"What good is it to gain the whole world…"

Once again, a person that we would label a ‘celebrity’ has given us a perfect illustration of this verse, found in Matthew 16:26. “What will it profit a man,” Jesus asks, “to gain the whole world and (at the same time) forfeit his soul?” Heath ledger has proven to be another epitome of the message of this verse.

From the outside looking in, most people would have traded lives with Ledger in a split second; without much thought at all. He was wildly wealthy and popular, thanks to a brilliant acting career on the big screen. With those two assets, there were very few things on earth that were out of his reach. To compensate his popularity, he was a great looking guy, which afforded him the ability to have just about any woman he could have wanted. He had the assurance of work, as he had become greatly sought after as a star in films, yet he could retire at any time and still have no need for want for the rest of his life. He had a beautiful young daughter. It’s hard to believe that a person can accomplish so much in this life long before even midlife, but Ledger had done just that…and more.

Yet, despite all of the things he had, we can see in his death that which he had not attained: a reason for living. Ledger found no satisfaction in his money, his fame or his notoriety. I have heard reports of his great depression that ensued after his recent break-up with his celebrity girlfriend. Perhaps therein lies the problem. Ledger simply sought satisfaction in every place that couldn’t produce it, and that is one of the great tragedies of this life for those who are without Christ.

Satisfaction can only be found in Him. This is why He himself asked this rhetorical question to His disciples here in Matthew. It’s no mistake that this question comes just after a reminder is given that to choose life with Christ includes great sacrifice and will not always be an easy journey (v. 24). In fact, to choose this life is to buy in to a great paradox that seems more like an oxymoron to the system of the world. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (v. 25) So, in light of this great truth, Jesus asks the simple question, “what will it profit you to gain [then even] the whole world?”

The great truth that we can once again take from the tragic life of a celebrity who passed, it seems, far too early, is this: nothing in this world (and even everything in this world) can ever bring true satisfaction to our hearts. That satisfaction and abundant life can only be found in Jesus Christ. The most satisfied and fulfilled people I have ever met include people who have sacrificed everything (great worldly wealth) to go on mission with God and live in utter poverty in some foreign land. How in the world can this be? Because in order to find our lives we must first lose them. We must first die in order to live. We must find our identity only in Christ; not in our money, not in our fame, not in our relationships, and not in our careers and success found therein.

Tragically, we once again hear that message given clearly in the life and death of Heath Ledger. I pray that God would be with His family during this very difficult and confusing time, and that He would be greatly active in drawing them to Himself. I especially pray for his little girl, that God would somehow instill these truths of His Word in her heart. The greatest tragedy in all of this, at least as I see it, is that those truths did not find a home in her father’s heart.

I Married my bride, Erin, in 2003. We have 3 children: Emma, Elijah, and Lydia. I have served full-time on staff at Westwood Baptist Church, in Roxboro, NC, since summer of 2006 as Pastor of Students & Discipleship. I am currently enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, pursuing my Doctorate of Education.

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