Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jesus said whoever whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What on earth does that mean?
Not long after Rev. Elliot said this he gave his life in service to Christ as he was killed by the very people he was trying to reach on the mission field. Jesus, too, gave his life after teaching those words. His life was given as a sacrifice for our sin.
What we know as life is temporary, corrupt. It is slowly, gradually rotting away. Our best efforts to preserve it by good diet and exercise are futile at best. As Solomon said it’s all vanity. We think of life as our daily existence, not merely physical, but revolving around the physical nonetheless. Our life does, however involve emotions like love and compassion, mental abstracts such as learning and reasoning and many other things that cannot be described in physical terms. But even those things are corrupt, imperfect, impure.
Real life, as given by God is eternal. It is different than our merely physical presence. It breaks the barriers and limitations of this temporal existence that we currently know. It is better than the tainted versions of our feelings. When we were created we were meant to be permanent. We were meant to be perfect.
So the life that we are called to give away is a temporary, corrupt, rotting existence. It does not last and even if we choose to not give it away it will be taken away from us. Such is the course of nature. On the other hand the life that we gain, the life given by Jesus is permanent and is being perfected by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Indeed, Rev. Elliot was right – it is far from foolish to give away what we cannot hope to keep, nor should we want to keep, in order to gain what we cannot lose or cannot be taken away, that which is holy and pure and eternal.