. They were afraid of pirates to their right and native people to their left. Whether it was swashbuckling or scalping or both, fear motivated them to act. They built a wall on the northern side of their settlement protecting it from river invasion.
These Dutch people organized themselves around 1625 naming their little village New Amsterdam. About twenty years later they had grown to 1,000 inhabitants. The wall worked and time passed. The town and wall grew. In 1685 the wall measured 12 feet high.
As the wall lost its value, the Britsh tore it down, but not its memory. The people memorialized a street named after it: Wall Street. The village became known as New York City. On March 8th, 1817 the New York Stock Exchange became official at 11 Wall Street. As of 2013 169 billion dollars worth of stock was traded on that street a day, 169 billion dollars.
Money is amazing. You can buy homes, vacations, education, cars, food, clothes, entertainment, gadgets, and toys. You can purchase art and books. You can buy flowers and fun.
What would you do with a billion dollars? That may be so out there of a question that you can’t even fathom an answer. What would you do with a million dollars? Say your lottery ticket is the winner or your uncle, who has no heirs, dies leaving you his fortune. What would be your first purchase?
What can’t you buy? The “can'ts” in our world can be pretty big. We know the saying you can’t buy happiness. Imagine you can. What else can’t you buy?
I know two physicians who right now would trade time for money. They have more than enough money. They can’t buy more time.
What can’t you buy?
In the gospel of Mark and Jesus talks about money often. In chapter 8:34-37 he says,
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?
What can a man give for his soul? That is a good question. What is the exchange rate for a soul?
In chapter 8 Jesus just introduced the necessity of the Son of Man to suffer and be killed. Jesus is the Son of Man. Peter rebukes Jesus. Jesus rebukes Peter. Jesus turns the topic to the exchange rate for souls and the necessity of his followers to follow. He offers a counter-intuitive direction in seeking life you die and in dying you live. In doing so, he brings up a great exchange that he would pioneer, "What is more valuable all the wealth in the world or one’s soul?" What can a man give in return for a soul? What is a soul worth?
Paul, the Apostle, helps us with an answer in his letter to the church in Rome, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The price point on a life of rebellion against God is death. In this same letter, Paul established that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). However, we don't have to fish through other books of the Bible to find an answer to Jesus' question. Jesus' embeds an answer in the word gospel. Gospel means good news. Jesus helps clarify what he means by gospel two chapters later. Jesus tells us why he came to earth. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
How much money can erase the past? Try to sandblast history, create an alternative narrative, make excuses, and deny. How well do suppression and brainwashing and reprogramming work? We cannot push rewind on life and edit out words said and choices made. What is done is done. When it comes to direction in life our choices and words matter, they matter to God. The Creator of the universe gave us a conscience and specific instructions. It seems we toss them aside at our convenience and try to figure things out on our own. This disregard for God is like breathing; it comes naturally. Pragmatism is how we live. To err is human. What is the cost? The exchange is more significant than we tend to think. How big is a little white lie or selfish jaunts? How big? Jesus lived a perfect life yet died the death of a thief. That is how big of a deal our trite, banal sins are to God. That injustice was only one of the indignities he suffered.
What is the exchange rate of souls? Jesus. A person’s spiritual wealth is poverty. It is a black hole of debt. However, God’s love is like the massive star with pull. God’s gravitational force lifts us out of the oppressive darkness, he drinks our poison and offers us a happily ever after ending that we cannot imagine. That is the gospel. Forgiveness and communion with God.
Walls protect from theft and harm. They exchange a view for a sense of safety. Trading time and money we invest our lives in the pursuit of happiness and meaning. Why? What is of most value? Where are we headed in life?
Jesus wants to come in and tear down our walls and open our minds to the greatest exchange ever: him for us, the gospel.
How can we think long term beyond the few years we have on this planet? Reading Jesus’ words in Mark, Jesus’ call is to follow. We must believe and follow. To believe and follow requires knowledge. We would do well to invest in knowing him. Take stock in eternity. He is our greatest treasure and security.
Only one life 'twill soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last.
- C.T. Studd